Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands offer a complex package with the release of this album. The album features lyrics that are elusive and mysterious, offering the curious listener a taste of Greek mythology, pagan ritual, and displaying an excellent musical and lyrical vocabulary. In featuring specialized musicians and diverse instrumentation (piano, accordion, trombone, violin, cello and... toaster oven rack amongst others), the resulting mood is a polyglot feeling that blends musical traditions and harmonies, creating something that is stylish and unique, if a bit off the beaten path. Several of the tracks on this album have a definite "dramatic" feel, sounding like a stage show performance from an alternate dimension, while others strike a far more lonely, deliberate stance, offering mystery and mythological tones as their subject. The resulting combination proves to be enigmatic and satisfying, diverse and tantalizing all at the same time.
"The Absolute Elsewhere" begins with "The End," a track that features an ethereal mixture of accordion and lilting vocals, sounding like European carnival music from a different century. "October" captures some of this same mood, exemplified with a mixture of horns and expressive lyrics. "Forest of Dreams" invokes the cadence and expression of klezmer, with snappy percussion punctuated by Bright's vocals and lyrics. The song embodies several different moods, with frantic, percussive moments contrasted by much more deliberate, measured ones. "Engastrimyth" gallops out of the starting gates, incorporating horns and Bright's confident voice in creating a yearning, wistful tune. "Of Sirenuse" begins with light piano and violin, ramping up in intensity, providing a lovely foundation on which Bright's vocals shine; the song explores various moods and textures, but ultimately washes away in minimalist fashion, punctuated by the lonely pluck of solitary piano keys.
"Bajando La Luna," when translated, refers to the "Drawing Down of the Moon" which is a Wiccan ritual that enabled the priest/priestess to go into a trance while beckoning the Goddess. This sort of mystical, lonely quality pervades the album, with Bright presumably taking on the role of the high priestess. This sort of mystical quality, this depiction of priestess sharing meaning through song is a fitting metaphor for Bright's work on this album. The instrumental "Tree of Tantalus" is characterized by brooding strings, reclusive piano, and a yearning wistfulness as it invokes the story of Tantalus, a Greek figure who spends eternity in the Underworld. The arrangement and strings on this track invoke a haunted, mysterious feeling. The album closes with the frantic exploration of "Choke," which features loose arrangements that swell in intensity, rising into a cacophony of noise, only to fade away into oblivion.
In my seven years of writing for the Home Grown Music Network, this collection of music definitely proves to be one of the more exotic selections that I have been given the opportunity to write about. In exploring themes of classic literature, mysticism, and incorporating lyrics and mythology that are not part of the general lexicon, the album has a refined quality that is decidedly "different" than most standard fare. Bright sings expressively in these sophisticated tracks, showing herself to be a complex chanteuse whose voice veers and sways, sometimes smooth and polished, other times more frantic and urgent. By combining her intelligent lyrics and sense of mystery with varied, off the beaten path arrangements and instrumentation, "The Absolute Elsewhere" proves to be an emotionally and musically complex recording, and one of the most unique presentations of music I have heard in a long time.
- J Evan Wade