Dusted Reviews

Charalambides - A Vintage Burden

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Charalambides

Album: A Vintage Burden

Label: Kranky

Review date: Jul. 16, 2006

Tom and Christina Carter are the king and queen of wide lens psych-folk. As the minds behind Charalambides, they’ve been responsible for more than a decade’s worth of goose-bump inducing music. As recently as 2004, the band included steel guitarist Heather Leigh Murray, who helped to flesh out that year’s synapse scrambler, Joy Shapes. Their latest Kranky release, A Vintage Burden, finds the group in its original twosome formation.

Christina Carter provokes wildly different responses among even those listeners accustomed to the unconventional. While her guitar playing is revelatory, her Julie Andrews-meets-Yoko Ono vocals may be too much for some ears. Still, her rubbery pipes make a fine vehicle for melodic exploration, which she regularly indulges in. Burden finds Carter employing restraint, with streamlined phrasing and comprehensible, if impressionistic prose.

Tom Carter is one of the most lauded guitarists in the underground, capable of both starkly repetitive folk-isms and lysergic free-for-alls. Both appear in nearly equal measure here. “There is No Kind” is a ballad built on chilly electric guitar and Christina’s probing vocalizations. It’s funereal without being oppressive, conjuring images of lovers separated by the time, distance and perhaps mortality. “There is no end to your beauty,” Christina sings in the song’s supernatural refrain.

Despite Charalambides’ ability to coax multiple moods from basic instrumentation, they sometimes fail to make an impression. I’d pretty much resigned myself to accepting that, while the band’s individual compositions can be powerful, as a whole, their albums are soporific. Burden comes closest to winning my unqualified approval. In fact, with the exception of the somewhat dull “Dormant Love,” I’m altogether satisfied.

“Black Bed Blues” is compelling despite its repetitive guitar progression. Seventeen minutes is a lot of time to spend on a pair of chords, but Tom Carter’s Jerry Garcia/Alvin Lee licks near the end are well worth the ride.

It’s nice to hear some plain ol’ folk, such as on the lucid and heartfelt “Two Birds.” It’s plain for a while, anyway: the song eventually serves up dual guitar solos that evoke the stoned grandeur of early ’70s rock. After which, it’s back to more conventional strums and Christina Carter’s broad warble.

The disc closes with “Hope Against Hope,” a fractured-sounding blues lullaby that forgoes psychedelic distension in favor of lank melody. Eastern-flavored bends and pentatonic vocal lines come together in cross-cultural primitivism that gets under the skin.

A Vintage Burden probably won’t inspire me to track down Charalambides’ CD-R releases, which are legion. But at least they’ve finally won my full attention. If their new disc is any indications, chances are they’ll keep it.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

Other Reviews of Charalambides

Joy Shapes

Electricity Ghost



Read More

View all articles by Casey Rae-Hunter

Find out more about Kranky

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.