Review: Anne Guthrie – Brass Orchids (Students of Decay, Mar 23)

The music of Anne Guthrie is difficult to pin down. Despite the fact that much of it is composed of usually identifiable found sounds and Guthrie’s unmistakable French horn playing, the end result is never so transparent. Both Perhaps a Favorable Organic Moment (2011) and Codiaeum Variegatum (2014) are among the most abstract and cryptic records I have ever heard, a trend that is continued with Brass Orchids, Guthrie’s second release on the Cincinnati-based imprint Students of Decay. But while the impenetrability of the two former albums was always something that obstructed my enjoyment, it has quite the opposite effect on Brass Orchids. The album’s five tracks are murky and abstruse, slowly exposing various sounds amidst a consistent darkness. Muffled voices, wispy horn blows, distant clatters, and almost alien-like whirs are all interwoven into the nocturnal, recondite tapestries, creating an atmosphere that is immersive and ominous. The feeling of something lurking in the dark just outside of your vision, the uncomfortable sensation of being surrounded, an uneasiness you can’t really explain; these are all sensations elicited by this opaque, mysterious music, and are what draws me back to it again and again.