Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serene but certainly not tedious, 30 Mar. 2008
This review is from: In A Safe Place (Audio CD)
Something of a chance discovery, this is an absolutely gorgeous record, which reminds me why you shouldn't always trust reviewers. According to what I first encountered about `In A Safe Place' by The Album Leaf, the solo project of Jimmy LaValle, this was supposedly a rather mediocre and uninteresting record. What did intrigue me however was that it had been recorded in Iceland with members of Sigur Ros and The Black Heart Procession (with whom he also plays), and that it was an exercise in ambient, classically-infused post-rock featuring string arrangements and subtle electronic effects. Well, these are the type of sounds which have been engaging me over the past few years, so I thought it worth at least a trial, test listen. And that sold it to me.

There was something else though that also made me curious. I know times have changed, but hearing such delicate, intricately produced sounds as these on Sub Pop- a label that came to define the Seattle-based, lo-fi, grungey garage rock revival of the late 80s/early 90s came as a bit of a shock. After all, I was there when Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Nirvana were the in-thing, even seeing Nirvana perform in London with Godflesh and L7 before they skyrocketed to major-label, world-dominating fame. Sub Pop has clearly changed, not letting its legendary past constrain its future, and has gone onto nurture new and different sounds, including the wonders of `In A Safe Place'.

At times, that signature Scandinavian sound is evident- cheerfully melancholic music that evokes a bleak arctic world from which people shelter in warm and comforting enclaves. Echoes of Sigur Ros can definitely be heard making a worthy contribution, but under LaValle's supervision something rather more accessible emerges- it's more recognisably `human' and not nearly so bizarre and other-worldly as Sigur Ros can be (no offence intended). And while LaValle utilises an updated, more orchestrated version of the early 70s electronic ambient music of Cluster and Eno, it is almost always propelled by a gently skittering programmed percussive base. And this in turn is further enriched by melodies of strings, bells, Rhodes piano and strategically understated vocals (sometimes of the intelligible variety, sometimes of that soothing and beguiling style so typical of Sigur Ros). All in all, this makes for an enthralling album, which for me, has stood the test of other music clamouring for my attention. When I need something to instil a mellow state of contemplation, this is one of my favoured choices. Beautiful.
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Location: Khorsor Elephant Stable, Nepal

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