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Brightblack Morning Light - Motion to Rejoin

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Artist: Brightblack Morning Light

Album: Motion to Rejoin

Label: Matador

Review date: Sep. 22, 2008

Shamanic soul duo Brightblack Morning Light certainly haven’t refashioned their arrowhead with Motion to Rejoin, their second effort for Matador Records. The Native American-inspired team of Nathan Shineywater and Rachael Hughes hit repeat for another round of blissed-out boogie, but the tunes’ enveloping qualities only partly make up for the fact that they all sound alike.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t a couple of differences between Motion and its self-titled predecessor. The new record is a bit fuzzier, with a crusty coating I initially mistook for bad MP3-era mastering. Turns out they recorded the thing entirely with solar power, at Shineywater’s pad in New Mexico rural New Mexico. What might seem at first like a gimmick is revealed as commitment when you realize they could only record when the sun was out.

The crux of Brightblack’s sound is Hughes’ organ, which swells and recedes with its own lunar logic. Shineywater’s guitar merges seamlessly, with the occasional arpeggio ringing out against vast chasms populated only by spare Native American instruments and shaker. Every so often, horns work their way to the center, temporarily edging out Shineywater and Hughes’ heavily reverb’d vocals. These moments reveal the band’s feel for Southern Soul and British boogie, sublimated through Neo-Organic Psych.

Though much of the record drifts by like smoke from a peace pipe, some songs manage to make an impression. “Hologram Buffalo,” with its sashaying rhythms and probing horns, is both visceral and trance-inducing. Soul-mama background vocals straight from a T. Rex side coo and caw lustily as Shineywater sings something or other about teepees. “Summer Hoof” impresses for opposite reasons. It’s all build-up and no release, with protracted chords, atonal bells and attenuated horn lines flecked with analog delay. It’s an appropriate soundtrack for the final leg of a lengthy peyote sojourn.

At other times the songs – while still enjoyable in a nebulous “go to the light” kind-of-way – simply lose all pretense to distinction, bleeding together in a tonal wash of echoed vocals, tremolo guitar and gooey organ. What lyrics can be deciphered seem to be run-of-the-mill dreamcatcher claptrap, a kind of New Age magnetic poetry.

It’s interesting that some who embrace Brightblack Morning Light’s shamanic hooh-hah dismiss the Doors, who heralded a good bit of this silliness. Both groups have a thing for the desert, but only one used solar panels. A key distinction, perhaps?

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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