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Light Offers a Musical Path to Serenity

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In Light Of

While listening to Little Treasures you might hear Butthead's voice in your head asking, "Huhuh, is this wuss music?" before you mentally kick him to the curb with a wish that his evil kind suffer just enough that they can finally grasp why post-rock matters.

Even dismissing post-rock as escapist self-indulgence is so passé, so yesterday, so pre-post rock; it dismally fails to recognize the social and historical conditions that made post-rock both necessary and inevitable.

Picture of In Light Of

In Light Of

Little Treasures, In Light Of's debut album, is an EP of astonishing musical inventiveness coupled with an abiding sense of emotional reassurance. The music is unobtrusive yet musical experiments, spare, haunting melodies, mysterious sounds I haven't been able to identify, and thoughtful musicianship.

Apparently it all comes from a couple of Canadians, Jason Greenberg and Sandy Johnston, who traded sound snippets at a distance until they were both satisfied. Quite simply, Johnson would send Greenberg a skeletal musical idea over his iPhone and Greenberg would expand on it. Both loved post-rock and so that's what they ran with.

Granted not all post-rock achieves what the genre aspires to, but the best of it really does embody a healing balm for the suffering peculiar to 21st-century humanity. Composers of the early twentieth century responded to the rising evils of fascism by going all dissonant, but the postmodern musical response to terrorism and the erosion of democratic ideals has been a tender but serious and meaningful music, music with the power to support healing and transcendence for those suffering from depression, PTSD, and other psychological woundings that come as a natural response to the unfathomable cruelty of human beings. Besides being healing, the best post-rock can give us the strength to keep going.

This is the characteristic that Little Treasures possesses in droves. You may not appreciate this quality if you're feeling at the top of your game, but a little depression, a little angst, or a touch of despair will open your eyes to this EP's beauty and have you putting it in endless repeat.

Each track assures the listener that "all's right with the world" in a way that rivals J.S. Bach.

There is one thing lacking in Little Treasures, and that's the spoken word. There's a bit of a vocal on the title track, but it's wordless, and I found myself looking for something that indicated the duo's raison d'etre. Having even one vocal track or even a bit of poetry or a cryptic message woven into the music adds such a marvelous dimension to an instrumental album that its absence is tangibly felt. (Think of the phrase repeated in John Coltrane's A Love Supreme and you'll catch my drift.)

The pattern for nearly all five tracks seems to be the introduction of a simple but haunting melody and then a mounting rhythm and excitement level that culminates in reintroducing the melody in altered form, in tone sequences that signal the elation of triumph.

"Bless Your Heart," its title based on the repeated benediction of an elderly family friend, is as full of beneficence as the phrase itself. Syncopation is felt all the way through, the melody preceding the first beat of each bar by fractions of a second, adding a sense of expansive liberty. There's what sounds like a backwards synth playing out the engaging melodic motif.

In "Harmonico" we find experiments with guitar harmonics, created by striking the string with your right hand just after a finger of your left hand has lifted from it. If this is done at specific frets (it won't work just anywhere) the technique creates a pleasant "ping" sound. (You hear harmonic tones at the very start of Yes's "Roundabout.") They're delightful here, the chiming sound fitting perfectly with the musical message of peace on earth, good will to men.

Each track assures the listener that "all's right with the world" in a way that rivals J.S. Bach. Based on the little we know, Jason Greenberg and Sandy Johnston seem to each be living each in a zone of gentle domestic bliss that nurtures them so generously that they can afford to let their love overflow into these beautiful tracks.

Hopefully we'll be hearing more.

8,000 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars