The Great Depression recorded their first LP in 1995 after being invited to quit their day jobs and spend a summer at the luxuriously isolated Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. They continue to convene in Cannon Falls for long stretches of sonic exploration and revelry.
Over the years, they released three widely acclaimed recordings, ‘Unconscious Pilot’, ‘Preaching to the Fire’ and ‘Prefix EP’ via the infamous Fire Records of London.
Todd Casper spent ten years in Copenhagen writing music for Scandinavian film and television. He also wrote music for Tivoli Gardens (the music continues to play every day in the world famous park) as well as the background music for several Lars Von Trier interviews. In the fall of 2013, Casper and Sigmeth spent 3 months in Hollywood scoring the hip Amazon comedy series, BETAS.
After eight years apart, The Great Depression decided to pursue the muse again. The result was ‘In a Starry State,’ a Science Fiction romance that evokes a telepathic girl from a parallel universe named Psirene and finds the band on a search for lost Gnostic wisdom deep in the woods where the sky is alive and magic is afoot…
“In A Starry State” is an album containing a plethora of distinctive sounds, and it seems as though no two tracks sound alike. While some tracks are somewhat contrasting of the others, in terms of musical style, the band manages to maintain a general ambiance, consistently drawing upon the distant, dark, and mysterious theme as suggested in the album title. Typically I don’t go through an album entirely track by track but it seems necessary in this situation.
“Hey Go Easy (Serpentina)” the album’s real opening track (although it is actually led off with “Discorporate Melody” a trippy, spacey, spoken word verse that, while fitting of the theme, I could definitely do without) leads off strong demonstrating right away the clear musical capabilities of the band’s veteran musicians. The first highlight of the album however, occurs with track 3 “New Salem” a well-developed track that almost brings to mind bands such as M83, featuring an upbeat electronic/synth rhythm backed with reverberating shrill vocals creating the most “modern” feeling song throughout the whole album. “Visiting On Davenports” takes a drastic turn talking about bizarre things like “Jello Salad,” “Shredded Carrots,” and what sounds like a 1950’s recording in the background spelling out words and repeating phrases. While the full harmonies stand as the track’s only positive note, this seems to be a statement that I just didn’t quite “get.” Around the next bend we have “Something Like Shame” which has elements of greatness. The chorus, incorporating a deep piano line, off-beat echoing vocals, and a pleasant acoustic guitar melody is something legitimately memorable.
Next, the title track “In A Starry State” lives up to it’s billing as the album title evoking the theme of the project as a whole quite well. Once again sounding broad and dreamy the title track emphasizes its lyrics which discuss finding beauty in current state of life. Skipping the 2nd trippy, spacey, spoken word verse “Discorporate Reprise,” we come to my personal favorite track of the album “Psirene.” The band is able to generate truly remarkable composition here. Instantly prompting me to think of the late Elliot Smith with its whispering yet piercing vocals and captivating groove, Psirene is a dark and mysterious masterpiece.
“Thirteen Bells” is as close as The Great Depression can come to a “pop-song.” While I’m quite sure we won’t be hearing it on KDWB anytime soon, this remains a respectable showing from a group known for being rooted in spacey, dark, and exploring themes. Versions yet to be seen from this group appear on “A Dreamy Brochure For Elsewhere” with a Shaun Mullen’s-eque “talking over music” (in his famous song lullaby) although staying true to form discussing everything space using words like “micro chasm,” “lunar,” and “starry realms,” as well as on “Phillip K Disco” which as suggested, contains many disco elements creating a sort of inter-galactic alien dance party with monotone repeating chants. The band returns to earth closing with “Sophia And The Fool” a calm, slow-paced ballad once again presenting dreamy, whimsical and pleasant vocals.
Although holding tight to their experimental outer space themes, The Great Depression are able to exhibit moments of greatness on a vastly multi-sonic wavering album. Drawing comparisons to M83, Elliot Smith, and Shaun Mullins (3 artists I never thought would be mentioned in the same article) the band definitely displays their diversity and abilities as musicians, however the array of styles in the long run takes away slightly from the project as a whole. Having spent time away from music, this seems like a great foray back into creating music, and I look forward to seeing if they are able to capture what they did so well on a number of these tracks and continue to create music hopefully in a slightly more concise, clear-cut, and streamlined way.
Listen to the full album here: