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Sinister Luck Ensemble - Anniversary

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Artist: Sinister Luck Ensemble

Album: Anniversary

Label: Perishable

Review date: Apr. 9, 2002

The first thing that should be known about the Sinister Luck Ensemble’s debut record, Anniversary is that it is certainly one of the most beautiful and cinematic albums that has been released this year. At the center of this record, and the man responsible for gathering the Ensemble together, is Charles Kim. Kim is most widely known for his work in the Pinetop Seven, an underrated band that makes lush American music. On this record he writes the songs and gathers a talented group of musicians that includes Rob Mazurek of the Chicago Undergound Duo/Trio/Quartet on trumpet, Andrew Bird of Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire on violin, members of Wilco, Vandermark 5, Central Falls, and a few relative unknowns. Together, the Ensemble creates a sound that is dreamlike and intoxicating.

The first notes of the record belong to Mazurek, who often fools you into thinking he is Miles Davis, with his muted trumpet, perfect tone and sense for melody. He sets the mood for the record with a forty-nine second piece entitled “Anniversary” that recalls Davis’ Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud with its penumbral, melancholy glow. The melody that Mazurek introduces is revisited throughout the album, first on “The Black Pool.” The song swirls and eddies with guitar, accordion and percussion before it finds a striking the aching melody, which is laid over guitar arpeggios with clarinet, violin and accordion, It is again revisited on “Reservation Dream.” The piece “Cakewalk” is spare and spellbinding, with another memorable melody played out with trumpet, guitar, clarinet and vibraphone. “Sinister Luck” embodies its’ name with low bass rumbling and paranoia. The interplay amongst musicians on “Spit in the Well” is wonderful, especially considering the skill, ear and soul of the players. The sound belongs to the days of yore, as if one could expect to be listening to a dusty crate of 78s forgotten in a grandparent’s attic. The songs all belong to the “American Standard” canon. This is very much a record that will cause you to stop paying attention to song titles and instead remember the melodies, and a record that will constantly make you listen.

I heard the record in a variety of settings over the weekend; each one was a moment I will savor for months. The first was napping with my girlfriend on a blue-sky high plains afternoon with clouds drifting gently by. The second was flying into Portland in the midday, seeing the sun break through gathering storm clouds, shining its light onto the evergreens and rivers. The last was record shopping that same night at the newly reopened Ozone Records in Portland, a slight haze and misty spring rain enfolding the city before the coming of night. Each of these incidents were made perfect by the music, each something that made my skin go all good, each something that reminded me why music is pure and holy. This is music that can help you see the beauty in the world.

By Andy Cockle

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