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Spires That in the Sunset Rise and Michael Zerang blend primitive folk and spacey improvisation

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Since forming 16 years ago, Spires That in the Sunset Rise have been blazing their own trippy path, with the group’s two core members, Kathleen Baird and Taralie Peterson, increasingly embracing a more improvisational ethos while retaining homemade folk roots. That shift has never been more pronounced than in their ongoing collaboration with percussionist Michael Zerang, a partnership that recently dropped its second recording, Illinois Glossolalia (Feeding Tube). Spires began at the far edge of experimental folk music, and while they continue to play an ever-expanding arsenal of instruments associated with folk traditions in the U.S. and around the world, they’ve regularly subverted that approach to suit their own idiosyncratic vision. On the new record the group concocted a sound that seems to exist within an impossible nexus that collides a thorny mutation of 50s exotica and Yma Sumac with the maverick spirit of Harry Partch; it feels like ritual music, but it’s too open and loose to function in any single prescribed fashion. Using both a conventional drum kit and various forms of hand percussion, Zerang gives the music a loosely propulsive shape, but there’s no question that Baird and Peterson are the focal points, their primitive, yowling, meditative chants and spooky melodic shapes curdling the assortment of flutes, stringed instruments, and manipulated field recordings.   v

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