It's easy to get overwhelmed by the world of Jewelled Antler. It seems like there's always something new to keep track of, and something fresh to discover. Luckily, it's really not that hard. Everything, in my experience, is worth hearing. Obviously some is better than others, but overall, you can't go wrong. One of the projects that has consistently blown my mind more than most is The Franciscan Hobbies. The Hobbies are basically Thuja minus Steven R. Smith. That means the main players are Loren Chasse, Rob Reger, and of course, Glenn Donaldson.
"Walls are Stuck" is the fourth album from this trio, and perhaps their best. Joined by Greg Bianchini of The Muons, Kerry McGlaughlin of The Buried Civilizations, Bryan De Roo from Leaf Yard, Jason Honea of The Child Readers, and more, this album feels like an all-star Jewelled Antler feature. The best of all their worlds show up.
As with most Jewelled Antler projects, the highlight of "Walls are Stuck" comes in the form of their brilliant use of fielding recordings. On "Satan Crystals," the chirping of crickets is the perfect, soft drone for delicate bells and guitar. Reger or Chasse plucks a mandolin, or perhaps a 3-string guitar. It's got the feel of wandering the streets of a silent city late at night. Nobody is around to bother you, and all you see are some loose pieces of newspaper floating by, caught in the wind. There's a battle between starkness and warmth on this track that is subtle, but beautiful. I find myself drawn back to this track often.
The nine-minute "Asmodeus" brings to mind moments of Thuja with it's extended explorations of organic drones. Screeching and wailing plays alongside delicate picked acoustic and electric guitars. If "Satan Crystals" is the city at night, then "Asmodeus" is the forest after sundown. All the woodland creatures have come out to play and explore the nether regions of their habitat. Minimal percussion adds a heartbeat to this track, while keeping the overall mood in check. On the surface, this feels minimalist, but underneath you can feel a great density. This is fantastic.
"Death Music" is a requiem for fallen trees, slowly moving along, sending their souls to the heavens. Each crackle and thud is another mighty oak, falling to its death. "Goat With the Dolphin Face" is an abberation, like the title suggests. This is a morning spent with your father when you were a child. Only, it was in your dreams. It was a day you always wanted, but never could achieve. There's an understated longing in this track that is haunting and heartbreaking. Donaldson's falsetto floats above the guitars, adding to the emotion. This is beautiful.
Once again, Glenn Donaldson and his cohorts do not disappoint. "Walls are Stuck" is another chapter in this ever unfolding tale that is Jewelled Antler. Add in the great collage artwork done by Donaldson and Chasse, and you have a real gem. This organic beauty is covered in hoary moss and aged in the finest oak barrels. Like every great scotch or sherry, this is an acquired taste. But be forewarned, you will be addicted. And once you are, your world won't be quite the same. As it is with most great things, Jewelled Antler is for life. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)