a cross-country move can be daunting, but it often proves to be a cleansing experience as well. kyle reigle recently pulled up his roots in buffalo, new york and ventured west to portland, oregon; this transplant was one of many factors that inspired his third record as cemeteries, the sprawling and cavernous barrow.
reigle’s voice sighs with just enough spacious reverb to flirt with the realm of dream pop, but i’m more inclined to file barrow away with releases like port st. willow’s holiday, where dreamy vocals are a secondary consequence of lush, ornate soundscapes. this aesthetic approach is immediate; opening number “procession” is a comparatively brief ancillary to “nightjar,” providing the necessary textures and harmonic information. the descending melody that then defines “nightjar” culminates in dissonance, perhaps a nod to the personal disconnect of trying to function in new surrounds or to reigle’s fascination with witchcraft, but the persevering nature of the track’s drum part is hard to ignore, and foreshadows the overall consonance of barrow.
many songs on barrow follow a similar blueprint: a main motif, often delivered via synthesizer, powered by percussion. reigle avoids monotony, however, in how these motifs permutate. on “can you hear them sing” it quickly buries itself deep in the texture, only to emerge again in lieu of any sort of structured, hook-driven vocal chorus. on “cicada howl,” the main motif is more stagnant, anchoring itself as the pillar around which reigle builds the rest of the song’s expansive textures. it’s a simple exercise, really, and one that lends itself well to an album with any sort of overarching thematic tendencies, but reigle understands the nuances of this practice and executes it with aplomb.
barrow is a beautiful album. it’s hard to not mince words when trying to adequately describe a body of work, but reigle’s latest effort embodies that adjective well. “luna (moon of claiming)” and “sodus” anchor the album and display the full spectrum of emotions that cemeteries is capable of conveying, from swaths of childhood nostalgia to heartbreak to hesitancy to undeniable triumph. but it’s all the spaces in between, like the bleary ambiguity of “i will run from you” and the unexpected incessant arpeggiations in “empty camps” that really tie barrow together. save this record for a night of solitude, when you can afford to slip on a pair of headphones, close your eyes, and disappear.