An absorbing, politicised return...
'Rhododendron'

Some albums shout and scream their message at you. Others you only find out their true meaning years later. Austin Crane’s latest Valley Maker offering, ’Rhododendron’, is somewhere between the two.

The album was recorded in Portland with Chaz Bear or Toro Y Moi, and tracked in Seattle by Trevor Spencer, who has worked with Father John Misty and Fleet Foxes. These collaborations really build Crane’s elegant folk songs with airy, atmospheric spaces. These spaces match Crane’s existential stories of how places and spaces we share shape and reflect us. This is a continuation of his debut, and follow up ‘When I Was A Child’, but Crane has broadened his lyrical pallet.

‘Light On The Ground’ is a standout moment. Opening with delicate guitars, a pulsing electronic beat, and swaths of atmospheric synths, build and swell. As the guitarwork gets more intricate, the electronics start to envelope the listener, and form a dense fog around us. Then peels of horns appear, cutting through the fog and guiding us out.

‘Rhododendron’ is an understated political album. The album was written and recorded during the 2016 US presidential election, and when Crane was completing his PhD in Human Geography, so themes of immigration and human movement/migration are prominent. All of this is hidden in luxurious folk tones and delicate vocals. As the characters of the songs get lost in their environments, its easy to get lost in the ‘Rhododendron’, but you might not want to emerge again.

6/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

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