Recent reviews of Carta.
Looking for the latest dance tracks? Or something that is perfect for your MP3 player while working out at the gym? If so, you’re reading about the wrong release. The folks in Carta write and record peculiar moody underground music that can and will only be appreciated by a small segment of the listening population. The band formed in 2002 and has apparently gone through various personnel changes over the years. Describing An Index of Birds is a difficult task. This band’s music could be described as mood music, modern classical, slowcore, or shoegaze…but it never actually falls into any of these specific categories. Some of the tracks are instrumentals while others include vocals. There are so many wonderfully inventive tracks here. We love the really cool atmospherics in the piano track “Small Lights,” the unbelievable bass sound in “The Likeness is Undeniable,” and the cool, distant Curved Air-like vocals in “Descension.” Decidedly subdued and very, very groovy.
This Oakland-based septet baosts numerous multi-instrumentalists (including input from four keyboardists), so the first thing that strikes you is the fullness of the sound. That’s not to suggest we have the bastard offspring of Phil Spector at play here. Rather, a carefully constructed collection of songs that benefits from the multilayered instrumentation. Gorgeous, cascading guitar interplay from the main protagonists, Kyle Monday and Ray Welter imparts sonic teardrops to emotional outpourings like “Hourglass,” complete with syrupy cello embellishments from Alex Cort and soft, wordless vocal stylings from Lorealle Bishop.
Elsewhere, songs like “The Likeness is Undeniable,” “The Late Alfred M,” and “Back To Nature“ offer a dreamy, loud-soft dichotomy that fondly recall the best of Mogwai and Godspeed! You Black Emperor/A Silver Mt. Zion, while “Satander” and “Bank of England” envelop the listener in a mushroom cloud explosion of warmth and nostalgic afterglow – perfect for nazel gazing, contemplating the universe, or enjoying a loved one’s nooks and crannies. The epic “Descension” harkens back to vintage Low, with Bishop’s vocals hovering in the air like honey-dripping droplets of sea mist.
This is truly an album to cherish during those quiet moments when you need to relax after a troubling day, or just want to stare at the sunset or walk through the snowfall and reminisce about the times of your life when everything was alright with the world – those photographic moments you’ll look back on and cherish 10, 20, and 30 years from now. One of my favorite releases of the new year and another classic in the snorecore canon.
~ Jeff Penczak, Foxy Digitalis
Laconic as hell, Carta’s An Index of Birds is practically a sonic ode to minor keys and sublimated doom. The release’s bric-a-brac only drives the point further home: two decapitated wax figurine heads, rusted wire, decaying botanicals, ghost redwings, and a cobalt-blue medicine bottle inscribed “Poisonous: Not to be Taken”, all bylined with “You’re going home in an ambulance”. This is probably not the CD you’re going to want to take to a marriage or any Optimists Club meeting.
Filigree and spiderweb dominate Birds, but there’s more than a few pulse explosions of majesty and power, albeit well imbued with the decadent splash of fading empire and Usherine provinciality. A long, slow, drear, but shoegazily fascinating build-up to the magnificent Descension occurs, a moors and ruined-cathedral atmosphere collapsing into Lorealle Bishop’s hypnotizing vocals. Most of the festering atmosphere informing the disc is laid instrumentally, vocals adding emphasis or contrast, sharpening the latency of human anger and desperation into hopeless rebellion. Don’t be fooled by momentary upbeat respites, as in Hourglass, as they will not endure the relentless despair.
Mission UK produced a series of LPs not far removed from this effect but were nowhere near so fog-enshrouded and arid. Carta employs basic rock band instrumentation but adds melodica, marimba, cello, and a wealth of treatments very much in line with the prog-Goth genre’s depressoid electronica colorations and Enossification. Taken in whole, the admixture is uniquely the band’s own, frequently striking, as in the tinkling intro to Small Lights or the symphonic adagio of Sidereal. Nonetheless, when Descension arrives, an unearthly beauty floats down from the clouds in magisterial lament, forming the milieu for a several-track-long denouement that’s creepy, elegant, and, in the splintering crash of Back to Nature, visceral.
~ Mark S. Tucker, FAME
San Francisco’s Carta made quite an impression here at TSB with its 2007 debut, The Glass Bottom Boat. Jonathan Brooks praised the group’s ability to make compelling music without being overly technical or complex, likening the band’s work to “a plot-twisting film or novel identifiable by its lush characters.” That record also earned a spot on our coveted Top 50 records of the year list, leaving many in anticipation for the next release. At the time of that writing, the group was unsigned, and would later re-release the album through Resonant.
Despite this attention, somehow Carta slipped under my radar, and I never got around to listening to its debut. The release of its follow-up, An Index of Birds, has been long delayed, although it was completed well over a year ago. I don’t know what exactly caused this delay, and won’t waste time speculating, but it has finally been freed of the purgatory in which it was stuck, and it is about time. For those like myself who somehow missed the (glass-bottomed) boat, such a delay could translate into lost momentum for a band that showed such tremendous promise. However, it also may help the band avoid awkward comparisons often unfairly assigned to sophomore efforts. I purposefully didn’t listen to Carta’s debut before writing this so as to avoid such comparisons, as well as to assume the position of the, hopefully many, listeners who will first be approaching the group on this record.
Although Carta’s music may not be totally novel or groundbreaking, its brand of moody, slow, mostly instrumental music is on par with the big names of the form. Carta certainly deserves a larger audience, and An Index of Birds is an impressive enough record to solidify its reputation. The instrumentation is somewhat conventional, and apparently little has changed from the previous incarnation of Carta that produced The Glass Bottom Boat: guitars, bass, drums, cellos, keys, and vocals. The result is music that fits in with a great many other artists in the genre without ever sounding like an imitation. Index isn’t exactly what one would call a dense album, but still has depth and grows on the listener with repeated listens. The music sounds familiar — not in the sense that Carta is channeling other artists, but more that the melodies are comfortable and the narratives memorable. Some of the tracks are less than perfect, of course, though the album is successful as a whole at conveying a unified aesthetic.
Though the band has had a drummer for a while now, the habit of using looped guitar as a metronome in the absence of a drummer seems to have influenced the Carta’s approach to composition. Sometimes this is well executed, while other times it can drag the pace down. “Santander,” with its looped four-note arpeggio never really manages to take off and can be a bit monotonous. At over four minutes, it is just long enough to be considered too long, and I found myself wishing the producer had cut it in half. The mood it suggests is interesting, perhaps even uncomfortable, but certainly doesn’t benefit from continuing on quite so much. It serves as a segue into the longest song on Index, and also one of the high points, “Descension.” The piano, cello, and Lorealle Bishop’s vocals all work together perfectly, and it is this nuanced blending of the elements that
prove that Carta is ready for the ‘big time’. The following tracks are instrumental, each seemingly capturing a different scene in its five or so minutes, but generally maintaining a similar tone.
The album isn’t all pretty melodies and slowly unfolding parts, however, with some tracks building to noisier, denser peaks. “Back to Nature” builds to a dense, noisy climax with repeated vocals uttering “I know that/ if we try/ we can be/ satisfied” over and over again. After the climactic, almost indie-rock finale of “Who Killed the Clerk,” the group revisits the intro in “The Late Alfred M” with a line begging to be repeated, “you’re going home in an ambulance.”
The moods and narrative flow suggest the common characterization of instrumental music as cinematic, and it really fits here. The vocals that are used are well placed, and the female vocals in particular, provided by Bishop, are lovely and perfectly fitting the tone of the tracks on which they appear. The cadence of the monotone male vocals, on “Building Bridges” for instance, calls to mind Swedish artists such as Scraps of Tape. Though they sometimes appear in a more melodic context, in both cases they act as a dynamic counterpoint to Bishop’s contribution, which hopefully will continue on future releases.
There are many touchstones in Carta’s sound, from Mogwai in the mellower moments, to the sad, slowness of Low, or the similar-minded arpeggio-and-strings of Laura. These comparisons are fairly clear, but Carta never sounds like it is imitating any one either. Though its sound doesn’t ever really sound completely original, it expresses its own voice within an established idiom, which is perfectly acceptable when executed well, as it is in this case. Besides, it’s such a pleasure to listen to Bishop’s vocals, that everything else is almost irrelevant.
~ Joseph Sannicandro, The Silent Ballet
At times they make me think of a more subdued Abunai!, especially when the male singer takes the lead, but they are far sadder than that band ever was. In their instrumental modes they sometimes sound like a slow motion collision between Tortoise and Rachels. Whatever their modus operandi, their sound is rich, plush, melancholic, luxuriously deep and resonant. I’d place this album near the top of the best releases Silber has yet unleashed upon the world. Guitars, keyboards, and drums, mix with cello, piano, melodica, marimbas, bass, and vocals to weave a stately seductive sound that ranges from bombastic to ethereal.
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine
This is a lovely collection of ambient, shoegazy, and sometimes psychedelic tracks. Many are instrumental, although strong male and female voices arise out of the ether with solemn lyrics. Guitars, cello, percussion, keyboards, and programming evoke mellow and melancholy images of nature. No actual bird sounds, except you can imagine them on 7 and in 12. Really pretty and right up the alley of many.
~ Pax Humana, KFJC
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.
~ Music Musings @ Miscellany
Carta formed in 2002, but the band has undergone an extensive overhaul. An Index of Birds is the first album by this new version of Carta realigned around Kule Monday. The group blends post-rock, shoegaze and a light Gothic touch. The album boasts rich arrangements, and it doesn’t overdo textures, relying instead on strong though plaintive songwriting. I can’t say I’m won over, but I sure didn’t dislike it, on the contrary. By the way, I want to point out that Silber Records, with these two releases (their 76th and 77th) has gone digipak, and the graphic design for those two releases is downright GORGEOUS.
~ Delire Musical
Het geweldige Resonant label is helaas ter ziele. Daarop is twee jaar geleden nog wel het prachtige debuut Glass Bottom Boat van de Amerikaanse band Carta verschenen. De band bestaat al sinds 2002, maar het heeft even geduurd voor ze hun eersteling bij een label weten te slijten. Onbegrijpelijk want de muziek is van een ongekend niveau. Ze begeven zich op dat album aan de spannende en meer sfeervolle spectrum van de postrock, waarbij de opbouw sterk is maar waar ze dikwijls ook stuurloos de mooiste dingen laten horen. Ze ondersteunen dit naast gitaren met cello, piano, elektronica, trompet en zo nu en dan zang. Nu is de groep terug met hun tweede werk An Index Of Birds. De formatie rond Kyle Monday (gitaar, zang, bas, keyboards) is flink uitgedijd en bestaat tegenwoordig uit ex-Rosa Motta en Charles Atlas lid Sacha Galvagna (piano, bas, keyboards, zang, gitaar, perccussie), Raymond Welter (gitaar, keyboards, piano), Raj Ojha (drums, percussie, programmering), Alexander Kort (cello) uit Subtle, Lorealle Bishop (zang) en Gabriel Coan (keyboards, programmering). Ondanks de grote bezetting maken ze er een behoorlijk rustiek en sfeervol geheel van. Ze zitten met hun geluid nog steeds in postrock-hoek, maar trekken dat meer naar de emocore en gitaarambient toe. Op bedachtzame wijze ontvouwt hun muziek zich waarbij soms de zang maar dikwijls juist de meer instrumentale, filmische desolaatheid op de voorgrond treedt. In dat laatste verwerken ze fraaie samples van stemmen en/of veldopnames. Alles staat in het teken van het scheppen van een broeierige atmosfeer, waardoor het continu een spannende aangelegenheid is. Heel spaarzaam laten ze een eruptie horen, maar dat lijkt vooral als doel te hebben om de opgebouwde spanning even te kunnen ontladen en niet om per se een hard moment neer te zetten. Het klopt van begin tot eind tot in de puntjes. Niet dat ze nu één op één met iets te vergelijken zijn, maar denk aan een subtiel midden van Low, Red House Painters, Tindersticks, Giardini Di Mirò, Piano Magic en Godspeed You Black Emperor. Ze weten alles op het juiste moment te doseren, van het gebruik van strijkers en zang tot aan de inzet
van gitaren en elektronica. Dat levert een uitgebalanceerd en subliem album op dat elke melancholicus innig zal omarmen.
~ Jan Willem Broek, Caleidoscoop
I sette musicisti di San Francisco si tuffano sulla scena internazionale con il secondo album, frutto di un intenso lavoro scaturito da una “registrazione da camera”. Forse proprio per questo le melodie che lo caratterizzano tendono a sciogliere i nervi dell’ascoltatore e a renderlo docile, salvo per rare tracce dai toni movimentati, quale “The Likeness Is Undeniable”. Eppure, nonostante la linea guida delle tredici canzoni sia perlopiù ambient e quasi totalmente priva di liriche, i Carta riescono ad esprimersi con chiarezza grazie alla notevole sapienza con cui maneggiano gli strumenti, in particolare i violoncelli e le chitarre.
La band non delude, ma c’è ancora un residuo di acerbità da elidere.
A tre anni di distanza dallo spigoloso esordio per la Resonant “The Glass Bottom Boat”, i Carta cambiano label e tornano con una formazione riveduta e corretta (la vocalist Lorealle Bishop, la bassista Sacha Galvagna e il batterista Raj Ojha hanno affiancato il leader superstite Kyle Monday) con l’obiettivo di ricreare “il suono di qualcosa che è stato recuperato da una nave affondata”. L’effetto “naufragio” mi sfugge anche dopo ascolti reiterati, ma intorno al disco aleggia un innegabile fascino “moody”, tra shoegaze estatico (“Hourglass”, “The Likeness Is Undeniable”, “Sidereal”), post-rock ambientale erede di Yellow 6 e Piano Magic (“Small Lights”), echi slowcore di vaga assonanza Low (“Santander”) e vertiginose impennate di pathos (“Descension”, “Who Killed The Clerk?”). Con una maggiore spinta promozionale potrebbero fare breccia in molti cuori.
~ Raffaele Zappalà, Rockerilla