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Cover Art Boxhead Ensemble
The Last Place To Go
Rating: 8.5

The collective known as the Boxhead Ensemble is a distinguished contingent of minimalist mavericks affiliated with Chicago's Drag City label. This eclectic array of musicians-- Edith Frost, Will Oldham, Mick Turner, Eleventh Dream Day's Rick Rizzo, and others-- have combined their efforts to create a truly moving accompaniment to the acclaimed documentary entitled "Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks its Back." Often, these sort of moody atmospherics may compliment a particular film or visual piece perfectly. But, in many cases, when random chunks of instrumental music are dislocated from the characters, images and storyline they're supposed to accentuate, the end result isn't always so compelling.

The Last Place To Go is a rarity, though: these instrumentals were composed live during the European screenings of the "Dutch Harbor" documentary, and the tracks can easily stand alone and be appreciated apart from their on-screen context. These loosely- constructed, sometimes amorphous compositions somehow bleed effortlessly into one another. In fact, you could even say The Last Place To Go shares a kinship with the stark, slightly foreboding score Sonic Youth composed for the Richard Linklater- directed dark comedy "Suburbia."

The cold, wintery guitars of Mick Turner and Scott Tuma dominate the instrumentation, and convey an appropriately desolate feel. Many of the compositions themselves are built almost solely upon deliberate, trickling streams of echo-laden guitar lines and Fred Lonborg-Holm's droning cello. Turner and Tuma's delicately- picked arpeggios leave plenty of colored space in between notes. This subdued guitar work is sometimes augmented with some rough- edged violin, and Will Oldham's whispering harmonica. The occasional free-jazz drum fills and minimal cymbal flourishes make for an almost non-existent rhythmic or percussive base.

The instrumental interludes on The Last Place To Go are undeniably hypnotic, and mirror the deceptive simplicity, mystery and sense of isolation surrounding the secluded Dutch Harbor fishing community-- located on a remote island in Alaska's Aleutian Chain. The score does favor a plaintive tone for the most part; yet its free-form aesthetic allows a few brighter melodic moments to beam through. In some instances, the lifeless, almost ghostly testimonials of a few Dutch Harbor inhabitants are set against reverb- drenched delayed guitar and near- subliminal cello. Don't be suprised if you're left with a slight chill down your spine.

In a nutshell, the Boxhead Ensemble's The Last Place To Go is anything but your average, run- of- the- mill Mark Knopfler-ized film score. So string up some christmas lights, lounge on the sofa with an old Salinger novel and drink up some cappucino. You're a hipster, goddamnit!

-Michael Sandlin

"Dust and Rain"

[Real Audio Stream]



10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible

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