Clear Horizon is a collaboration between Jessica Bailiff (who has released several solo albums on Kranky in the past) and David Pearce (the man behind noisemeisters Flying Saucer Attack), one that grew out of 2 years of trading tapes across the Atlantic. Having listened to the final project, however, I can’t help but wonder if a few of those tapes didn’t make it to their final destinations, if something was lost by the postal service, because these songs rarely feel as compelling as it seems like they should be.
Given the two names involved, you’d assume that the disc would be full of gorgeous sounds, and you’d be right. Bailiff and Pearce are both well-known for their sound-sculpting abilities, and Clear Horizon is adrift in love drones, subtle feedback, and processed noises. Vocals, usually courtesy of Bailiff, come wafting in lazily and breathily, all detached and world-weary.
“Sunrise Drift” is probably the most compelling moment on the disc, perfectly embodying the band’s name. A single, glittering line of sound seems to stretch on forever, surrounded by Bailiff’s ghostly vocals. As it ends, a giant sphere of rumbling noise begins to arise, flooding the song like a sunrise breaking over the horizon (npi).
But overall, most of the songs on the disc feel more like sketches and skeletons waiting to be fleshed out. For example, “For Days” consists of a stark acoustic guitar with Bailiff’s voice filtering through the strums, ending with a tacked-on drone outro. The gorgeous sounds and textures rarely seem to coalesce, but rather just float about making for a somewhat hollow listening experience.
I’ll confess that Clear Horizon makes for some nice listening on a grey, wintry day (which Lincoln has in abundance right now). But even then, it’s not exactly a very satisfying one. The ethereal sounds resemble smudges on a page, or perhaps a blurry photo. And while it might be possible to glimpse some meaning, it doesn’t stick with you, the songs disappearing from memory shortly after the disc ends.
The duo have already begun working on their second album. Only this time, they spent time together in England to write and record. Hopefully, being together in the same geographical location might lend a bit more focus and cohesion to their music. If they can take their gorgeous drones and noises and weave them together a bit more intimately, then the next Clear Horizon disc could very well be something truly special rather than a glimmer of what could’ve been.