By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Joseph Raglani has created textured ambient music around town, but his latest full-length Of Sirens Born is his first for well-known indie label Kranky. In reviewing Raglani's vinyl-only Web of Light a few months back, I noted how the three-track album gave a good, if somewhat scattered, picture of the artist's skills. Of Sirens Born (which was originally released as a CD-R in 2006) focuses on the subtlety and gentle approach of Raglani's music and suggests a cohesive vision that binds these five tracks. Song titles like "In Rivers" and "Washed Ashore" give the impression of a travelogue, and the entire 35-minute album feels like a pleasant, and only occasionally dangerous, trek downriver. [Editor's note: A correction ran concerning this paragraph; please see end of article.]
Part of the fun and frustration with this kind of music, especially for gearheads, is not knowing exactly where the sounds come from. Many of the bursts and drones seem to emanate from a knob-infested modular synthesizer, but other, more organic sounds, sneak in as well. The plucked harps and the earthy drone of reeds gives "The Promise of Wood and Water" a calming, pastoral serenity for much of the track's ten-minute duration, though the creeping whirs of oscillators give a vague hint of menace toward the end. The first real elements of friction and gristle come via the pulsing "Perilous Straits," where waves of sound intersect and cause shocks of static and tension. The album ends peacefully, as the sound of competing, atonal wooden flutes helps "Jubilee" live up to its name. Of Sirens Born isn't Raglani's most aggressive or up-front work, but it shows him to be a master manipulator and mood-setter, and the wide release of the disc gives a larger audience access to one of St. Louis' best-kept secrets.
Correction published 11/18/08: In the original version of this story, we mistakenly wrote that Joseph Raglani also performs as Ghost Ice. In fact, Ghost Ice is the project of Jeremy Kannapell. The above version of the story reflects the corrected text.
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