There are times when you must put faith in description. In our age of download (for free) > listen (and if it doesn’t grab you in the first 30 seconds – delete) > buy (too infrequently), it is all too easy to abandon interpretation and instinct in favor of instant gratification. The availability of music is also the biggest obstacle to its accessibility.
A few years ago, I found my digital collection growing in exponential proportion, while purchasing music fell nearly completely to the wayside. I was not connecting to anything any longer because I was listening to it twice, placing it on my iPod, and then downloading another 20 albums that week and forgetting about everything before it. When I realized what was going on, I took a step back. Music has really been the only thing I’ve ever been fully enraptured by. I found myself less connected to something I’d previously been entirely consumed by, and it genuinely hurt. I go off on this previous diatribe to implore you this: stop doing the above, and start buying things by your gut again! Buy an LP you’ve never heard because you like the name of the band, the cover art, or the review you read for the album. It can pay off in dividends.
Lost Trail was a mystery to me. Though apparently making sublime drone since 2010, they slipped under my radar until a few months ago. Recently obsessed with almost everything on Wounded Wolf Private Press, I browsed their available releases page. The description for Holy Ring of Chalk captivated me, and without hesitation, I purchased. (Find it here.) It’s nice to be right.
As I have come to find out, Holy Ring of Chalk is similar in scope to all of Lost Trail’s releases, and there have been quite a few since the band’s inception. It is completely improvised using electric and acoustic instruments. It is spectral without being sinister; distinctly heavy with field recordings without being overbearing, with each song being shockingly ethereal and composed for being spontaneously recorded. I’ve since delved further into the catalog, and not been displeased with anything I’ve heard.
Holy Ring of Chalk differs in one way; recorded in a dilapidated house in a modern-day ghost town, these sounds feel remarkably haunted. Warbling battery operated synth, sweet elongated notes from guitar stretched like so much taffy, ambient hiss from the cassette recorder, makeshift percussion, the sizzling crackle of nearby campfire, and the dancing of spring branches on the evening breeze all combine to give actual life to these songs. Each track breathes with organic fluidity. A radio tuned to stations too far out of range during the final minutes of “The Rushing Gust” also make appearances later as a voice straining through the static, further anthropomorphizing the entire album. Each piece fully enrobes the listener in the chilly Spring twilight, a distinct bloom of life in an otherwise abandoned city. A hopeful, yet apocalyptic dichotomy.
While reading the description of the album again in the elaborate and beautiful packaging synonymous with the Wounded Wolf Private Press, I believe I slightly tainted my impression of the album. Had I listened truly blindly, I’d think this album invokes Autumn deeper than it does Spring, but I cherish the fact that I know a bit about it as now I can see the optimism Lost Trail is able to work with. I tend to think of drone as mostly dark work, but a few artists (early David Tagg works eternally come to mind) are able to escape the echoes of deterioration, and paint a more blossoming picture. Lost Trail is one of these bands, whether they mean to be or not. Life isn’t always bleak. There is light on the horizon. Look towards it.
Track List: N/A