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Clear Horizon - Clear Horizon

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Artist: Clear Horizon

Album: Clear Horizon

Label: Kranky

Review date: Oct. 27, 2003

Very few artists can recreate the strange place that lies between consciousness and sleep. It’s in this elusive area where faint and echoed imprints of what is actually heard merge with that which may be implied; where the Trans-Atlantic partnership of Clear Horizon resides. For the past two years, Jessica Bailiff and Dave Pearce have been trading tapes from Toledo to Bristol and back, pasting together a self-titled debut in the process. The project is more than just an interesting collaboration; it’s also a relative rebirth.

In the early ’90s, Dave Pearce’s Flying Saucer Attack was miles ahead of the curve creatively, releasing a string of albums and singles before Pearce’s bouts with depression and writer’s block signaled the end of his musical career after FSA’s apparent swan song, Mirror. It looked that, like so many tortured artists, Pearce would rather retreat from music then produce product just for the sake of doing so.

Thankfully, Clear Horizon is the perfect outlet for Pearce to step back into making music. In Bailiff, Pearce has found a strong foil to collaborate with (much like Kate Wright, Pearce’s early partner in FSA) who has a synchronistic style of working. More importantly, Pearce doesn’t have to shoulder the sometime Herculean and scary burden of writing, recording and performing everything while going it alone (the duo already have plans for a person-to-person collaboration for their second album).

Though it’s an over-used descriptor, the duo’s debut is a bit of a song cycle, centering around a handful of simply strummed acoustic guitar chords and a (seemingly far off) backdrop of synthesized tones, drones and feedback patterns. At the eye of the storm is either Bailiff’s airy voice or the weary ache of Pearce, both of which are enveloped in layer upon layer of reverb and placed relatively low in the mix.

Surprisingly, Clear Horizon isn’t the by-the-book marriage of Bailiff’s vocals and FSA’s atmospherics that we might have expected. At first, “For Days” sounds like an out-take from Bailiff’s last record, but then Pearce’s voice materializes during the chorus and the pair intertwine for a brief refrain. Pearce allows himself some spotlight with “Millennium Blues”, taking one of his few turns on lead vocals. Singing somewhere between a mumble and whisper, Pearce intonates the conviction of a man trying desperately to communicate something sacred to a group of strangers.

Over its nine songs, Clear Horizon projects a feeling of stasis, as if the listener has found a place where things like time, velocity and mass are merely abstract terms. An apt optical comparison might be a documentary on arctic glaciers, viewed in slow motion. As you watch the dissolute and untouched beauty of snowstorms and descending sheets of ice, Clear Horizon may allow you to consciously find the intangible nexus that is often hidden from the waking mind.

By Paul Burress

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