While escapism is an understandable instinct in times of turmoil, The Spirits Will Shimmer encourages reflection on our current realities rather than turning a blind eye. New Balance’s Jeremy Leasure thoughtfully constructs a sonic cocoon of backwoods ambience from warped banjo improvisations and Casio synth atmospheres, foregoing the vivid lyrical imagery and lush arrangments of past releases. By offering a temporary respite from overstimulation, these meditative mood pieces carve out the space necessary to process the endless stream of information weighing on our hearts and minds.
The textures vary more than the sparse instrumentation would suggest, with sounds stretching and molding into new shapes as the album progresses. Reverse banjo strums, pulsing bell tones, and slow ethereal keyboards are only a few colors from the variegated, yet muted, palette on display. The cyclical chord progressions and fluctuating rhythmic currents push the soundscapes along at an organic pace, allowing time to soak in the surroundings without ever receding into stagnancy. The banjo on “Shimmer” blooms and contracts in a twangy trance-inducing rhythm; “Stare” quietly builds under a blanket of dream-like haze; The levitating rhythms of “At” evoke a skyward jaunt, bouncing from cloud to cloud in tentative contentment. The album’s permeating feelings of hope and peacefulness veer into moments of trepidation or loneliness, but never for too long. “Shadows” juxtaposes childish synthesizer plunking against sombre down-shifted singing, closing the album with its sole vocal track. Leasure’s lyrics of disengagement are accentuated by the occasional break-ups of digital distortion, a sobering reminder that the technology we rely on for connection can also degrade the signals of our humanity if we let them.
Recommended to fans of the New Age Appalachian folk of Sarah Louise, the ambient westerns of William Tyler, or the pastoral experimentalism of Cluster & Eno.
All album proceeds will be benefitting Unicef Yemen and The Bail Project