Published Aug 12, 2014Sometimes melancholy can be a playful affair. Slight Birching, also known as Vancouver's Sean Travis Ramsay, wrote the songs for this album while watching his mother succumb to cancer, and there is an achingly introspective feel to the music. Still, from the call-and-response on opening track, "Autodidact" ("It's only because I'm dumb/ It's only because he's dumb"), to the bent guitar notes and maniacal laughter of "Currency," to the deliberately out-of-tune "Less Night Lights," the recording is peppered with lighthearted moments.
Cultural Envelope, a nod to Northrop Frye's notion of how humans separate themselves from nature, is dominated by low bass and synth drone lines, topped by finger-style guitar and Ramsay's earnest, lower-register vocals. At moments, this album conjures Nick Drake's beautiful sadness, and at others, Beck at his most pensive (Sea Change, Morning Phase). The eerie "Get Up In The Morning And Fight" could be the theme song for a spooky carnival clown, while "Eventually" feels like a fairy tale processional. Near the end of the album, the title track features Joseph Hirabayashi on beautiful interwoven trumpet lines. The synth is a little overbearing at times, but it does tie the songs together into a coherent whole. (Independent)