Album of the Day: Saltland, “A Common Truth”

First, you hear that sound—the low shimmer, resonant and grim and loamy, that chamber-music-for-the-bomb-shelter cello. This root integer of modern rock melancholy can be found on all sorts of Constellation albums, especially those from the core roster: Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire to Flames. The latter two once included cellist and composer Rebecca Foon, whose gorgeous second album under the Saltland solo identity is a meditation on climate change (Foon is a member of the Canadian cooperative consultancy Sustainability Solutions Group, a founder of a rain forest conservation charity, and co-founder of a climate-consciousness-raising international concert series). Full of layered, looped strings and Foon’s spacey alto and piano-rays that poke through the clouds, A Common Truth is a solo endeavor—though she’s got no shortage of sympathetic contributors.

There’s the great Warren Ellis (Dirty Three, Bad Seeds, Grinderman), whose loops, violin, and pump organ help anchor “To Allow Us All to Breathe” and the hypnotic instrumentals ”Forward Eyes I” and “Forward Eyes II.”  On “I Only Wish This For You,” producer (and Besnard Lakes member) Jace Lasek’s guitar cuts a distorted swath, a slow-mo lightning strike across Foon’s regal, stormy cello. But mostly, A Common Truth is about Foon and the way she stretches her instrument and her voice, about the textures she builds up. It is one woman making a musical case that is both elegiac and urgent, so it’s almost jarring to hear another voice emerge on “Light of Mercy” when former Silver Mt. Zion bandmate (and Constellation co-founder) Ian Ilavsky’s baritone doubles her silvery vocals. Lasek’s on this one, too; their presence here gives the album a jolt, like maybe the only things we are able to count on when the rains come (and they will come) are our closest compatriots, even as we write our own codas to an earth facing indelible environmental change.

—Joe Gross

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