Review: Leisure Knots – Live at the Structure (Sweet Wreath, Jun 26)

Between not one but two unforgettable releases by not-of-this-world duo Ghost Food, Johnny Coley’s Antique Sadness, and now Live at the Structure, Irondale imprint/collective/movement Sweet Wreath has affirmed its role as a leading purveyor of haunting, home-spun creative music. Just the latest in a line of exciting debut recordings from central Alabama and beyond, this first full-length by Virginia- and North Carolina–based ensemble Leisure Knots is a thoroughly engrossing and evocative stretch of sublimity that both reflects the dark uncertainties of the present and gestures toward a brighter future. The quintet (joined by saxophonist Daniel Brooks on the B side) improvises at an easy yet purposeful pace, each member utilizing a rotating group arsenal of everything from found objects to computer processing to conjure individual but sympathetic strands of the most subdued cacophonies. Not all of the ambience that graces the tape’s five sections is conventionally warm or pretty, but that of the first certainly is, building the foundations for what lies ahead with wooden wands and cattail harps by an enchanted forest pond. “III” is probably the most active track, its nocturnal radio-scapes even getting a bit menacing at times, but then the beauty returns in the latter half of “IV” and the gorgeous closer “V,” helped along by Brooks’ brilliantly reserved contributions and some very well-placed field recordings. As usual, the liner notes say it better than I ever could: “These tracks vent the soft glow of their homes through an open window and into an unearthly outside.” Collaborative serendipity that makes the end feel like the beginning.

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