Rachel’s was one of the more welcome surprises to come out of the North American post-rock scene. Essentially a chamber group augmented by a rock drummer and guitarist, the ensemble from Louisville felt more affected by the work of Dvorak and Pärt than anything happening in the ‘90s-era indie world that supported them.
The attention and acclaim that that group received certainly helped push against the rockist tendencies of the time and helped nudge open the doors to more grandiose groups like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. And it is why one of its founding members, pianist Rachel Grimes, is able to release an album of contemporary classical pieces on a label like Temporary Residence and have it reviewed on a site like this.
The good news is that the attention being paid to it is wholly justified. The Clearing is a gorgeous, stately collection that feels both connected to and completely removed from the current musical landscape. Some tracks like “The Air In Time” and “Transverse Plane Horizontal” have a pop-like structure to them, with clear delineation between verse, bridge and choruses that could easily be adapted to pure song form by an able lyricist and singer.
Others like the title track, a stately and cinematic collaboration with members of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, take ample time to unfurl and reveal the melodies that counterpoint Grimes’ left hand piano note. That and the closing track “The Air At Night,” the song that owes a great deal to the post-production textures added by electronic artist Loscil, are like a balm to the agitated spirit while challenging our modern short attention spans. Though The Clearing works fine as background music, it offers up many more intricacies and delights if you give it your full concentration.