Spain, "Night Crawling" (self-released)
When the American band Spain broke into national consciousness in 1995 with The Blue Moods of Spain, they bestowed a burnished, jazz-informed glow to the slowcore subgenre. Leader Josh Haden drew upon his legendary bassist father Charlie's rich tone and deft compositional skills to create a record that seemed hermetically sealed in sublime interiority, impervious to gauche trends. It was an instant timeless classic. I put album standout "Dreaming of Love" on a lot of mixtapes back then, as the languorous, ice-blue ballad possesses extraordinary seductive powers. Another song from that record, "Spiritual," was covered by Johnny Cash, as well as by Haden's dad and Pat Metheny.
I haven't closely followed Spain's progress after that stunning debut, but a quick run through of their seventh full-length, 2018's Mandala Brush, finds Haden still writing profound songs that brood dapperly, but with heartfelt vocals more to the fore than those on Blue Moods. I prefer the more camouflaged approach Haden deployed there, but his songwriting and arranging chops remain supple while revealing more expansiveness. (Haden wears his religious faith on his sleeve, but somehow this doesn't come across as irksome.) The new track, "Night Crawling," might be Spain's most epic work yet.
Recorded live at L.A.'s the Love Song on July 25, "Night Crawling" most resembles "† 하나님은 사랑 이시다 GOD Is Love" in Spain's catalog. It's a cover of a piece by composer Toshiro Mayuzumi from Shōhei Imamura's 1968 film Kamigami no Fukaki Yokubō) [Profound Desires of the Gods]. The track begins methodically and minimalistically with sister Petra Haden's violin and Kenny Lyon's electric guitar and Shon Sullivan's acoustic out front, weaving a tapestry of Eastern-inflected serenity. Halfway in, Josh and Petra Haden sing in poised unison about unbridled romantic passion. The music possesses a gently serpentine quality that vaguely recalls the Beatles' "Within You Without You" and the Doors' "The End"—sans the ominous undertones. This is a fantastic late-era peak for Spain.
Spain will play their first Pacific Northwest show since 2001 at the Royal Room on Sunday, September 29.