Cross-Atlantic pen pals -- Matt Shaw and Nick Grey -- join in an album of dream-like clarity and subtle, reticent epiphanies.
About seven years ago, when I was just starting at music reviews, Matt Shaw's Tex La Homa EP became one of my first no-name record ephiphanies, a series of songs so darkly, delicately lovely that it seemed impossible that no one had -- or would -- take notice. Shaw's partnership with Nick Grey, named 230 Divisadero, is utterly different, more electronic, dotted with samples, shimmering with sustained keyboard notes and pulsing with bright organic beats. And yet it is equally beautiful, equally unexpected. It starts with the ten-minute long "How I Keep Myself Energized" a slow-building, multilayered exercise in musical lucidity that sounds, at first, like the more abstract Yo La Tengo cuts. Utterly pop at some moments, yet laced with found sound and split in two by ear-shaking distortion, it is bold without being in the least inaccessible. "Hands", coming second, is even better, high, chalky piano notes in a duet with ruminating lower tones. Eternity, the song seems to say, is made up of trivial moments, one after another, each perfect and beautiful. "When will you realize that what wastes your time / Is what makes it worth all?" the song asks. The duo can accomplish lovely, fairly conventional folk songs, and yet what's arresting here is the intersection of the beautiful and strange. "Port-A-Faux" is ominous and gorgeous, voices cut to a mutter, and tones allowed to stretch taffy-like over incredible distances. "Now I'm falling... Now I'm falling" Shaw sings, slowly, words spaced, the hiss of space in the background... but how can you tell falling from flying?