David Kilgour
The Far Now
Merge Records
2007
B



one of the key figures of the Dunedin Sound, David Kilgour has left a trail of brilliant pop wherever he's been. You can trace the route from New Zealand to Nashville and back without finding a misstep. He's found this artistic success in part by changing his sound, his bandmates, and his approaches without ever losing the central hook of his pop. His latest release The Far Now mixes solo recordings with full-band work-ups (the Heavy Eights appear again on this one), but the album retains a cohesive sound, turning split approaches into a single twin.

The album's highlight, "Wave of Love" provides its own kind of split. The music stays soft and downy, suggesting both a lullaby and good-bye. Kilgour's wave seems like it could be a joyful ride in the surf, yet it sounds as if he's gently going under. Remembering his wave of love allows him to overcome the blues after the song's first verse, but it never turns into happiness. The circle persists, washing inwards, where meaning isn't found in transcendence, but in questioning how we respond to what we perceive as transcendent, and if we're really on a wave of love. The answer, on this track, is a flat path that fuzzes explicit answers to the side while never denying the tidal pull of the middle.

If a wave of love falls short as a spiritual lift, music might offer more hope, but it's not so easy. Kilgour opens "We Really Can't Get Along" with "I can't get out of this song / I really could live in this song," suggesting at once an unfortunate capture and a peaceful hope. He then points out that living in the song prevents a real love experience. The title phrase begins to suggest not only the inability of two people to relate to each other, but also our own failure to move forward, limiting the utility of music.

And yet the music remains gorgeous.

The album closes with "Out of the Moment," an explorative track reminiscent of the instrumental pieces from A Feather in the Engine. Somewhere between end credits and fuzzy sunrise, the track allows Kilgour to develop his textures with a minimum sounds. Despite the multi-tracking and the strings, it is, as with the Feather cuts, an intriguing way to focus on the possibilities of a clean electric guitar played simply, and Kilgour's artistry on the small shifts allows the seven-plus minutes of the song to pass quickly.

In some ways, that's the solution to the splits running through The Far Now, finding the simplest path without being distracted by the beauty on either side. Kilgour's been doing just that musically for a long time now, sticking to the simple melody whether it's couched in the punker terms of his early work, or the fittingly Go-Betweens sound of this one. On The Far Now, Kilgour puts himself between the lo-fi directness of A Feather in the Engine and the defined beauty of Frozen Orange, pulling off a single vision like it's the simplest of melodies.



Reviewed by: Justin Cober-Lake
Reviewed on: 2007-02-08
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