CD Review: Venice is Sinking — Sand & Lines; Playing The EARL on August 28

Venice is Sinking
Sand & Lines
One Percent Press Records

By Scott Roberts

Underscoring the fact that Sand & Lines, the hypnotically-dreamy third release from Athens quintet Venice is Sinking, was recorded live in the now sadly decimated-by-fire Georgia Theatre, the opening track “Sidelights” begins with a few warm-up drum hits, followed by some incomprehensible conversation and then coughing before the beauty begins. The song’s soothing, unhurried beat provided by drummer Lucas Jensen, Karolyn Troupe’s mournful viola, and vocalist/guitarist Daniel Lawson’s sleepy singing all serve to create and establish a laid-back, yet emotionally stirring mood that permeates the entire CD.

The daunting task of capturing the nuances of such an instrumentally diverse outfit like Venice is Sinking was left to veteran local legend David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, Sugar, Mercyland) and he did an unsurprisingly excellent job. Using just two microphones (Calrec Soundfield stereo mics for those of you who care about such things) and recorded over the course of five days in 2008, Barbe’s engineering sensibility acts as almost a sixth member of the band. The instruments and voices have a uniquely distant sound to them not heard on many CDs that helps construct the moody atmosphere. Occasionally, however, some of the lyrics and individual instrumental parts are difficult to discern because of this recording technique, but more often than not the emotion of such songs as “Lucky Lady,” “Bound By Violets” and the band’s slow yet riveting waltz version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” are only enhanced by the live takes. Other highlights include the cover of obvious influence Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat,” the delightfully drunken sing-along “Bardstown Road,” and the relatively peppy “Pebble Hill.”

The melodic refrain of “all I know is nothing” on “Sidelights” is catchy but inaccurate since Venice is Sinking does know at least one thing — that’s how to make a richly rewarding CD which they have so successfully done with Sand & Lines.

Venice is Sinking play The EARL with Oryx and Crake and Book of Colors on August 28.

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