Charalambides Joy Shapes

[Kranky; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: free folk, New Weird America, psychedelic, Americana
Others: Espers, No-Neck Blues Band, Vetiver, Incredible String Band

After spending numerous hours listening to the current (and back) catalog of Charalambides' material, I've found myself having a difficult time concluding whether their music is completely idiotic or quite simply the most ultramodern, ingenious masterworks of three troubled individuals. In a lot of ways, I guess it could be both. Let's face it; this is precisely the type of music that would make the average listener pull their hair out just before laughing at you behind your back for even being involved with such an album. But, granted, Charalambides is the type of band that probably only appeals to about 1% of the population. So what does that say about the music, then?

Well, this leads me to my personal philosophy that there are really only two types of music: that which comes to you, and that which you must go to. I've found that it is this basic concept that separates the two different types of listeners. The current music industry has made this concept even easier to scrutinize than before by unashamedly removing the word "integrity" from their vocabulary. And while it may even be unnecessary for me to discuss how lame today's radio is, I can't help but be appreciative of the fact that the Internet has given me the option to locate bands such as Charalambides.

Here is a band that breaks all tradition in song writing and opts to create music that is tremendously thought-provoking and vastly troubled. I can truthfully say that Charalambides are one of the only bands I listen to today that have the ability to shred my emotions. At times I can barely sit still when I'm under the influence of one of their albums. But that's what I appreciate about them; they color outside the lines and find sounds that are of interest to people with deeper thoughts than where the stock market sits for the day. They are light years away from the everyday hustle and bustle of the world, and that's precisely what I find myself needing on a regular basis.

Charalambides latest effort, Joy Shapes, shows that they remain completely consistent to their idea of producing an uncharacteristic aesthetic through minimal instrumentation. This album is home to nearly 75-minutes of material, which mostly finds Christina Carter discharging some of her most painful sounding vocals in the entire Charalambides catalog. Occasionally it's almost insufferable on the psyche, but it will be on this album that you'll either be in the game or moving on to something else. Christina is joined here once again with the petal-steel of Heather Leigh Murray and acoustic guitar/lap steel of her husband, Tom Carter. The visual soundscapes that these Texans are capable of making have me wishing some independent filmmaker would create video interpretations that could go along with these pre-produced soundtracks.

Although it's safe to say that Joy Shapes is not entirely different than the rest of the albums by this trio, I can say that it is the most intensely gratifying of their works thus far. By the time you've devoted yourself to this album, you'll need some time to unwind and gather your thoughts. There are no quick and easy solutions here. This is not music that comes to you; rather, it is music that demands a great deal of effort from the recipient. Even then, Charalambides aren't going to appeal to many people. But if you're one of the few that enjoys this music and makes the effort to meet it half way, you'll see just exactly how ingenious, ultramodern, and maybe even a little idiotic these three troubled individuals really are.

1. Here, Not Here
2. Stroke
3. Joy Shapes
4. Natural Night
5. Voice For You