Album Review

Ending/Returning [coll] – [Immune Recordings]

Thurston Hunger   3/27/2014   12-inch, A Library

By my ears, Steven R. Smith is one of the most intense emotional
conjurers within the confines of KFJC’s library. He should be
scoring major motion pictures, not just the minor post-midnight
moments in our ceiling-staring lives. This release provides a
Bruce Wayne/Batman view of Steven and his Ulaan Khol project.
Two black vinyl records constitute a mirror world for seven
sound-Smith’d songs. I almost wonder if the Ulaan Khol were
born first. They bristle with electric rage, thickened by
a mix of distortion and perservering hope. That is the blood
essence of Ulaan Khol. Scaling craggy instrumental peaks
held in place by six mere strings and a humbucking drive.
Even in that more electric territory, Steven always has a
pastoral air to his playing. This time around a few gusts
of Kraut Rock blow through his fractal branches of chords.
Even without the pedals blazing, on the Steven R. Smith
A/B sides, there’s a manifest sense of the Old West. Where
the Ulaan Kolh is more raw and immediate, the multiple
layers on the Smith sides deliver a fuller and more pensive
sound. Is that clarinet in the mix, or a more gently
processed guitar (ebow to the soul?). Piano does drop
some watery notes into these versions. But still there is
a desolation of the desert, a half hour before sun stroke.
A horse has thrown its rider in each of these records,
the tracks are the same on each, but on the first, we
see the vantage of the rider, dusted and eyes skyward
while on the second record, we are the horse, racing
worstward towards the sun.

-Thurston Hunger

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