Charity Empressa - Self-Titled
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Charity Empressa
Self-Titled
(Absalom)

A project that was three years in the making, Charity Empressa is the work of Eric Campuzano (The Lassie Foundation) and numerous guest artists, and as an exercise in droning work, could probably be nicely summed up as an aural narcotic. With parts of the disc that remind one of Spiritualized, other parts that take you back in the days of old 4AD artists and others that remind one of some different artists on the Kranky label, it's an interesting mixture. It's 11 tracks and almost an hours worth of music, but it actually ends up feeling like longer than that when it's all over (which will be a good thing to some people and a definite detractor to others).

The opening track of "Are We There Yet?" injects a touch of humor into things early (via the title), and the track features three different layers of droning keyboards, as well as some gently strumming guitars and some chiminy keyboards as well. Things slowly build over the course of the almost eight minute, and by the very end, it almost feels like a rhythm might start up and take the track into new directions, but it instead echoes out with one last breath of chimes and that's it. The second track "Carew" takes on a droning jazz feel with lonely horns that mix in alongside the repeating guitars and keyboards, but the short track doesn't really offer up much different than the first.

Vocals make their way into the third track "Future King Of England" (courtesy of The Autumns' Matthew Kelly) and his falsetto floating over the minimal background sounds eerily like Jeff Buckley doing drone style. One of the best track son the album is the fourth one entitled "May The Good Lord Find You." With some tabla-style rhythms and layered guitar feedback, the female vocals give the track sort a beautiful, lifting edge. One track that sticks out due to it's almost adherence to structure is the bluegrass/world/drone bend of "Shake Your Money Maker." The twangy sounding vocals would sound seriously out-of-place on the disc if it weren't for the layers of guitar textures and another nice middle-eastern sounding rhythm.

The rest of the album is pretty much devoted to different explorations on the drone/noise theme. While tracks never quite reach a fever pitch of simply hazed-out noise, there are parts where Campuzano creates a lovely dose. "Give Em Hell" comes right in the middle of the release and shifts back and forth for 10 minutes while the short one-two of "Cool As Cranes" and "Breathing Is Good" have some of the most nicely-haunting sound textures I've heard in awhile (the latter recalling something you'd hear on the excellent This Mortal Coil project from almost a decade ago ). You probably wouldn't want to listen to this while operating heavy machinery or any other time that you need to actually get things done and focus, but the slowly drifting album does work nicely at times when you'd just rather not have something that's a pounding distraction. As the second full-length release on the relatively new Absalom Recordings, it's another solid step.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00