Published Mar 20, 2019In the Atacama Desert in Chile grows a flowering plant known as the llareta. Verdant and cresting, it is a plant that produces a beautiful unease — one rooted in the knowledge that a being as alien and singular as this one is growing, now, in the world we call ours.
New Rain Duets, the collaborative LP between Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan is, in many ways, quite like the llerta that its album art invokes: a wholly organic being streaked with shades of the magical.
At first glance, Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan might appear strange bedfellows. After all, the DIY voltage of Superchunk — the band McCaughan has fronted since 1989 — exists in quite another sonic universe from the hushed harp hymns that Lattimore has meticulously woven over her four solo albums since 2013.
How surprising (and wonderful) then, that only a few minutes into opening track "I," complete harmony is found. Most duets tend to operate around an instated duality — of two artists' tonal registers conversing, though remaining essentially distinct and distinguishable. New Rain Duets, however, finds its unity not through such addition, but through an unalloyed integration of its parts.
Yes, we are surely aware that the ascendant harp is all of Lattimore's making, and that the quiet churning of synths is McCaughan's domain. Yet there is a porous boundary between sounds here: noises lean onto and give into one another; melodies pass through each other and back again.
What emerges through this permeable landscape is an ecosystem all its own. On "III," we hear something like the dull hit of a woodpecker's work, while elsewhere, wind seems to brush up against the thrum of harp. Yet in New Rain Duets' transcendent hush, in its irregular buzz, Lattimore and McCaughan grasp, too, toward the otherworldly — sending us a field recording back from a world unknown. (Three Lobed)