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Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose: Bridge Carols

img  Tobias Fischer

Bridge Carols, the collaborative work of Oregon folk musician Laura Gibson and composer Ethan Rose, is a hazy and ambient work that dwells in quiet ecstasy. Elements of old folk and jazz swim through textures of reversed sounds and cloudy synths. Deftly plucked guitar strings ping-pong between the speakers, inducing images of pastoral America before delicately disintegrating into blurred layers of altered electronic and organic elements. An intriguing and innovative album, Bridge Carols carries a sense of warm familiarity and nostalgia while blurring the lines between folk, pop, and experimental music.

The collaboration opens with "Introduction," a breathy chorus over slow-churning organ and indecipherable vocals that together bring to mind the quiet musings of Sigur Ros and set the tone for the dream-like, textural bliss that pervades the entirety of the album. According to the album’s site, the duo recorded Gibson singing wordless improvisations and phrases she found in old notebooks, using as their studio a variety of environmental settings (the forest, a basement, etc.). Rose then cut up and reconstructed the vocalizations over ambient instrumentals.

In "Old Waters," mournful trumpet chords emerge from a mist of reversed piano and slow-motion electric piano progressions. "Younger" alternates Gibson's Jolie Holland-like vocals with quiet trumpet over a bed of wind-chime-like tones before opening to a gorgeous, pastoral acoustic guitar figure. In the blissful pop gem "Sun"—a song that begs for repeated listens—Gibson sings "sometimes I melt away into a puddle of light" over lush vocal and synth harmonies over twinkling chimes.

A thoroughly enjoyable and relaxed listen, the simplicity of harmonic motion and Gibson's jazzy, child-like lilt provide a perfect vehicle for Rose's intriguing textural subtleties. Soundscapes are sculpted out of reversed metallic sounds, swelling clouds of synth drones, wind chimes, and acoustic instruments to create a sound both nostalgic and otherworldly. In "Boreas Boralis," delicate hisses and reversed sounds encircle an acoustic guitar and quiet cooing vocals. The song's outro layers touches of fiddle seemingly imported from the Appalachian countryside.

The songs float seamlessly into one another, making for an ambient, seemingly stream-of-conscious whole built on quiet simplicity with enough changes in color to keep you intrigued for the entirety of the listen.

Traces of Bjork, Mirah, Sigur Ros, and Jolie Holland sift through the music along with twinges of old folk and jazz, but really Bridge Carols just sounds like itself: intimate and atmospheric, experimental and accessible. Gibson and Rose have created something truly special with this work—a stimulating and deeply personal sound that’s as genuine and emotionally moving as it is innovative. Highly recommended.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Ethan Rose
Homepage: Laura Gibson
Homepage: Baskaru Records

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