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Joanna Newsom returns. Breathe deep and equalize your today-ears to the new world of 'Divers'. Good heavens - five years go by - what can one do? Dive, listener, knowing that diversions aplenty await: a wheeling circuit of sci-fi sea-shanties and cavalier ballads; a family of polysemic song-sets; a paranomasaic Liederkreis of harmonic sympathies and knotted hierarchies; a fanfare of brazen puns and martial lullabies, blazing in sorrow and horseplay and love, in turns symphonic and spare, joined by Mellotrons and Marxophones and Moogs, clavichords and celestas - and of course the harp, thrumming its threnodies of circadian invasions and avian irruptions and strange loops of Shepard-toned resonant-frequencies and something called goddamned Simulacreage. The music of 'Divers' is a wonder of considered arrangements, immaculately sequenced for telescoped brevity. The music speeds with dissociative dread over montaged cityscapes; it hoofs with delight among the collaged quotations and sepia-toned codices of Popular Song; it ambles its carefree citational course through the public domain and down into the dustier corners of municipal parks, to lionize infamous airmen and anonymous Dutch Masters, to mourn pearl divers and Poorwills, and to elegize the ineluctable tragedy of relativity. At the center of the mythos and the maelstrom is the woman. 'Divers' reminds us that Newsom is a melodist, above all - an acolyte of melody and beauty in form, a crackerjack of emotional truth conveyed with undiluted immediacy. Here, at the aortic confluence of countless strings and wires, winking beneath the lacquered layers of instrumental nacre, biding quietly between the ranges of rhapsodic arrangement--including those by Nico Muhly, Ryan Francesconi, Dave Longstreth, and Newsom herself - there lies an intimacy seldom achieved, and simply heard. 'Divers' dives forth with a pure love and respect for the traditions and mysteries of man, such that we can feel the surge of life itself passing over our bones as we hear the songs and sounds, the players and the arrangements; as basic maths are reviewed to uncover heights of joy and sorrow, all traced in triumphal arches and supernumerary rainbows through eternal amber, gleaming in analog entrapment - with that Voice riding high atop - recorded with snow-bright, high-noon-verity by Steve Albini and Noah Georgeson, mixed in phantasmagoric, deep-sea-saturation by Noah and Joanna, and loosed, fuckin' Finally on Drag City Records.
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