On September 30, Daniel Crespo, the mayor of the Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens, was shot and killed. It wasn’t a political assassination. His wife pulled the trigger. This event is utterly unrelated to Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions, the second album by the dreamy, chamber-pop ensemble Bell Gardens. The group, which was cofounded by L.A.’s Brian McBride (Stars of the Lid), chose their name years ago; their debut EP Hangups Need Company came out in 2010, and their first album Full Sundown Assembly came out in 2012. But McBride has worked in soundtracks before, and fate has decreed that Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions can be viewed, in an unhappily accidental way, as the coincidental music to a tragedy.
If the album wasn’t so magisterially moody, it would be easier to ignore the parallel. But from the ghostlike balladry of “Darker Side of Sunshine” to the windswept strumming of “Take Us Away”, McBride and Bell Garden’s other core member Kenneth James Gibson (formerly of Furry Things and now [a]pendics.shuffle, dubLoner, and Eight Frozen Modules, among others) create cinematic, big-vista threnodies dusted with tumbleweed Americana. The abstract, conceptual wavecraft of Stars of the Lid is only an apparition on the horizon; Gibson’s ambient treatments are dyed sepia and dissolved into the album’s threadbare fabric. Gibson has never sounded more like a conventional singer-songwriter, and his singing has improved vastly since Full Sundown Assembly. Not long ago, he strained to hit the notes and tones he seemed to be groping for; on Slow Dawns standouts like “Silent Prayer” and “She Does”, he navigates reverbed electric piano and tranquilized tambourine shakes with the easiest, breathiest grace.
Bell Gardens has fleshed itself out since Full Sundown Assembly, and that expanded ensemble has led to a richer stratifying of strings, pedal steel, synth, and trumpet (some of which is supplied by guests Lauren Chipman of the Rentals and Stewart Cole of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros). It all forms a smothering, gray-brown haze, yet each element remains discreet and distinct, from the crisp acoustic chords of the instrumental “Joan’s Ambulance” to the chem-trail synths of “Take Us Away”. The brief, voiceless interlude “Avere” comes closest to scratching the group’s classical itch, but even its funereal, chamber-ready study in piano and violin sounds as if it’s being played under a Mojave palm.
Eerily, the late Mayor Crespo’s profile page on the City of Bell Gardens’ website has not been updated to reflect his death. It says he can still be reached at his city email address; it also states with tragic irony that “in 1986, Mayor Crespo, a young teenager, married his high school sweetheart and has been married ever since.” Synchronicity can play a huge part in the way music is conceived, executed, released, and heard. Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions is no work of prophecy, but it may be a more diffuse kind of premonition, one that taps into some larger West Coast darkness.
“Darker Side of Sunshine”, “Joan’s Ambulance”, “She’s Stuck in the Endless Loop of Her Decline”, “Trust Lost Trust”, “Take Us Away”: These song titles reflect the album’s slow, sad flow of destiny and escape. A cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me” (billed here as “Why Me Lord”) is included as a digital-only bonus track; its hushed, hymnal plea for release—“Jesus, my soul’s in your hand,” Gibson sings over a shivering ablution of strings—would be gently devastating in any context. But especially this one. Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions didn’t need an extra layer of portent and atmosphere hanging over its release. But it’s been given that layer anyway, and it only makes the songs feel that much more delicately heavy.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1t7Ob98