Cabinet of Natural Curiosities
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Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

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"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities "Searchlight Needles" CD Review on Love Shack, Baby"



Cabinet of Natural Curiosities: Searchlight Needles


The album is not dead.

Searchlight Needles is more than proof of that; it is perhaps a shrine to the essence of the album by a gifted and exquisitely articulate singer-songwriter/poet, Jasmine Dreame Wagner. Based in Missoula, MT and Brooklyn, NY, she makes music that is “psychedelic-tinged Americana with elements of electronica and ambient sound.” I honestly could not describe it better than her agent has there. And don’t find that bewildering or off-putting, it’s beautiful and haunting and I haven’t stopped listening to it for five days now. In fact I’m so attached to this CD that I really had to kick myself to write this review. Somehow it felt like I was letting it go, out into the world and out of my grasp… and that had a certain sadness about it because it’s such a tender, intimate collection of songs,… I wanted it to remain mine, all mine.

But, I’m sure her manager and she will be glad to hear that I have decided to let it go. Afterall, music is for listening and sharing, although I can’t imagine creating such multifaceted pieces as these and letting them fall into the ears of just anybody! Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, Ms. Wagner’s musical project has put out the album, Searchlight Needles with ten tracks, ten interrelated parts that flow nicely together but not necessarily into one another. Ms. Wagner’s soft soprano voice is breathy and yet not shallow; it sits beside the instrumentation, not in front of it, and that makes the ambient sound qualities of her art all that more appreciated. There is a lot of folk to the songs in this work, but it’s not just a folk album by any stretch of the imagination. And that’s why I love it so much. Just when I thought it was going to be too twee, too precious, the windchimes start playing up, or the background soundtrack of voices talking, mumbling, muttering throughout, turn the whole piece around.

Yes, it has the usual sharp harmonies that I always write about for songs I love. It has that bittersweet sadness and aching loneliness of isolation that folk music captures so well. And this is an album of slow, introspective prose. Gentle guitars, zither, recorders, xylophone and keyboards accompany the stories she tells. Opening with “Little Ice Age,” you’re immediately thrown off… it’s not exactly decipherable, but it’s so pleasant, then the tambourine starts and we really, really want to know what those words are. She’s cast her spell, I know it’s a worn out metaphor, but this song just feels like a spell. You can’t turn this album off now. The next two tracks feature traditional guitar work and interesting harmonies, but by the time you get to the end of “Cities” you realize she’s been wooing you all along, using scenes of nature and stories of little ones finding their way, to draw you close to her. “Moon” is so quiet and eerie, you turn it up, lean into it, and when it ends on that achingly beautiful echoing voice, it catches you off balance.

But the real moment of commitment comes with “Glass.” You really should hear this. It’s quite unlike the others, and I am smitten with it’s strangeness. It’s perfectly situated in the middle of this well crafted album, surrounded by guitars and sweet vocals, couched between a lover’s breasts, as it were. It’s more an experience than a song, I think. And it show’s the vastness of creative talent of Cabinet of Natural Curiosities as a musical project. What follows are more tenderly sung ballads, more beautiful sounds of a flowing stream, a distant rattle, a bird roosting… so delicately crafted to be music and not sound effects. Finally, a lullaby, I’m not sure why it seems that every album I’m hearing these days has lullabies on them, but I’m not complaining! This one is wonderfully obvious, “fall asleep…. fall asleep…. cause you are a dream to me” it croons to us sweetly. And then this whole thing is over and you’ve been taken on this trip inside someone’s dream from the beginning of the album to the end, and you start it all over at track one again to see how it will go this time.

Searchlight Needles came to me with a book of poetry entitled, Charcoal, with three parts: Charcoal, Black Water, and Glass. The poems are smart, they deal with the themes that poems usually deal with; death, industrialization, love, the poverty of the human spirit in the face of the future and of the past and of humanity in all its mass insanity. I’m not a poet, I read poetry from time to time, and enough to know that this book is “good poetry,” and enough to know that these words are in some way the words behind these songs, but in another form. All the ways we create and express revolve around the same center of gravity, our own preoccupations and fixations and inner demons, do they not? And so when you read my writings here on poetry and on music, and on politics and sex, and on my own past and what it’s like to live in my own here and now, you know that it’s all a bit of a piece. For that reason, if not for the reason that the poetry is “good” and beautiful and moving, buy her book with her CD. I promise you will enjoy both, xoxo

http://love.apt6d.com/2009/04/08/cabinet-of-natural-curiosities-searchlight-needles - Love Shack, Baby Blog (http://love.apt6d.com)


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities Review on Milk Milk Lemonade"


...As a parting listen, we have one of the sweetest songs in recent memory from Missoula, Montana (and/or Brooklyn New York) musician Jasmine Dreame Wagner. Her music project is Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities and the song featured today belongs to the latest full-length album, titled Searchlight Needles, which was recently released through Missoula label For Arbors For Satellites. The next live performance will take place May 12 at local venue The Laboratory as Jasmine kicks off a string of summer dates that will bring her through the Great Lakes (midwest to us) region and beyond. For a list of tour stops along the way and to get an earful of what has us completely smitten, stop in for a visit to the Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities MySpace page. Yeah, it really is that good.

http://milkmilk-lemonade.blogspot.com/2009/05/mml-vacation-mix-bliss-city-east.html - Milk Milk Lemonade Blog (http://milkmilk-lemonade.blogspot.com)


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities in the Onion A.V. Club, Madison, WI"


Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is a result of the indie-music world's ongoing experiment with folk: It cuts the music apart, sending its pieces back to imagined woods, shires, and netherworlds, and patiently lets them drift back in new configurations... Cabinet leader Jasmine Dreame Wagner has a feel for her influences' primal sweetness and creepiness. Between her vocal melodies and some spare guitar-plucking are cracks that fill up with the sounds of glassy chimes, tweeting birds, children's voices, and other idyllic forms of ambient noise.

—The Onion A.V. Club, Madison, WI - The Onion, Madison, WI


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities in the L.A. Record"



Pehrspace was no longer an art gallery, but an escapist world of crimson shade... [and] through the pile of mumbled words and rants about fragility and love came Jasmine Wagner, who calls herself 'Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.' Whether she knew it or not, she gained the crowd’s attention. Jasmine didn’t just sit strumming chords telling you forgettable stories; she physically put you inside of her music. Blending field recordings of the outside world into her performance, she was able to add to her songwriting, instead of distracting away from it.

—L.A. Record

http://larecord.com/revs/2007/08/01/cabinet-of-natural-curiosities-pehrspace
- L.A. Record, Los Angeles, CA


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities "Searchlight Needles" CD Review on Terrascope"


It was November 2006 when I first heard “Vineland” and fell in love with the intoxicating music of Jasmine Dreame Wagner, the album filled with dream-laden folk and whispering melodies. Now, two years later, I am hypnotised again, the beautiful sounds of this album even eclipsing what has gone before, a mature and confident records that manages to awaken my very soul.

Opening with a chiming guitar, “little Ice Age” is quickly enveloped in a sonic mist that falls from the mountainside, chilly whispered vocals creating tension that is not released by the persistent percussion and insistent echoed flutes. Following on, “Sun” follows a similar path, although this time the guitar and melody remain at the front, dancing above the mist, the gorgeous chorus refrain shining like a jewel within the song.

Sounding like Banhart covering Pink Floyd (almost), “For Sparrow” is possibly the finest track on the album, the soft folk beginnings of the song soothing the listener before t strange things happen, the tune drifting into a slice of electronic psych-drone, destroying time and any memory of what has gone before. All of a sudden, guitar and vocals return, the haunting “Cities”, beautifully simple and simply beautiful.

More psych than folk, “moon” is a whispering lament seemingly as ancient as the world itself, a wisp of smoke that curls across the room and vanishes. Building from a rattle of bells, “Glass” utilises every second of its eleven minutes, rising from experimental roots to become an electric monster, featuring raw drumming and banshee guitar, demonstrating a rare sense of abandon within its fractured groove, before finally decaying into the forest floor. Offering sweet rest “Grass” relaxes the senses, calming the very earth with poetic charm. After the drone of “Fabulist Decay”, a stuttering cloud of noise, “Black Water” emerges slowly, blinking in the pale sun, a minimalist guitar line frosted with a gorgeous vocal performance, slow and delicious. Finally “Owllullaby” end as it began, a chiming guitar and wonderful lyrics bringing a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.

Also available is “Charcoal”, a book of poetry that is the perfect companion to the album, as well as a fine collection in its own right. Featuring long poems as well as a few shorter pieces, the poems demand attention and re-reading before meaning is found, although the first read reveals images and single lines that strike an immediate chord.

-Simon Lewis, Terrascope

http://www.terrascope.co.uk/Reviews/Reviews_December08.htm - Terrascope (http://www.terrascope.co.uk)


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities in the Pacific Northwest Inlander"


The brainchild of singer-songwriter Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is the modern-day equivalent of a music box. With a sense of delicacy and intimacy that can only be accomplished by the fragile cogs and gears housed within, Wagner's voice is quiet, understated and ephemeral. This is the kind of music you'd expect from a clockwork fever dream, softly punctuated by the rhythmic ticking of tambourine and acoustic guitar. Imagine traditional folky singer-songwriter fare performed by graceful automata.

—Jeff Echert, The Pacific Northwest Inlander - The Pacific Northwest Inlander


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities on Tome To The Weather Machine"

Searchlight Needles (06.09, For Arbors/For Satellites)


Byline: New Weird America Experimental folk from the heart of Old Weird America


For: Songs:Ohia, Tiny Vipers, Early Cat Power



"It was very still. The tree was tall and straggling. It had thrown its briers over the Hawthorne-bush, and its long streamers trailed thick, right down to the grass, splashing the darkness everywhere with great split stars, pure white...The dusk came like smoke around, and still did not put out the roses." D.H Lawrence, Sons and Lovers.


I know you are probably sick of reading what else I was doing when I hear an album for the first time. But it was eerily uncanny how fitting this passage by D. H Lawrence was when I sat down for my first listen of Searchlight Needles. Searchlight Needles by Brooklynite by the way of Missoula, MT chanteuse Jasmine Dreame Wagner a.k.a Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. Searchlight Needles is a quietly epic ode to the great expanse of nature. It says a lot about an album that can physically move you to another location, with CONC, such auditory hallucinations take me to the woods, the ferns, and a windswept hillside in the middle of the night. This seems like an apt follow up to Sunn0))) right? There is more in common than you think. Rather than being a straight up love poem to Mother Nature, Searchlight Needles strays away from its idyllic home in the woods and gets lost like a stray lamb in the unforgiving hills, a lost little lamb amidst the frightening expanse of the unprotected world. Jasmine Dreame Wagner wraps her little voice, which at times recalls Julie Doiron and others Liz Phair's, and her delicately plucked guitar melodies in an aural sheen of found noises, children's voices, and organic sounding electronic arrangements that brood just beneath the surface threatening to overtake the track like a circling wolf. Eventually, around the middle of the disc, we are overtaken, the experimental tendencies beneath surface take center stage with circuit bending electronic experimentation, meandering riffs and sparse drumming and spoken word poetry. Wagner's voice is spot on for experimental folk albums like these, at times hypnotizingly rich while gently riding the swells of each plucked chord and out there electronic palate, and other times confidently fully revealed and stark. So, if your fans of any of the musicians I have mentioned in this review or anyone somewhat associated with New Weird America or any of the artists in or associated with Phil Elvrum, I would confidently recommend this album. Plus, this comes out of Missoula, MT (by the way of Brooklyn)! A place that has a special place in my heart. And, Wagner is an accomplished poet, along with the press release and cd, For Arbors/For Satellites sent me a copy of her published poetry. Kudos to both!

—Ryan Hall, Tome To The Weather Machine

http://tometotheweathermachine.blogspot.com/2009/08/cabinet-of-natural-curosities.html - Tome To The Weather Machine


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities "Searchlight Needles" CD Review in The Missoula Independent"


Jasmine Dreame Wagner named her band after Dutch pharmacist Albert Seba's collection of exotic animal horns, yet-uncategorized plants and other oddities of the natural world. The Missoula/Brooklyn band's new album, Searchlight Needles, captures that weird beauty through haunting electronica, resounding minor chords and Wagner's shadowy vocals. It doesn't just evoke natural oddities, either. It captures an Alice-in-Wonderland wilderness, too—that sort of rustic goth-like world featuring ghostly relics from an attic full of voodoo dolls and strange tinctures. The album begins with 'Little Ice Age,' a processional march of minor chord guitar picking, tambourine and eerie flutes that sound like distorted wind chimes. In a hushed voice, Wagner sings, 'Haley holds the hallowed hand that hail you, Haley holds the hallowed hands that bind...' setting the album's riddle-like tone. It's an album of spooky and beautifully lulling tracks, brimming with quirky details. And though it doesn't resemble Appalachian folk, it indulges in the same kind of loneliness, full of curious textures worth exploring again and again.

—Erika Fredrickson, The Missoula Independent - The Missoula Independent


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities Review in Wears The Trousers"


"Jasmine Dreame Wagner is a pretty awesome name, combining natural, illusory and classical associations, so it’s perhaps a given that a person who inherits such a unique handle would go on to create the totally immersive art of the kind that Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities indulges in. Released on June 9th through For Arbors Records, Searchlight Needles is Jasmine’s first official full-length album (her fifth release overall) under this Albertus Seba referencing epithet, and is rather more song-based than some of her previous releases. The field recordings are very much still a part of the equation, as ‘Grass’ demonstrates with wind chimes, the distant rumble of a train, and a constant backdrop of bird calls and chirrups.

The lyrics reveal a bittersweet letter to a man (perhaps a lover) who has lost his father, and is full of beautifully economical poetry that evokes a time of change and intense personal reflection. “You’ll lie down on the butter-coloured grass / watch the crows sweeping down from the lights,” sings Jasmine in hushed, dreamy tones as the scattershot squawks draw you into the scenario. The most immediate comparison in this instance is Jane Herships (aka Spider), whose stunning mini album The Way To Bitter Lake is very much in the same musical vein, and even vocally there is some similarity. Julie Doiron lovers will no doubt cherish it too."

-Alan Pedder, Wears The Trousers

http://wearsthetrousers.com/2009/07/17/free-music-friday-cabinet-of-natural-curiosities - Wears The Trousers Magazine


"Cabinet of Natural Curiosities "Searchlight Needles" Review on Olive Music"



Describing Cabinet of Natural Curiosities' new album Searchlight Needles is just as difficult as fighting a huge grizzly bear. NO--make that two grizzly bears! That's why it's taken me five days to write this. It's a confusing listen, very confusing. There's just so much going on that I really didn't expect to hear. Like Hella's (or Zach Hill's) Church Gone Wild; there are so many things you can hear all coming towards you, like a stampede... OF GRIZZLY BEARS! But in this case, Searchlight Needles does have a lot going on, don't get me wrong, but everything is very subtle. It'll take you some listens to catch on to what you're hearing.

You may not think that on your first listen of Searchlight Needles though. You'll just think, oh well it's just a girl with an acoustic guitar. I can go to the park and hear that for free everyday because we all know hippies thrive in local parks. But Jasmine Dream Wagner's (Cabinet of Natural Curiosities) music is written completely different. It sounds like she tries to stay away from any joy or sunshine in her music and focus on just the darkness of it, very much like Grouper. But even then, the music doesn't end up sounding like Grouper. It's not as ethereal and the singing isn't made to blend in with its ambient soundscapes. The vocals just sort of sing over it, as if she's telling a story.

Now keep in mind, this is a folk album. Even though it is, its time isn't really devoted to the folk side as it is the ambient/drone side. When you hear the term "drone" you may think of just unsettling noise that makes you wonder why you're listening to it. Cabinet of Natural Curiosities does make it unsettling, but it's very mild. It's hard to describe. It's unsettling but it's softly orchestrated. A good example would be the 11-minute-epic "Glass": everything is played very slowly and builds. It doesn't get any faster but the ambience (the hushed keyboard, the wah-wah guitar and feedback) grows to the point where it completely takes the helm of the song, overcoming the drums and vocals.

Soon after that, the album innocently goes back to its folk side, removing any memory of that noise that you just heard. Now, the most popular track from this album (according to last.fm) is the finale "Owllullaby" which is the closest to today's folk as Searchlight Needles will ever get. It does have a sense of happiness to it. Acoustic guitar, xylophone; I can't help but say it sounds like a car commercial soundtrack. Not to be mean, but try muting your TV the next time a Honda Civic pops up and play "Owllullaby" and you'll catch my drift. This is probably one of the most focused albums of the year, and I just might mention this in December. It's totally worth listening to and I bet it'll hypnotize you and make you sell every single Iron & Wine LP that you own.


http://olive-music.blogspot.com/2009/08/review-cabinet-of-natural-curiosities.html - Olive Music


Discography

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "Buttermilk Channel" CD/LP (For Arbors / For Satellites, forthcoming)

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "Searchlight Needles" CD (For Arbors, 2009)

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "Vineland" CD-R (For Satellites, 2007)

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "Glass V Grass" CD-R EP (For Satellites, 2007)

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "Necks of Swans and Ducks" SINGLE (Pendu Magazine & Gallery, 2007)

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "Black Bough" CD-R EP (For Satellites, 2006)

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "White Wallpaper" CD-R EP (For Satellites, 2005)

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - "Blue Blue, Gold Gold" CASSETTE (For Satellites, 2005)

Photos

Bio

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is a folk group that sprouted roots in the froggy ponds of New England. After roaming the alleys of Brooklyn and the mountains of Montana, the group's principal members, Jasmine Dreame Wagner and Alex Wilson, retreated to Wagner's childhood home in the woods to record chilling lo-fi lullabies and dream songs. Cabinet of Natural Curiosities will be touring to support a new album, "Searchlight Needles," and 7" record self-released on the bandmates' own label, For Arbors / For Satellites. Jasmine and Alex currently live in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Ridgewood, Queens, where they continue to write their wistful, quiet mix of psych-tinged americana and ambient electronics.

More information can be found on Cabinet's website, MySpace, and last.fm pages:

http://www.cabinetofnaturalcuriosities.com
http://www.myspace.com/jasminedreamewagner
http://www.last.fm/music/Cabinet+of+Natural+Curiosities