LOTTE KESTNER – CHINA MOUNTAIN (SILBER, 2010)

China Mountain can be found on a map. Right…There. Lotte Kestner’s musical influences are traceable as well. On China Mountain we hear echoes of early nineties slowcore bands like Idaho and Hayden, we get the sense of the strong female singer-songwriter signed to Sub-PopK, and Kill Rockstars record labels, as well as flashes of the faraway hazinesss of Laura Gibson’s latest ambient/improvised project with Ethan RoseChina Mountain, like its musical influences are rooted in the northwest. China Mountain is a floating island in the sky, untracable, unlocatable, umapped. Felt more than seen. Recorded on an 8-track in the middle of Marfa, Texas, Kestner takes her quaint, closed, influences and rolls them across the expanses of Texas-plain nothingness. Her minimal compositions sound vast, big enough to get lost in, but quiet enough to sound like someone singing in the motel room next to you. Singing close to the microphone, Kestner’s voice seems to overwhelm on the first listen but tapers back on subsequent spins allowing a more three dimensional soundscape to emerge. Were those trumpets on “Compasses”? Sleigh bells on “Leif Erickson”? I am not going to ruin the suprise. Kestner’s voice, while often adorned with only skeletal guitar lines and occasional looped vocal arrangements, swirl and form into a cloudy Wang Hui painting, all mist shrouded and depth-perception challenged. It is hard to imagine Kestner’s voice accompanying the mundane, repeated acts of domesticity. Frequent nature allegories tie this record to the expanses of a dusk-fading field or a choked forest full of man-sized ferns and moss-covered trunks. Take this album for a spin. A hike. A walkabout. A pilgrimage. A hadj. You will be in good company.

Ryan H.

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