Laconic Chamber - "A History Of Epidemics"
(Camera Obscura 2000, CAM038CD)
From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
From Washington, DC, Laconic Chamber play a dark, ethereal brand of chamber music that at times reminded me of the Art Bears, Thinking Plague, and even a dissonant chamber version of early 70's King Crimson. The band consists of Eric Braun on bass and clarinet, Dorothy Geller on acoustic guitar and vocals, Evan Shurak on drums and percussion, and James Wolf on violin and electric guitar.
Despite the band analogies, Laconic Chamber's music is subtle, the music consisting of sparse, measured instrumentation. Dorothy Geller's vocal style and lyrics (if not the voice itself) reminds me of Dagmar Krause or Susanne Lewis. In fact, it's her vocals and the dissonant music style that prompted the Art Bears and Thinking Plague references. But there's also a floating, delicately trippy quality that gives the music a psychedelic edge, albeit a slight one. The acoustic instruments, particularly guitar and violin are the main actors throughout and James Wolf's violin helps to create some of the album's most striking moments. But in the end it's the ensemble rather than any individual contributions that give Laconic Chamber their sound and charm.
My main criticism of Laconic Chamber is I feel like they're rushing through really good ideas that need further development. It's certainly a good effect to abruptly shift between the subtle and the intense, but when tension builds I like to see the music go somewhere with it for a bit. For example, on "Snake", the intensity level swells, getting my blood boiling a bit, but just as I settled in for the ride the band retreats. And this scenario repeats itself throughout the album. Lots of potential here but it ultimately left me wanting. All but 2 of the album's 12 tracks are in the 2-4 minute range, feeling more like excerpts of much larger pieces. Still, this is an impressive debut and I hope to hear more from Laconic Chamber.
A History Of Epidemics is distributed by Camera Obscura. You can visit their web site.
Distributed in my USA by CTD Limited; 935 W. Chestnut; Suite LL15; Chicago, IL 60622.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz