On her latest release, Crowd of Reeds, Emmalee Crane offers up electro-acoustic chamber pieces that seamlessly blend new classical music with understated ambient supporting structures. The resultant sound is intimate and organic, very human and deeply affecting. Leaning heavily on rich string drones, comparisons could be drawn to an earthier Stars of the Lid, with the drones being grounded and given a lyrical lift by piano, brass, guitar and more. Sarah Conroy, J. Patrick Brookman, and Miles Fender assist, which gives the music even more of that small-combo chamber feel. Crane peppers her work with interesting touches, from clatters of sound to field recordings to vocal drop-ins, but the focus stays firmly on the music and its rich emotional content. Fender’s guitar work in “The Seventeenth Wheel” brings a twangy solidity into the midst of quiet drones and wavering sound-forms, later augmented with Conroy’s clarinet. Together, they create a meaningful voice. Crane’s piano on “Manitoba,” my favorite track here, has a definite heartbreaking quality to it. The structure sounds almost simple, and allows the repetitive song to truly drill down to an emotional core. Long-drawn strings melt into a drone on “The Summer Fell Silent,” a core-resonating bass sound with a signature raspy edge. As the strings layer and open into a more melodic space, all you can do is close your eyes and let this somber sonata wash across you. It leaves off beautifully at the end, teasing the listener with a need for just one more note that isn’t coming.
Crane packs 10 pieces into this 40-minute offering. Although short, the songs here are firmly filled and fully realized. The brevity seems to reinforce the chamber-music sense, the intimacy of a small recital. A superb release.
Avaiable at Emmalee Crane’s web site.