Review: Daniel Rossen - Silent Hour / Golden Mile

The more I let the nuances of this stunning EP trickle through my porous heart, the more holes it heals. Stark requiems rarely sound this triumphant.
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The more I let the nuances of this stunning EP trickle through my porous heart, the more holes it heals. Stark requiems rarely sound this triumphant.
DANIEL ROSSEN

Daniel Rossen


Silent Hour/Golden Mile


out on 3.20


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Sometimes I wonder which contemporary artists romantic novelists might ruminate with while feverishly penning their posthumously praised masterpieces. Would Poe have been moved by Thom Yorke’s more poignant Eraser moments? When would Dostoevsky cue Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — before or after his all night gambling sprees? Could Horatio Alger have made it through Dylan’s “Stuck Inside Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” without laughing or at least bottling one of its tidy vignettes into fine literary wine?

That’s all speculation, but then again so is life. Once Daniel Rossen’s intrepid life as lead member of Grizzly Bear came to a sudden standstill after a year of touring off 2009’s Veckatimest, he went into an indefinite holding pattern, an uncertain future ahead. Becoming cloistered inside your own frailty can either lead to utter despondency or the type of “crack-up” Fitzgerald articulates as “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” On one hand Rossen is the uber-talented public face of progressive folk’s eminent acts (not to mention co-founder of Department of Eagles). On the other he’s a humble solitary being still pining for that elusive self-resolution none of us will likely ever taste. How romantic.   

Diametric opposition is almost too elementary a description for the scalar undulations that roll gently across the barren landscape of “Up on High.” Right when your parietal cortex (the part of your brain that processes rhythm) is ensconced in acoustic malaise, a harrowing blow is dealt by a distant, looming bass. The melody itself slowly modulates from quiet major chord indifference to creeping minor key doubts, all floating out to sea with no particular course charted. Maybe Elliot Smith or Atlas Sound are capable of creating the breed of distant maudlin Rossen braves on this opener. But I doubt even they croon such crystallizing epiphanies as “But in this big/Empty room/I may feel free/To sing for me.”

“Silent Song” sounds like something Lennon would have wrote after he overcame his brief heroin addiction in the late ‘60s. Though it’s the shortest and least ornate track on this extended play, it doesn’t require any after effects to drive home its spooky pop vibe.

Neil Young (or Jimmy Fallon for that matter) would quiver before the bristling wasteland that is “Return to Form.” That peculiar title takes on a whole new meaning when you literally hear loops of fading banjo and crisp guitar fill in the vast spaces between a three note bass motive akin to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony — another composer fascinated with shattering the mold. “Looking out on the end/Your failures etched in fallow land/Flames lead toward the clouds/Draw whispers from the crowd.” A nihilistic portrait of the world born anew. I think only a jaded Cormac McCarthy protagonist could occupy the type of virgin soundscape engineered before us. The best part is that it doesn’t feel constructed. It’s breathing rarefied air few have. This opus may be the closest approximation to the Big Bang a musician could ever hope to capture. A calm before the regenerative storm.

I could type for days about the remaining two songs, “Saint Nothing” and “Golden Mile”. In short, the first is about as soul crushingly beautiful as it gets with such austere piano. Picture Lennon’s “Imagine” stripped clean of all political commentary. Think The Davenports “5 Steps” (you may know it better as the Intervention theme) with infinitely higher fidelity. Not to mention symphonic steel guitar to cue the occasionally beautiful melodic breakdown.

The more I let the nuances of this stunning EP trickle through my porous heart, the more holes it heals. Stark requiems rarely sound this triumphant though. “I think it’s a real privilege to be able to have that record of yourself growing; going from a young person to an adult,” Rossen confessed to AltMusic in 2009. That’s what records are intrinsically designed for. Give anyone off the street a vivid portrait of that particular time, that particular person, that indescribable suffering. Call it romantic. Call it old school. Call it obsolete in an atomized world of isolated individuals. Regardless, it’s a statement you can’t ignore and must address.

Stream 'Silent Hour / Golden Mile' in its entirety here.

Daniel Rossen


Silent Hour/Golden Mile


out on 3.20


MP3

|

CD

|

Vinyl

|

Review


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