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Spokane



Spokane is a mid-sized, somewhat dreary city in Eastern Washington known for its timber and agricultural industries. Spokane is also the side project of Drunk singer-songwriter Rick Alverson. The two aren't as unrelated as you might think. Like the city, Alverson's music has a kind of out-of-the-way rural beauty that is infused with a feeling of isolation and, at times, desolation. The sound is lush and ruminative, the tempos slow and meandering. Alverson weaves his bleak, beautiful musical tapestries delicately, even tenderly, with reverberating guitars, keening string parts, and echoey percussion. Through it all his deep muffled voice floats, ethereal, as if beneath the surface of things, like a man lost in the corridors of his own dreams. Spokane makes sad music, to be sure, but it's a satisfying and strangely lovely kind of sad, the kind you need to feel from time to time.

"By the Bend" and "Automoton" come from Spokane's first full-length, Leisure and Other Songs, issued in October, 2000. A quick at the album art reveals Spokane's underlying ethos and aesthetic: the cover features a gray snowy expanse with black leafless trees on the horizon, while the interior contains pictures of a burnt-out interior. It's the tragic and majestic beauty of these kinds of things which Spokane celebrates.

Spokane's July 2001 Close Quarters EP (Acuarela), a precursor to the group's fall 2001 sophomore record, The Proud Graduates, continues in the tersely moody vein of their debut. "Good Fortune" is a gorgeous example of the EP's claustrophobic, string-inflected melancholia. It features stunningly sad harmonies between Rick Alverson and Courtney Bowles.

Bowles offers gorgeous, sweeping backup on The Proud Graduates, complementing Alverson's swallowed, somber vocals, which occasionally suggest Tindersticks frontman Stuart Staples. A key element on the record is violinist Karl Runge, whose sharp, measured string parts are reminiscent of Dirty Three's Warren Ellis. The Proud Graduates features "The Absentee," which feels almost like a dark, extremely slowed-down Simon and Garfunkel song, and the simple, exquisitely dour "Settling." The record is another lovely piece of graceful, restrained, eloquent melancholia.

Spokane recorded 2002's Able Bodies, their fourth LP in the last two years for those of you keeping score, after the group's members were involved in a highway car accident, which, luckily, all escaped without serious energy. The pensive and meditative title track was inspired by the incident. Throughout the album's seven tasteful songs, Spokane's haunting style of dark minimalist folk continues to impress.