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Crommie, Daniel: Chrysanthemum

What struck me the most after finishing Daniel Crommie's resurrected 1993 cassette Chrysanthemum is a line from a poem included with the album: "A serviceable burst of grace." There is a certain grace to the synthesizer-heavy Chrysanthemum, but it's the word "serviceable" that threw me. When trying to compliment a work of art, the last word a person would want to use is "serviceable"; it's one thing to dismiss music as bad—divisive albums are often the most remembered, after all—but to use the language of utility is to lower that music to the level of tools. Fewer, if any, words come close to pure degradation of art.

Yet for all the sonic variation of Chrysanthemum—supplemented by Crommie's jack-of-all-trades musicianship—there were parts of Chrysanthemum where utility came to my mind. "Nightshade" would work as great background music to a stakeout scene from an '80's police procedural. The naturalistic tone of "The Cactus Dreams" would be fitting for an instructional science video. Perhaps the great flaw of Chrysanthemum is that it just hasn't aged well; the cheap Casio sounds of his synth work renders a lot of the otherwise pretty arrangements and instrumentation flat. The quality of these synthesizers—the same quality that made Bon Iver's Beth/Rest such a troll move of a song in 2011—has become so ensconced as cheesy in their cultural presence that it's hard not to shake of their cheesiness, even with Crommie's obvious talent on display throughout.

More than anything, it's Crommie that gives reason for Chrysanthemum's reissue. He's listed as playing synths, drum/percussion programming, flute, sopranino, soprano & tenor recorders, bowed psaltery, electric dulcimer, double pipes, wood flutes, clay flutes, sundry percussion, and ten buck guitar on this LP, a credit list that's likely to lead to watering mouths for fans of auteur-type music. Everything about Chrysanthemum screams cult appeal: the breadth of Crommie's instrumental skill, the album's cassette format, and the fact that it was recorded in a place called "The Living Room." Whereas DIY and independent music has become as commercialized as anything else these days, this record is a relic of a time where getting music out solely through the artist's own volition was immensely difficult. Both the grunge era and the digital revolution (codename: Napster) would later provide artists like Crommie a much easier avenue for the release of their music. Chrysanthemum may be dated, but as a historical document it's fascinating, and as a collection of songs by a unique artist it's quite helpful.

Track Listing:
1. Tidepool of the Sky
2. Nightshade
3. Whirlpool
4. Skyline Sketches
5. Years Away
6. Bete Noire
7. Cowardly Old Moon
8. The Dark Place I Dwell
9. Aulos and Eros
10. The Cactus Dreams Big
11. Unfamiliar Flowers
12. Trouvere Melody
13. Centaury
14. Finale
15. North for the Winter

Added: February 4th 2013
Reviewer: Brice Ezell
Related Link: Artist @ Bandcamp
Hits: 1549
Language: english

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