Norfolk & Western – Dusk In Cold Parlours

Much like the finer things in life, we are often dwarfed by the domineering constructs that has engulfed daily living. It is not so much the skyscrapers and the colossal structures in which we bide most of our time within, but what such assemblage has come to represent: that perhaps we no longer find sanctuary in nature’s silhouette of smaller miracles. True as it may, the ability to watch the futile means of pop culture unfold on big screen televisions while we endlessly consume from the (dis)comfort of our shelters is in some portion, a miracle. And as comical as it is we are so easily able to disconnect from anywhere we choose to do so, it all really is about as important as the inner workings of a celebrity’s house.

So as cultural importance wanes from music’s public eye, fewer listeners find the time to appreciate things that don’t quite move as fast. It has become the very nature of modern civilization, and with the twitch of non-existent attention spans one is likely to miss something great. Modeled with qualities enriching, and stripped of the plastic factory line lifelessness of excess, Adam Selzer started this recording project back in 1998, and it has since blossomed into something wonderful – plump with the inner beauty of an emerging sunshine and long serving grace that could only be overlooked by human error. Like the tranquility of a new born day, Norfolk & Western kindles a richness in being that blossoms in the simplicity of enjoying beautiful weather. From the whispered folksy disposition of “A Marriage Proposal” to the seemingly measureless calm of “Impossible”, Dusk in Cold Parlours is very much like the instrumentation that crafts its framework; pastoral, solemn, evocative, deeply personal and strikingly demure.

Interestingly enough, unlike say Mark Kozelek and his Ghosts of a Great Highway, Selzer tends to avoid a certain grandeur that can familiarize this rustic setting with long and drawn out paths. He instead limits most of Dusk in Cold Parlours to shorter glimpses into some distant utopian plain. Many of the songs are far less stretched in length, and escapes before the air becomes thin. Although it could be said that perhaps he leaves a few with feelings of “works in progress”; but not in such a way that any feel unfinished and/or deficient.

Like the quaint murmur of the unaccompanied “At Dawn or After Dusk” and the similarly subdued “Jealousy, It’s True” – a great deal of the album rests on the soul of Selzer and his guitar. And the closeness in which the songs come across fittingly thrives as the album’s warmest and most genuine trait. Herein lays the album’s sole vulnerability; that perhaps he overestimates the intimacy some listeners are willing to delve into. It is because the album itself, while not overly dramatic, relies on true appreciation of the more subtle concepts and ideas of musical arrangement. With it comes the need for patience, and unfortunately, it seems patience is a virtue practiced very little by the squirmy, fidgety majority. Case in point, the two instrumental tracks (the lush “Kelly Bauman” and the slow building “A Hymnal”) could easily be passed over if one were not to take the time and listen to both. Simply because they are so deep with resonance, and the absence of words means the instruments are to do the talking, and they speak with certain eloquence.

The aforementioned “Impossible” is Selzer at his most telling; a gentle soft spoken reflection coated with a disarming sense of loss and sadness. Akin to the feelings evoked, the music is very much in tone; stirring, unhurried and driven by the echo of throated whispers, soft string-strumming, and long aching contemplation. These moments are meant to be cherished, because they uniquely chart sentiments of a singular person, but are undoubtedly capable of reaching so very many who wish to be present and listen. Dusk in Cold Parlours is very much an example of exceptional expression in song; and for those who do not reap the words of wisdom from renaissance men and high school wise guys determined to take a day off from school – you could very well miss it.

(Hush Records)

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