I hope everyone reading this can relate to those times when you’ve picked up a piece of something, be it art, music, craft, or a combination of any or all of them and more, and sensed everyone involved just got it. The intersection where no one takes themselves too seriously, but the product they made together coalesced beautifully into a very serious artifact. The right font over the right art inside the right packaging on the right format in the right hands and etc. is sometimes an emotional thing. I love when concepts come together, and everything about Lost Trail’s The Afternoon Vision on the obscure Wist Records is together.
My first exposure to Wist Records couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprising. I’d not heard of them in any capacity, and am completely shocked by that revelation because they are doing everything I love and look for. Attentive, contemplative, handmade, stylized, and stunningly gorgeous packaging that just fits the music it encases. Presented in an absolutely massive envelope, brimming with a staggering amount of thematically linked artwork, this 2 x 3” CDr set is something to behold. I was honestly taken aback when I opened it. A dozen beautiful, if not somewhat commonplace photographs of nature and urban decay that are synonymous with the photography of Lost Trail‘s Denny Wilkerson Corsa & Zachary Corsa are printed lovingly on multiple types of high quality paper. This offers a great textural and sensory experience that I didn’t even realize was mostly overlooked until I held this. Each picture gives a piece of the puzzle that makes up Lost Trail’s music; a lot natural, a little digital, a juxtaposition of the mechanic and the organic. All of this is still even further tied up in 8 pages of soil survey maps and ground composition triangles, further expounding on the living, earthy quality of the music found within. A package befitting or possibly even greater than some of the most elaborate Constellation Records releases of old. I asked Gary of Wist Records if this was intentional, as the similarities are noticeable, and he assured me it was not a competition with, but much more a loving homage to some of the albums both us, and many others love so dear.
I was apprehensive to review yet another release by this project, as I’ve already gushed my heart out over 2013’s Holy Ring of Chalk and earlier in 2014, Blacked Out Passages, but the prospect of pouring over the minutiae of one more Lost Trail release had me too excited. Honestly, I tried to go into this without any preconceptions as to what it would be. I didn’t want it to just be another release by an artist I enjoy, and babble on and on about how it is such. I’m glad it’s not. The Afternoon Vision is something even more. It is inexplicable, it is affecting like few other albums of its ilk, and it is painfully beautiful.
All the typical descriptors for an ambient (insert any number of sub-genre tags) album fit here. There isn’t a need to go off pointing out subtle variations on the theme in each track. Lost Trail hasn’t reinvented the wheel; they’ve just flattened the tire, punctured it, ran it up a curb, and dented the rim. It still technically works, but not as before. The Afternoon Vision isn’t pristine, though no Lost Trail works are. It is heavily and purposefully laden with doses of hiss, pop, warble, and all the wonderful punk rock charm of self-recorded music. The drones are solemn, but with all of the additional harmony and quirky charisma, this is one of the most hopeful ambient records I have ever heard. Each tonal fragment, each hidden gem of a piano key strike, each sighing layered harmony sounds as if it was recorded on a tape so old, so near the end of its life that it’s near miraculous it lasted until the end of the song. As if it’s inevitable death was staved off just long enough to capture those last few minutes, because it knew how important its purpose was.
Listening to “It’s All Outskirts Here” shows how deft a hand the duo behind Lost Trail has. Nearly every trick they’ve ever employed is in these three minutes. Noise, feedback, reverse delays, subdued, hidden melodies, lo-fi production; every single one of them are packed here. But not only is the song not muddied by the heft of all that is going on, it is in fact one of the most beautiful short pieces of music I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I typically enjoy longer form songs, especially in the milieu that Lost Trail resides. It allows for the time to become enveloped in the emotions a skilled artist can summon, but Zachary and Denny Wilkerson Corsa don’t need that amount of time to do it. “You Watched the Sun for Hours,” the follow-up to “It’s All Outskirts Here,” has actually made my eyes well up with its evocative piano. I find myself breathing in as deep as I can in the last two minutes, purely so I can exhale slowly and allow myself to disappear, if only for that short duration.
The absolute worst thing about The Afternoon Vision is that it ends. The final three tracks are 10 minutes of some of the most gorgeous music I’ve ever heard, and they CLOSED the album with it. So not only is a total run time of about 45 minutes the perfect length, but then the final 10 minutes are so god damned heart-wrenchingly good that I have to start the thing all over again. Please, don’t sleep on this. I implore you. Once the 130 copies are gone, you’ll have missed out on something that this over-worded review simply cannot articulate. Something intangible happened during the recording of The Afternoon Vision, the least you can do is listen and allow it happen to you.
Part One: It Was A Vision Of Birds Blotting Out The Sky
01) Until We Are Both Buried
02) Last Days Prophet Rag
03) Silent Sound Spectrum Lament
04) Why Do People Move Around So Much These Days?
05) Gentle Swaying As They Rush Past
06) Post-Hit Invincibility
Part Two: When The Sky Was Covered, They All Turned To Bones
01) Powerful Emotional States
02) Snowy Hill, Black Flames
03) Before The Salt Rust And The Fall Gusts
04) A Door In The Ceiling
05) It’s All Outskirts Here
06) You Watched The Sun For Hours
07) The Part Where We Die Off-Screen