Ln: Drawn by Swans EP (Velvet Blue Music, 2005)
Ohio slowcore mainstay Ln has dazzled music audiences for a number of years now. Releasing 4 EP’s and 3 full-length releases on California’s Velvet Blue Music, Ln has proven themselves to be as prolific as they are mysterious. With the sad songs and haunting voice of frontman Gary Murray, this fluid group of seemingly faceless musicians have mystified music listeners. Though last year Ln released a full-length masterpiece of folk-infused slowcore (The Dirt Floor Hotel Part 1), the ever-recording band has just released another EP, Drawn by Swans for Velvet Blue. It almost seems redundant to write about this new release with phrases like “Ln yet again offers a collection of heartbreaking and dreary tracks”, or “Gary Murray’s chilling songs and barely whispered vocals continue to improve with every release”, but both statements are true, whether oft-repeated or not. Taken in context with Ln’s other releases, Drawn by Swans does not seem to stick out, both in adventurousness of the recording and in the way the EP is sequenced. For Ln fans and newcomers to the band, then, Drawn by Swans offers 5 tracks featuring the strongest elements of Ln’s past releases while simultaneously soothing the listener with gentle sounds.
“Novemberland” opens up the EP with 4 ½ minutes of a gentle piano line cradled in the midst of drones that vaguely sound like voices. Strange sounds fade in and out of the cacophony, and the entire result is soothing. An acoustic guitar and piano noodling introduce the listener to “The Ocean Plays the Saddest Song”. Murray begins to sing an instantly memorable melody that truly lingers in the mind well after the song is finished. Throughout the track, the music never rises beyond a gentle swell, as the guitar and piano continue to support Murray’s plaintive vocals. “The Highway Moves Tonight” is darker in sound compared to the previous tracks, and adds a few more sounds into the stripped down production such as protracted guitar and key sounds. Murray’s subtly double-tracked vocals give the song an eerie depth, especially during the fuller sounding chorus. As in the previous track, Murray is able to craft a strong melody that is fused with a brooding and dreamy western feel. “End of the World Again”, lyrically rich in Murray’s favourite theme of heartache and longing, follows in its loosely structured manner. A plucked guitar, buoyed by gentle background sounds (is that Jessica Bailiff playing in violin the background?), cascades over the simple song Murray sings. Two-thirds into “End of the World Again”, the song effortlessly shifts its gears and becomes an ambient, instrumental piece featuring muted guitar and keyboard sounds, before blending into “American Love Stars”.
This final track is the most fully fleshed out song on the EP (and, perhaps because of this fact, seems to be the least tense and intimate). Drums, playing a laid-back rhythm, make their first appearance on Drawn by Swans, as Murray sings in the highest key he’s sang on since Ln’s 2000 EP Imaginary Cars. Murray’s breathy and high vocals, definitely a throwback to Ln’s earlier efforts, give the song an unanchored feel (which is not a bad thing, as the song languidly flows along in a pseudo-improvisational style). Like the song before it, though, “American Love Stars” features a complete turn part-way into the song, where Murray sings over a solitary piano line and rumbling echoes.
Simply stated, Ln has created yet another delicious album of evocative songs that only add to the sense of mystique surrounding this band. Drawn by Swans shows music with a deep sense of musicianship breathed into each song, coupled with surprisingly pristine production values. And, while Drawn by Swans may not have quite the same dramatic sense as Gravity Gun or Novel, or the same sense of experimentalism and sentimentalism that The Dirt Floor Hotel Part 1 possesses, it is nonetheless a cohesive, intimate, and ultimately vivid portrayal of fragile human melancholy. Beautiful in sound and somehow redemptive in its dark themes, Drawn by Swans is reassuringly classic Ln. Highly recommended for fans of Slowcore, earlier Low, Codeine, Bark Psychosis, Jessica Bailiff, etc.
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