This amazing album came out in 2000, thus qualifies for my best of the decade run down. I still listen to this and enjoy it as much as I ever did, 9 years down the line.
The For Carnation were a post-Slint band, and have featured various Chicago musicians at various times, although the only two major players on this album are Brian McMahon, and John McEntire who contributes some extra instrumentation and who engineered the album (remarkably well). There are many of the hallmarks of post-rock on this album: the predominance of bass and drums; the ease and assurance with which slow pacing is used; mastery of texture. There are far more vocals on this than your average post rock outing, and this probably adds to the lasting appeal. McMahon's vocals are close-mic'ed, and border on spoken/whispered, helping to build a very intimate mood. As I said, this is beautifully recorded, and the slowly rocking rhythms are tight, and almost tense. There is often an ominous throbbing ambience, and delicate touches of spacy synths - heard to great effect on 'A Tribute To'. The sense of melody is gorgeous, yet restrained - the carefully picked out guitar line on opener 'Emp. Man's Blues' is backed by gradually swelling strings to a blissful plateau. After this these two tracks, a sense of foreboding and tension is developed with the very moody post rock of 'Being Held', before another slow and majestic gem in 'Snoother', which sounds somewhat like Tortoise vs Bill Callahan. 'Tales (Live From The Crypt)' is a wonderful spaced out groover; very similar to Do Make Say Think's debut: it's almost a prog-out compared to the rest of the album. Layers of spacey keys, shimmering guitar, and even a Goblin-esque synth line embellish this fantastic track. The last track 'Moonbeams' is probably the most beautiful. A distillation of what has gone before, and a coda, or resolution, too - a release of the slow-burning mood built up through the preceding tracks. A very slow track, laid on a bed of spacious synths drones, punctuated by a lyrical guitar, some throbbing analogue sythns, and seen out with a swell of strings.
I've namechecked a lot of bands describing this, but I think it is pretty unique, and a masterpiece that is amazingly undervalued. They are playing at the forthcoming 10 years of All Tomorrow's Parties festival - I hope this leads to a resurgence of interest and some further recordings.
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