Click to hear: “Five Horses”
L’animaux Tryst (Field) Recordings is a small Portland label run by Cursillistas’ Matt Lajoie. It produces and distributes ultra-limited, handmade releases on CD-R, cassette and vinyl for a handful of local psych-folk acts. L’animaux’s latest, Travel Light, is a collaborative 12” between Ian Paige’s White Light project and Cursillistas, created for their U.S. tour last month, on which Lajoie and Paige traveled as a duo, backing each other up.
Though the record is technically a split between the two groups, it flows together smoothly (the MP3 download of Travel Light, a link to which is included with the record, reinforces that impression). Lajoie and Paige hitch horses unconditionally, drawing from the same pool of musicians, sharing aesthetic approaches, and regularly playing on each other’s recordings. Their dazed, high-register voices are quite similar, too.
Lajoie and Paige match ambient sounds and waves of noise to ghostly melodies and pounding rhythms. Save for electric guitar, most of the instruments on the record are acoustic, lending these otherworldly songs a coarse, naturalistic feel.
Cursillistas covers the A-side, beginning with “Crutches.” This is a strong, biting gem not unlike Sung Tongs–era Animal Collective, with layered, airy vocals and precise tribal drumming and claps. A lightly distorted bass and a few tracks of feedback and noise flutter around the left and right channels. Behind his sung vocals, Lajoie flatly repeats, “There’s a fork in the road / A fork in your road,” through a wash of delay. “Crutches” is one of the most interesting and pleasing songs on the record.
“Incantations of Bona Dea (reprise)” is just under a minute long, and perhaps should have been melded to the beginning of the next track, the sprawling, 10-minute soundscape “Rewa Dopka.” “Rewa” primarily consists of dissonant drones and spooky wah-wah-pedaled guitar intermittently flowing in and out of one another. Hard-hit cymbals and the reverberated, hard strumming of some stringed instrument eventually establish a semblance of rhythm behind the warbling tonal chaos. This thoroughly psychedelic piece may make some listeners yawn or get antsy, but it held my attention throughout. The gradual sonic shifts are slight but consistent, creating a wide-eyed journey with a beginning, middle and end.
The dark, bare folk songs that follow — “That Great Stone” and “Tivaldi” — round out the Cursillistas side. Lajoie’s forceful, aching voice, mixed from a distance, summons comparisons to Ray Raposa (Castanets).
The enchanting, bluesy folk excursion “Five Horses” dominates the White Light side. This is the most collaborative piece on the split, featuring the song’s co-writer, Caitlin King (who also performs with Cursillistas), Lajoie, and Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson of the Biddeford duo South China. It was recorded live by soundman Pete Nenortas of The Studio.
The song builds gradually from a stark cello plucked at a low tempo, eventually joined by sparse percussion, a banjo, and a wandering slide guitar. “I had five horses / they’d come whenever I call,” Paige sings. “I had five horses / but I could never ride them all.” A beautiful chorus of harmonies enters and the cello evolves from plucked notes to bowed tones to close out the song.
“Without the Other One” is a noisy, Velvets-inspired trip charged with vocal chants and intonations by Janane T. of the shadowy psych-folk trio Visitations. The song picks up with the pace of an intensifying drumbeat, building up feral energy that culminates at its conclusion. Everything winds down with the closer, “We Do True.” “I need something true,” Paige beseeches, “Any old thing will do.”
L’animaux Tryst pressed just 150 copies of Travel Light and they’re almost gone. Lajoie should consider pressing more — this release begs to be heard.
— Tyler Jackson
Travel Light is available at Strange Maine/Time-Lag Records, 578 Congress St., Portland, and via lanimauxtryst.com.