The Blithe Sons
We Walk the Young Earth
Family Vineyard
2003
B+



the Blithe Sons is one of many projects from Jewelled Antler Collective/Thuja members Glenn Donaldson and Loren Chasse. Like Thuja, the Sons are concerned with ultra-quiet, meditative music that seems like it was chopped, whole-grain, right out of nature – a fire-scorched tree trunk with the roots still dangling, earthworms squirming in the mud, and ladybugs perched on a hunk of grass. This impression is enhanced by the duo’s recording methods, since Chasse prefers recording directly in the outdoors as opposed to going into the studio. As such, the entirety of We Walk the Young Earth is suffused with the gentle sounds of nature; water and wind and the very force of the elemental seems to seep into this music as naturally as a plant drinking from the freshly rained-on earth.

Over the course of five long, tranquil tracks, Chasse and Donaldson craft an enduring mood, throw it into the air, and then leave it hanging there for the remainder of the album. On “The Oldest Living Things,” the dominant musical presence is a simple keyboard drone that softly sweeps back and forth in a lulling, rhythmic pattern. This drone is complicated by the occasional tinkling of chimes or some clattering percussive sounds, but the true weight of the track comes from the gentle hiss of running water and the cackle and flurry of animals and insects around the creek-bed in which it was recorded.

“The Book of Names” is slightly livelier, pairing folksy guitar strumming and junky, rumbling drums with a strained vocal line that seems to be reaching for the treetops. As the music builds, occasionally expanding into distortion at the very limits of the duo’s lo-fi recording technology, it sounds like a more organic, unforced version of the post-rock anthem – like A Silver Mt. Zion if they were concerned with the beauty of nature rather than the decay of urban areas. When the Blithe Sons spontaneously erupt into a shambling climax reminiscent of Jackie-O Motherfucker, it feels effortless – and it’s just as natural for them to gently slip back into near-silence towards the end of that track and on the next one, “Green Patterns,” which could be a field recording of an empty field, sparsely populated by rattling percussion, tentative guitars, and scraped strings.

The rough, casual sound of this album is entirely the source of its appeal. Although We Walk the Young Earth wasn’t assembled from one continuous performance – unlike the Animal Collective’s Campfire Songs, with which it shares some similarities – the album gives the impression of having been a loose rocking chair, front-porch jam by a pair of aging, toothless old experimentalists-turned-folkies. The music flows as smoothly and calmly as the river that runs through the background; when they feel like singing, they sing; when they feel like playing, they play; when they don’t, they don’t, and let nature do the speaking for them.
Reviewed by: Ed Howard
Reviewed on: 2004-01-07
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