steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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"An Index of Birds" CD

Silber Media

Genre: post-ish slow-ish core-ish

San Francisco, CA

June 2010

I was somewhat surprised to learn that this slow-moving (but sporadically urgent) post-rock-cum-slowcore act has no relationship to Chicago's L'Altra, as the two share a rather striking likeness of sound. Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised; any fly-by-night mopey outfit can slide chiming guitar churns, cello drones, piano notes, and vacant-eyed vox into expansive song structures (especially gargantuan “Descension”). But few execute their tropes with as much, um, success, as these folks. Sure, the formula is a perilous one – put simply, the combo is a cut-and-dry recipe for severe tedium – but this able septet (along with their Chicagoan doppelgangers) manage to stay on the sweeter side of the absolute sopor which the bulk of slowcore tends to elicit.

So I will concede that a fair proportion of Carta's instrumental diversions fall into that unfortunate friend-zone of comfortable familiarity – in other words, background/bedtime music. Be forewarned: You've heard all the elements of “Prettier at Night” and “Who Killed the Clerk” before, on records by Windsor for the Derby, Explosions in the Sky, Labradford, and, yes, L'altra. Even the satisfying breakthrough on “The Likeness is Undeniable” lacks raucous propulsion due to its obeyance of post-rock protocol. Which isn't to say I don't enjoy the tracks; hell, the juicy chords on “Sidereal” prove a tasty climax time and time again. But if we're going to be scientific about it, we'll have to concede that Carta can be a tad, harumph, derivative.

But then there's the occasional song songs – you know, the ones with words in 'em – and here's where Carta strikes with most potency. The aforementioned “Descension,” an unmitigated epic at just over eleven minutes, is a powerful if somewhat superlative adventure that could be regarded as this record's finest achievement; it pulls out all the stops, at least. Shifting “Building Bridges,” meanwhile, brandishes a supreme, dark melody which renders it the most immediately memorable track on here. Elsewhere, “Back to Nature” is an odd Slint/Sonic Youth nod, which somehow isn't as out of place as one might presume.

Anyhow, I'm not fond of conclusions. If you like post-rock, slowcore, wallowing around but periodically rocking out, Aesthetic Records, the Latin word for "paper," and/or generally agreeable music, you're likely to find something to smile about on An Index of Birds. That should just about cover it.

carta's myspace

"Prettier at Night"

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 13 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2010]