Trembling Blue Stars: Exploring the Shadows EP

The material on this four-song EP is so strong, one is left feeling confounded as to why Trembling Blue Stars (the name taken from Pauline Réage's The Story of O, specifically the line “her eyes were like stars, trembling blue stars”) isn't more popular. Though the group's been issuing material since 1996, Exploring the Shadows sounds very fresh indeed. Exploring the Shadows' material was recorded during the album sessions for the group's recent sixth album, The Last Holy Writer, but sounds like anything but leftovers.

Titled after a phrase from Andy Warhol's book From A To B and a portrait of an Edie Sedgwick-like character (“She'll be anything you want her to be / Rich girl, poor girl, beggar girl, thief), opener “Beautiful Blank” is an infectious slice of pop song magic that drapes Beth Arzy's soft voice in glockenspiels and swooning harmonies. The breezy guitar pop of “As Easy As Being Alone” finds Bob Wratten leading a gorgeous melodic segue into the chorus, after which tinkling percussion and Wratten's hushed voice deepen the atmosphere of the intimate folk ballad “Outside Looking Elsewhere.” The gloomy ambiance of “And Then Silence” comes as a surprise after the spirited uplift of the other songs and the abrupt end (“silence…nothing”) is jarring, too. Though lyrically the song makes for a natural closer, it seems a shame to end the disc on such a downtrodden note. A minor caveat, however, all things considered.

February 2008