Songs: OHIA

Acts Playing South by Southwest

Songs:OHIA

Ghost Tropic (Secretly Canadian)

Though Ghost Tropic, the new album from Chicago's Songs:OHIA, most certainly does not lack its disarming, tender moments, the likes of which have made Jason Molina a cult figure of sorts in the indie world, their impact is deadened by the currents on which they arrive. What usually makes Molina's songs so memorable is the containment of potential energy -- that unmistakable sense of a storm brewing close by, threatening to explode even if rarely ever doing so. It's that suspense and occasional release, the strength of which is manifest in Molina's voice, menacingly sensitive, at once vulnerable and strong. On Ghost Tropic, he's introduced the storm. The music suggests natural forces waiting to unleash this fury (or not), here a more palpable presence than ever. It clatters into view on the opener "Lightning Risked It All," and never truly exits. Shame that a voice that carries such weight has retreated so far into waverings and whinings that any trace of impending onslaught is completely obliterated, now just a mouse squeaking at the rain. The mood of the music is well set, the Red Red Meat-inspired percussive noise of the first two songs, the effects laid on later tunes "The Ocean's Nerves" and "Not Just a Ghost's Heart," but mood is where it ends. And the fact that the title track and its reprise both largely comprise annoying bird noises doesn't help either. The ending isn't so much an ending as it is a gradual tailing off, a whisper and drone receding into the distance, unremarkably. That's all. (Friday, March 16, Copper Tank Brew Pub, 1am)

**

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