Guitarist Mark Nelson just keeps cranking out the solo projects, a testament to his passion if not his judgment. While such a high volume of output (this is at least his tenth release, in addition to his work with Labradford) makes some chaff inevitable — read on, Ryan Adams — White Bird Release is a solid, completely contained work. Nelson chose a small but broad idea and explored its depths fully.
The titles of the nine songs are pieces of one long quote: "’There can be no thought of finishing, for "aiming at the stars" both literally and figuratively is a problem to occupy generations, so that no matter how much progress one makes there is always the thrill of just beginning,’ Dr. Robert Goddard in a letter to H.G. Wells, 1932." The centerpiece is the almost ten-minute-long “In a Letter to H.G. Wells, 1932.” That track ends the record with a driving note of expanding noise that, in jarring contrast to the set as a whole, abruptly cuts off.
Like the quote, White Bird Release evokes a sense of longing, and it does so with atmospheric, hermetic electronics and rhythms that are sublty tinged with Native American motifs. Nelson’s barely audible vocals and airy guitars create a minmalist but not lo-fi atmosphere — suitable for meditation but with a drive to action. Whatever spiritual space is created here, it is not complacent. That the loudest sonic bursts are saved for the end suggests a continuation of that escalating emotion.
White Bird Release is ambitious, being as it is both inclusive and deeply interior. Nelson muses on an idea meant to be a private moment between visionaries. He proves that a simple path can be found anywhere — and can lead to surprising places.
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