The Madison/NYC duo delve deep into woodwind-driven arrangements on their forthcoming seventh album. (Photo: Taralie Peterson, left, and Kathleen Baird.)
The far-reaching psych-folk outfit Spires That In The Sunset Rise have whirled through a variety of collaborations and instrumental approaches since members Taralie Peterson and Kathleen Baird moved to Madison in 2007. Baird moved to New York City last fall while Peterson remained in Madison. While both of the vocalists/multi-instrumentalists have been pursuing other projects (including Peterson’s solo outlet Tar Pet, Baird’s solo outlet Sapropelic Pycnic and Baird’s new collaborative project Tropical Rock), they’ve kept pushing STITSR in new directions. The two recently finished up a collaborative theater piece in the Twin Cities, and have finished up STITSR’s seventh proper studio album, Beasts In The Garden, due out on May 19 and currently available to pre-order on vinyl. (Full disclosure: I’ve put on a couple of shows with Spires in the past.) The band doesn’t have any Madison dates currently lined up, but will be playing on May 19 in Chicago, opening up kindred spirit Circuit Des Yeux’s album-release show.
The new album builds upon the duo’s newfound fascination with woodwinds. Baird has played flute in the project for a long time, and Peterson has been blasting out fiery saxophone improvisations at STITSR live shows for at least the past couple of years. But the seven songs on Beasts put those instruments front and center in a way that STITSR never has before, and in intricate, repetitive, interlocking layers that often depart from STITSR’s characteristically freewheeling approach to rhythm. A lot of previous STITSR material, especially on 2012’s double album Ancient Patience Wills It Again, depends on a sense of timing that Peterson and Baird have figured out between themselves, but that you’d be hard-pressed to tap your foot along to.
The second song on Beasts In The Garden, “Schluss,” locks into a rigid 3/4 with an eerie sax figure that makes it hard not to name-check Terry Riley. Peterson and Baird establish a constrained tension and then push against it with rippling counter-melodies and wordless vocals. On a technical level it upends what we’re used to from STITSR, offering a different vantage point on their disorienting yet beautiful music. Stream the song here.