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Slight Birching

Slight Birching - Cultural Envelope

Cultural Envelope
(independent) - 2014

Michael Panontin
Sean Travis Ramsay goes by the name of Slight Birching and this is his first long-playing record. The Vancouver-based singer-songwriter trades in the same sort of lo-fi folk that made Bill Callahan's work as Smog so compelling, which is to say sparse, off-kilter songs that wallow in that beautiful sadness. Much of Cultural Envelope, the title of which riffs on Northrop Frye's concept of the envelope of culture, was written during the time of his mother's two-year battle with cancer, and thus has a deeply personal, almost melancholic feel to it. "My experiences as this album was being made were life changing," Ramsay explained. "It is a reflection of a time spent dealing with curveballs from life in quick succession." Some of his songs are dismally minimal, almost like roughed-out demos, which I suppose was the effect Ramsay was looking for. But it's the subtler touches, like the shimmering synthesizers that augment a song like 'Beacon Hill' or the jarring intro to 'Autodidact', that take the record beyond your standard stoner folk. Still, for those who like a little more spit and polish to their music, the fairly straight-up country-rock of 'Currency', one of four tracks that were actually recorded in a proper studio, seems the obvious choice for a single here.

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