Album: CARTA – An Index of Birds (Silber 2010)

Carta’s first album Glass Bottom Boat on the now defunct Resonant label was a pretty dull affair, jammed to the gills with aimless post-rock noodling. Its saving grace was the magnificent twelve minute title track, a piece unlike anything else on the record, and significantly the only one to feature vocals. Although it was released in 2007, it had actually been recorded in 2005. Five years is a long time away, and the Carta of 2010 are a very different beast to the old model. Indeed, out of the seven members who appear on An Index of Birds, only two contributed to the debut – leader Kyle Monday and guitarist/pianist Ray Welter.

Stylistically, it’s much more varied, switching from short neo-classical pieces to stomping rock with echoes of bands as diverse as Tarwater, Piano Magic, Low, Rachel’s and Mogwai. Even the tracks like “Sidereal” that remain closest to the old Carta sound have a tighter focus and sense of purpose about them, although there remains some filler (the pleasant but forgettable “Santander”, for example) which could have been cut – the album does seem a bit over-long at 67 minutes.

Still, there’s plenty to enjoy. Kyle Monday sounds uncannily like Tarwater’s Ronald Liphook on “Building Bridges”, the track that first signals that this is a very different Carta. The slow burning, hypnotic epic “Descension” is a fabulous centrepiece. Stately piano and strings aged like a fine wine make “Bank of England” a lovely, dreamy interlude while “Back to Nature” almost takes you back to the days of post-hardcore acts like Rites of Spring and Drive Like Jehu. Indeed, it’s the second half of the album that’s the strongest and most diverse. “Who Killed the Clerk?” skips around in a high tempo like Polvo in contrast to the funereal and slightly surreal closer “The Late Alfred M”

It’s undeniable that An Index of a Birds is the sound of a band looking for an identity, switching styles like a foot fetishist in a shoe shop, but to stretch the metaphor, nearly all fit, and the album’s diversity is its strength. It may be an odd thing to say that a band that’s only on its second album sound rejuvenated, but that’s the case with Carta.

Tracks
1 Alfred M 1:32
2 Building Bridges 4:55
3 Hourglass 4:08
4 Small Lights 3:08
5 The Likeness Is Undeniable 4:45
6 Sidereal 5:10
7 Santander 4:16
8 Descension 11:14
9 Prettier at Night 4:51
10 Bank of England 5:53
11 Back to Nature 5:58
12 Who Killed the Clerk? 5:28
13 The Late Alfred M 5:29

Websites
www.theglassbottomboat.com
www.myspace.com/cartamusic
www.silbermedia.com

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