The Late Virginia Summers’ “Porcelain”

“Porcelain too easily becomes background music, something you forget about.”

Michael Hall
the late virginia summers

out of 10

The Late Virginia Summers
September 21, 2010
The Harding Street Assembly Lab

Two dudes, some ambient noises, abstract riffing, and a well composed cinematic style make up The Late Virginia Summers’ latest EP offering, Porcelain.

Sounds pretty good, right?

In the opener, “Weathered Stone,” a nameless man who speaks to us over the baying of whales in the background explains the situation to us. Imagine a journey through space aboard the Voyager Spacecraft, hurtling through the universe for 1.2 billion years carrying with it recordings of whale songs, because you never know what language alien life forms might understand. After his explanation, nary a word is uttered on the album.

“Weathered Stone” builds a bit, but never really goes anywhere, making it much like introductions on many albums, so there seems to be plenty of time to turn things around. The next track however does not grab your attention and connect you with the music.

“Pebble Azalea Starfish” starts slow and builds, a common theme on the album, but when it is done, the building again never seems to lead anywhere.

The Late Virginia Summers members, Joe Morgan and Nathan McGlothlin obviously have a fair bit of musical talent. They fashion solid compositions that are cinematic in nature. The album is moody, thick with layers and texture and mostly beautiful.

It is so cinematic however, that it feels incomplete. The album seems to be missing the movie for which it was written. Or maybe there is a movie about a space journey out there, somewhere, that has lost its score. Either way, Porcelain needs to find its missing piece.

Much of the album’s riffing becomes so redundant, that it is as if a DVD has been left on its menu screen too long, and the background music keeps looping, over and over and over. It sounds good at first, but after a bit, it is time to bring it all together into something more cohesive.

The third track, “Lagoon,” uses ambient sounds recorded from what sounds like a city. High pitched brake sounds from buses or trains are prominent and annoying. Being inspired by and interpreting the sounds of everyday of life is much different than simply recording those sounds and looping them.

Porcelain too easily becomes background music, something you forget about. It is nice at times, but never engaging. This is an album to play when you want some white noise or some unobtrusive accompaniment.

It is not bad, in fact much of the musicianship on the album is impressive, especially the dynamic use of the four piece drum set to shift moods.

On the other hand it is not that good either. If The Late Virginia Summers want my advice (which I am positive they do not) it is time to move away from the traditional album format and to move into scoring film. The next time they make an album like this, a movie is needed to accompany the music, thus adding the missing piece.