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Saltland
I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us Tom Hannan , June 11th, 2013 08:40

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Rebecca Foon's debut solo album was laid to tape at her home studio in Montreal, but it sounds like all outdoors. The Constellation Records mainstay – who's lent her cello chops to A Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire To Flames and Esmerine over the years – is clearly no stranger to the more cacophonous end of the post-rock spectrum, but when left to her own devices seemingly enjoys exploring aspects of the world which that medium seems to rarely gaze upon; sunlight, breezes, and gently cooed pleasantries.

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There's certainly a menace to I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us, but it's a subtler one than anyone familiar with Foon's previous work will be used to. The shadows here are cast by way of juxtaposition, talk of things that "echo through the darkness" as on 'ICA' made ominous only because the song it sits within is actually a rather gentle, almost catchy little number.

Even making out a line such as that one takes a bit of effort, as most noises on I Thought It Was Us..., vocals included, float in to the ears so gently that picking out something as substantial as a run of words seems besides the point. It's as if you're meant to catch titbits on the wind rather than grope for a narrative, with the concern here being much more one of an overall haze that remains distant and quiet no matter how far to the right you turn the volume dial.

Though almost everything happens over a backdrop of semi-improvised cellos and violins swirling around each other (a template set on splendid opener 'Golden Alley'), Foon seems aware that too much of all that would get dull very quickly – and she's not in a rush to do anything quickly. The album's trump card is its ability to transcend bog standard folksy drone by dipping its toes in to metronomic percussion, electronic programming and "signal processing", provided courtesy of Foon's onetime Esmerine bandmate Jamie Thompson. Thompson's work never takes centre stage – this is very much Foon's baby – but his grooves on 'Unholy' and 'Colour The Night Sky' see him play an important part in the record's two finest songs.

The two part title track sees Saltland – who also feature Richard Reed Parry and Colin Stetson on occasion– set off all their fireworks at once. The impending peril to 'I Thought It Was Us' marks it out as the only thing here particularly reminiscent of Foon's playing with A Silver Mt. Zion, and is like being confronted with a danger you believe you'll be able to overcome if you just shut your eyes and concentrate hard enough. The relief comes in 'But It Was All Of Us', where a two note guitar loop underpins spinning strings in a manner reminiscent of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' soundtrack work, bringing a more pleasant reality back in to focus.

Though no track on the album is born of a mindset a million miles away from any other, that only serves to make the record more immersive rather than at all tedious. Listeners willing to put in the hours to engage with Saltland on their level will find reams to love about their debut , a record so carefully considered that making a song and dance about it all feels a little garish.