Village Of Spaces - That’s Understanding

LP edition of 500.  $21

CD edition of 400. $10

Having listened to this disk 20 or so times over the past week, I have been struck time and again by the gently naif quality of Dan Beckman-Moon’s songwriting. I keep thinking of Neil Young’s earliest solo tunes, particularly “Sugar Mountain,” as a sort of spiritual touchstone, although truthfully the music doesn’t really sound anything like that. Still, the emotional core of the material has a similar sweetness and simplicity, while managing to steer clear of mawkishness with a nimble delicacy that parallel’s Neil’s early work.

I have come to think of Valley of Spaces as a collaborative effort between Dan and his partner, Amy Moon, but this album often feels much more like Dan’s solo effort. Amy definitely shows up in spots, but I miss the weird edge she brings to everything she does. I mean, there’s a reason she was one of the first people Chris Corsano picked when he was putting together the original Ecstatic Yod crew back in the ’90s — her off-kilter perspective adds depth and subtle strangeness to her entire oeuvre. The same is often true of Dan as well (he was in Impractical Cockpit, after all), but That’s Understanding has a purist hippie quality that owes karmic debts to the waves and hills of Santa Cruz, where Villages was based for the Plague Years (the years during which this music was written and recorded.)

Most of Villages’s avant proclivities are put on-hold this time. And whether or not that was the plan, this decisions provides a folky balm for the last few lost years. Amy, Caleb Mulkerin (Big Blood), Don Godwin (Impractical Cockpit), and others — especially violinist Kaethe Hostetter — add to the gentle vibes that abound on this album. It’s a set of music that bears up to many repeated spins. A very charming slice, for sure.

–Byron Coley, 2023


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