imple, beautiful surprises brighten life. A piece of fruit from a friend. A rain shower in sunny weather. These events inspire optimism. The commonplace feels suddenly benevolent, as if the world’s grimy shell has cracked to reveal the luster beneath
Corduroy Road is such a surprise. Since the album is on Type Records, the fantastic English electronic imprint, I assumed Goldmund (Boston’s Keith Keniff) would deliver a welcome serving of overloaded glitchery or, failing that, an ambient swamp to drown in. My ears were primed for a feast. After the first sparse piano track, “Ba,” I prepared for the onslaught. After the second sparse piano track, I held my breath and waited. After the third…
You get the picture.
Before I pressed play, I wanted more sound, layer upon layer to slake my thirst for novelty. Noise, orchestral pop, a thousand multi-tracked violins—as long as it was complicated. But this desire for more was empty consumerism disguised as “taste.” Oh, to be a jaded critic—what a terrible fate.
So when the tenderly plucked guitar appeared on “The One Acre,” I should have been in heaven. Finally—something new! But then a wondrous thing did happen. The track sounded cluttered. I demanded a return to the sleepy skeletal piano. And I got it. Keniff cannot stray far from his beloved piano.
The production reflects his adoration for the instrument. The recordings capture the sound of his fingers on the keys, the depression of the pedals, and the click of the microphone as it turns off. Think of John Darnielle’s home recordings, wherein a sense of the honesty of the artist is palpable, further focusing attention on the relationship between musician and instrument. Envision Keith by his piano, lights off, pushing the keys gently enough that they do not make a sound. If the image is eerily sensual, that’s OK. The music is too.
It is also haunting, elegant, and familiar. You will think that you have heard these songs before. Indeed they are meant to echo through time, back to the music of the Civil War. At points, you will wonder if it is cliché, too obviously beautiful to be of substance. Quiet down and listen. You’ll change your mind.
The simplicity of the album is its greatest asset. Keniff allows a note to die slowly before he proceeds to the next. The process is quietly wrenching. Each song becomes an homage to the sounds lost in its creation. To listen to the note return to silence is to be reminded of the greatness of music—its impermanent beauty. Talk about the perfect antidote for an overdose of CDs and press releases.
Reviewed by: Bryan Berge
Reviewed on: 2005-01-31