Raven Bauer Durham – Conversations

rbdGuitarist Raven Bauer Durham of Phoenix Auto Group has released her debut, a lo-fi beauty that slides back and forth between indie folk, ambient and new classical.

Bandmates James Wolf and Stephen Carroll Palke are along for the ride. Wolf contributes violin and a mean singing bowl to “Spring,” “Drawings,” “Emphemeral “and “Without Which, Not.” That last track also features Palke on electric piano. Their contributions are all improvised.

The disc opens with Durham on a foggy, delicately played electric guitar. “Midst” is an easy, gentle preamble that sets the scene for what will be a nuanced 37 minutes.

Next is “Spring,” most notable for its acoustic saw rhythm section. In all seriousness, this is a lovely piece with real dimension. It is the first we hear of Wolf’s violin. He plays beautifully. Without him, the album wouldn’t be nearly as sophisticated.

“Drawings” comes next. Like the rest, it’s purposely subdued. There’s an edge to this one thought that, relative to the other eight pieces, feels daring. It may be the album’s greatest success.

“Atmosphere” and “Without Which, Not” are two other big winners. The first features a gorgeous whispered vocal. (I’d love to hear Durham sing more.) The second is the album’s longest, most soundscape-like piece.

Conversations’ notes explain that “[m]ost of the compositions were started in a greenhouse and transplanted into the wild, others are dream-narration collages made out of multicolored frog skins.” Difficult to vouch for that precise description, but in spirit at least, it’s not far off.

Kevin Press

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