DM Stith Curtain Speech [EP]

[Asthmatic Kitty; 2008]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: indie folk
Others: Sufjan Stevens

When Sufjan Stevens first began committing to tape his quirky body of highly personal, delicately woven folk songs, it is doubtful that one could have then recognized his status as the bellwether of a like-mindedness now shared by a tight-knit community of artists. Stevens’ influence has reached especially far and wide over the past few years, invigorating the work of both novices (St. Vincent, Castanets) and veterans (Rosie Thomas, The National, Denison Witmer) with his immediately recognizable stamps: a scant piano swirl here, a sibilant woodwind there, the riffling fingerpicking of an acoustic guitar somewhere else.

Now, the newest notch in this six degrees of indie separation is DM Stith, current design student, past contributor to My Brightest Diamond, and now reluctant songster (the goading of My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden resulted in the official release of his music). Culling from his past experience and smartly taking advantage of the company afforded him, Stith too exercised the socialist approach in the production of his Curtain Speech EP, enlisting, amongst others, the assistance of Worden and the putative godfather himself, Sufjan Stevens. And, as is evident after all of 20 seconds, he fits in well.

So should the introductory trickle of piano keys in Stith’s “Around the Lion Legs” fail to embed a distinct first impression, the assurance that he is at least a credible member of this interdependent, backscratching commune at least provides explanation, if not justification, for his sound, as each of the five songs represented here call to mind the hauntingly gossamer style of Stevens et al. Basically, what Curtain Speech lacks in originality can be easily overlooked due to Stith’s tolerable emulation of reasonably worthy progenitors.

Conveyed through his lyrics and an underlying eeriness often culminating in stirringly discordant choral clusters, Curtain Speech reflects a meditative quietude that successfully piques the intrigue of the listener. Stith agonizes over a warbling acoustic guitar and the ruffles of a snare drum in “Around the Lion Legs.” Centerpiece “Just Once” begins with a quiet contemplation before it centrifuges into an apocalyptic clatter. The audible pockets of tape hiss between Stith’s hushed vocals in “Abraham’s Song (Firebird)” reifies a sense of intimacy heretofore imparted.

Largely intended to serve as an aperitif to a proper full-length due in 2009, Curtain Speech comprises five songs clocking in at just under a total length of 18 minutes (including the title track and “Hoarse Sorrows and the Whole Blind Earth…,” both of which appear to be inessential sketches). Essentially, this EP serves as an indicator of a career that will most likely not be reworking any formulas. But with songs as gripping as “Around the Lion Legs” and “Just Once,” Stith demonstrates an adeptness that will be, if nothing else, interesting to observe in the near future.

1. Around the Lion Legs
2. Curtain Speech
3. Just Once
4. Hoarse Sorrows and the Whole Blind Earth…
5. Abraham’s Song (Firebird)

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