Tom Carter Beats for the Beast (w/ Scorces)

[Free Porcupine Society; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: psychedelic folk, New Weird America, minimal folk
Others: Charalambides, Fürsaxa, Double Leopards, Jewelled Antler Collective

Last week I had the privilege of viewing a beautiful film by Gus Van Sant, called Gerry. It's the story of two young men who, in the process of hiking in the desert, become lost. Those who have seen it will tell you that there's not a huge amount of substance to the movie (if any): very minimal dialogue, no storytelling, no laughing, no cars blowing up, etc. The two aspects, however, that make the film great are the music (from Arvo Pärt's Alina) and the spacious imagery that protrude each spanning moment of the film. These two characteristics, along with the fact that it's a stunning minimalist composition that requires no study to be appreciated, made the film well worth my time; regardless of whether or not the majority of society will even "get it."

I've chosen to cite this film as a reference point because it is, in so many ways, the cinematic equivalent of Tom Carter and Scorces new LP, Beats for the Beast. Similar to Gerry, Beats for the Beast is a long and drawn out process that becomes so minimally affecting that you occasionally begin to question why you've allowed yourself to become a part of the journey. Both are repetitive, inaccessible, and highly challenging in capacity. But both exude overwhelming rewards in the end due to their simplicity.

The two songs each compile one half of the album and consist of all three members of Charalambides. The first of the two songs, "Beats for the Beast," is done by Tom Carter. It's quite simply a 30-minute psychedelic dustbowl of slide guitar meanderings. Although it is a guitar-only driven song, Carter has the ability to generate a lush and impressive quality of sounds with a minimal amount of effort. The same can be said for the second half of the album when bandmates/wife Christina Carter and Heather Leigh Murray of Scorces take over. These two ladies add different textures than Tom by adding periodic touches of vocals to their mind-expanding cuatro (Spanish guitar). Furthermore, the same minimalist quality is in tact.

Although nothing within these two recordings is dissimilar to anything the trio has performed before, both stand as true testaments to an unmitigated pursuit for passion in simplistic beauty. When one or two people can create music of this magnitude with a heightened sense of ease, you can rest assured that people will listen with content; even in spite of how challenging it may be to the mass public, or how long it takes to truly "get it."

1. Tom Carter - Beats for the Beast
2. Scorces - Come Closer Away

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