Charalambides
Our Bed Is Green
Kranky
1992, r: 2005
C+



music being what it is, there’s always an audience for table scraps. Of course, Our Bed Is Green isn’t technically that; the then-duo of Tom and Christina Carter issued it on vinyl in 1992 as their debut album. But context being what it is, coming to most peoples’ attention after Joy Shapes and Unknown Spin, that’s exactly what it’ll seem like.

If the band’s later work is notable primarily in its careful use of minimal elements and extreme extension, you’d never guess it from the mélange on display here. Twenty-six songs spread over two discs with the sound and focus of the contents flitting from type to type where practically every track is the antithesis of the sound that Charalambides would become known for. Back in the early 90s this may have felt like a grand statement, but hindsight shows it was more of a clearing of the decks--the Carters working through fuzz guitar blues songs, atonal organ jams, folk songs, short abstract pieces, and the occasional lengthier meditation in search of a coherent aesthetic. What’s here can be enjoyed as a buffet of sounds (even this early on, the successes outnumber the misfires) but anyone looking for a hint of the rapture of Charalambides’ later work should move along.

Our Bed Is Green starts out strong with the combination of “Tea”/”The Treadmill”/”Take The Pointing Finger For The Moon”, letting Christina lead the listener softly into the album over what sounds a bit like Flying Saucer Attack’s few attempts at folk (“Suncatcher” and “Still Point” are definite reference points for this album) before a brief distortion interlude fuzzes about until the record’s first long piece. The effect of “Take The Pointing Finger For The Moon” and the other highlights here is akin to hypnosis; the acoustics suck you in and the next thing you know ninety minutes have passed. They’re so good at it that it’s no surprise that Charalambides would eventually focus on that aspect of their sound, but as a result whenever things break up with a frivolously attention-grabbing interlude like “Stuttgart,” it’s an unwelcome intrusion.

A few of the one-offs work nicely, of course, and as weird as it is to hear Tom singing a brief gospel ditty on “Bid You Goodnite,” or the repetitive, twangy lick on “Black Pope”, it’s interesting to see other places the band’s other options of exploration. Those who’ve fallen deep under Charalambides spell could use all this as a kind of Rosetta Stone to the more inscrutable projects the band would one day embark upon. While the diamonds (chief among them “Tea”, “Same Old Routine”, “Dead Bee” and “I Don’t Know You”) are worth searching out, most casual listeners are going to find themselves sifting through plenty of scattered coal.


Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2005-03-07
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