Crestfall Harper’s recent release is a breakup album according to his Bandcamp page but there is no way you would know that unless you were told. His release Saturnine is completely instrumental without a single word. The thing with instrumental music is it can be interpreted a million different ways and that’s the beauty of it. You can assign your own meaning to it.
The ambiguity of meaning is brought in the form of sound through some wicked guitar playing. Harper can play some guitar and his forte is picking. He has some serious speed, which from a technical standpoint is enjoyable to listen. However, if Harper’s music didn’t contain creativity and an emotional weight it wouldn't appeal to many people.
The songs can range from nostalgic to dissonant and many places in between. Taking into his account the concept of breakup the songs do cover a palette of emotions that are explored with textures, tones and effects.
Up first is “Grief 1.7” which bounces between a mad dash on anxiety and drone like lulls, which are inescapable. It’s an original sounding song and I have to applaud Harper for that. “That Room” focuses solely on guitar picking. It is a glimmering, bright riff that felt quite optimistic. “Fathom Empty” starts with overflowing white noise that transitions into pretty guitar picking. The vacuous, alien-like synth sounds make for a striking juxtaposition. The next two songs “Waning Shard” and “Heaving Harp, Black Spindel” contain exceptional guitar work.
“In Retching” is where Harper explores dissonance and jumps into the chasm of loneliness and isolation. It’s dark and creepy - bordering on terrifying. On “Sleeping Through Spring” and “A Field, In The Distance” he implements backwards-sounding effects.
Harper closes with “Lamentation” which you could make the argument has words but sounds like someone is speaking in tongues. Sounds like he reversed that as well. It also contains what sounds like random field recordings. “Lamentation” isn’t very musical but almost feels like a collage of sounds.
Not everything works on Saturnine but there are plenty of inspired moments. His guitar skill is the highlight despite the effects and production technique. I’d like to hear what kind of music he is going to make once he gets into another relationship.
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