Christina Carter Electrice

[Kranky; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: alt-country, abstract folk, acoustic psychedelic improv
Others: Charalambides, Jewelled Antler Collective, Black Forest/Black Sea

When listening to Charalambides's latest album, A Vintage Burden, it's easy to forget that all those sounds are coming from just two people. Sure, there aren't tape loops or 27-piece orchestras accompanying Tom and Christina Carter's guitars — hell, there isn't even a second of percussion on the entire record. But AVB is so full and sophisticated that it's easy to imagine a roomful of minds behind it. As remarkable as the duo's growth into a polished, precise studio band has been, however, it's also enjoyable to watch both of the Carters continually return to their lo-fi, fringedelic roots in their solo recordings and side projects.

Christina Carter's released a string of cracked recordings in the last few months, including a pair of collaborations with vocal-drone experimentalist Gown. Although Electrice will see wider release than Carter's other recent non-Charalambides song cycles, it's no less daring or disarming. Ever the formalist, Carter embarked on this excursion with a seemingly dulling concept in mind: use one key and one tuning for the entire session and improvise lyrics. That this record is apt to do anything but bore those most likely to pick it up goes to show just how gifted a musician Carter has become since her early days of noodling around aping Spacemen 3.

Part of Electrice's charm is its layers. Carter's guitar licks flow on innumerable plains, ranging from articulate bluesy bends to discombobulating bedroom Kevin Shields meltdowns. Her voice also wavers between clarity and indecipherability, simple words often slurring against the liquid guitar mix and recalling in their effect the disembodied what-the-fuck moments of noise rockers Mouthus's cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Storms." More than mere mesmeric tricks of texture, these songs also ripple with muscle — Carter likens them to the human body, and that's an easy image to buy, as the well-sculpted contours of each song outline a purposive, highly-evolved form. Like the early 20th century folk and blues singers documented on Revenant's American Primitive compilations, Carter understands that microtones can open up myriad possibilities in even the simplest of song forms, and it's thrilling to hear her quiver just above and below notes in these pieces.

1. Second Death
2. Moving Intercepted
3. Yellow Pine
8. Words Are Not My Own

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