Despite his fright-suggesting musical moniker, Sean Carey has more in common with a dream than a nightmare. Given his standing as the drummer for misty-eyed nature-pop band Bon Iver, it’s no surprise Carey’s solo stuff also lies in the realm of foggy, organic, uber-emotional heart-drainage. Range Of Light‘s opening track, Glass/Film, sets the mood for the entire album. It begins with a minimal orchestral arrangement of strings, keys and percussion before building to a layered expanse of instrumentation with Carey sing-whispering, “I was made for this,” over and over. And after multiple listens to Range Of Light, it seems like he was.
Range Of Light is Carey’s sophomore LP for Jagjaguwar, and it picks up right where 2010′s All We Grow left off: in an isolated cabin on the edge of a misty cliff. Literally. The album was recorded in Justin Vernon’s studios in Fall Creek, WI. Consequently, it’s soaked in impressions of aching isolation; damp leaves that scuttle across forest floors, and the sun setting during a thunderstorm. This organic sound is thanks in no small part to Carey’s percussion. The opening notes of Creaking bring to mind a pattering rain; Fleeting Light‘s beat is windy and unpredictable; Crown The Pines is composed of minimal, Michigan-era Sufjan Stevens vocal harmonies, but barely agitated drum thwacks prevent a Sufjan-style mellowing.
Like his brother in tear-duct-stimulation, Justin Vernon, Carey too has the pipes of a glossy but world-weary storyteller. His vocal range is most obvious in the sorrowfully defeated melody of Fire-scene. The track builds from a light buzz to twinkling teacup string instrumentation to Carey’s delicate but fiercely undulating croon. It’s obvious he knows how to work his way around a tune. Throughout the album, Carey charts his course in bubbling orchestral compositions (Alpenglow), minimalist lullabies (Radiant) and wide-eyed folk treatments (The Dome).
The ease with which you can get lost inside Range Of Light is no dismissable feat. Though it’s only nine tracks long, the album exudes a sense of lengthy, saccharine, but bare-boned poetics. Carey published this photo series in The Believer yesterday, and it’s easy to see a similarity in the textual focus of his music and visual art. In one black and white photo, clouds billow like air-puffed curtains against a sky of striated shades of grey. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but up until now, you haven’t really taken the time to appreciate its patient beauty.