Red Stars Theory
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But Sleep Came Slowly , 7/10
Life In A Bubble Can Be Beautiful, 7.5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Red Stars Theory turned Built To Spill's brainy trance upside down, emphasizing the trance, on their mostly-instrumental albums But Sleep Came Slowly (1997) and especially Life In A Bubble Can Be Beautiful (1999), which fused psychedelic, chamber and country music. Their songs were amoeba-like pseudo-jamming lattices that freely elaborated on a theme relying more on atmosphere and feeling than on structure or dynamics.

Red Stars Theory come out of Seattle's "lo-fi", highly independent milieu. The band was formed in 1995 by the two guitarists and songwriters Anthony Palmisanti and James Bertram (also in Lync, occasionally in Built To Spill, and later in 764-Hero).

The band debuted in 1995 with two EPs that will be collected on Red Stars Theory (Suicide Squeeze, 2001).

Helped out by drummer Jeremiah Green (of the Modest Mouse), bassist Jason Talley and violin player Seth Warren, they recorded But Sleep Came Slowly (Rx Remedy, 1997), a collection of quiet, introspective and mostly instrumental pieces. Like in the case of the Built To Spill, their songs are amoeba-like pseudo-jamming structures that freely elaborate a theme relying more on atmosphere and feeling than on catchy refrains. Their songs don't punch, they wander. They are not photographs, they are documentaries of emotions. The instrumental parts are designed to last and expand, frequently bordering on chaotic and cacophonous but never quite losing control of the center of mass. This method can achieve touching beauty and sublime tenderness, as in I Thought About You and Thick With The Paint Swaying (with Lois on vocals). The 10-minute Becomes For The Kind is both arduously complex and surprisingly delicate, an "acid" organ refracting the rough guitar riffs, the rhythm rising and subduing like waves, the lengthy coda built around a hypnotic repetition of the guitar theme until it dissolves in dub-drenched beats and jungle noises. The whispered aria of Nitetime Memories Of The Coastline glides on an almost ecstatic torpor. Discreet touches of xylophone, kalimba, organ, violin, synthesizer enhance the magic. While a few songs seem simply unfocused rehearsals, when the method works it yields mesmerizing strands of sound.

On Life In A Bubble Can Be Beautiful (Touch & Go, 1999) there is precious little singing, and, except for one case, vocals are delegated to guesting female singers (including Lois Maffeo). The quartet plays a weird variety of folk-inspired psychedelic dirge, very often anchored to a low-key jamming of the guitars, sometimes enhanced by the wailing of a violin. This technique is best at work in the instrumental tracks, such as the opening How Did This Room Get So White and As a matter of fact, voice is a minor detail in the minimalistic sonata of Boring Ghosts. The effect can be trascendental, as in the longest (and instrumental) track, Parts Per Million, which begins as a folky version of an early Pink Floyd suite and then fades into clouds of reverbs and glissandos drifting over ghostly beats. The other tour de force, An Alarm Goes Off, is no less rooted in trance and hypnosis, but here percussive noises run the show and the pace slows down to a funeral march. Impressionistic and introspective ballads such as A Sailor's Warning and September resemble a cross between Tim Buckley and Codeine. Built To Spill come to memory, but in a rather anemic and raw form. Dirty Three too, in a less virtuosistic and more psychedelic version.

Red Stars Theory's drummer Jeremiah Green joined bassist Adam Howrey, guitarist Ryan Kraft, vocalist Tristan McKay Marcum, keyboardist Mary Thinnes, and formed Vells. Their debut EP, Vells (Luckyhorse, 2003), contains folk-pop ditties such as Gun for Gun, Blue Blue Bones, Light on the Right In Sunless Seas.

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