'The End of This Short Road' started life as a mixtape of odds and sods that I'd been carrying around with me for a few years, 4 trk recordings from early 2000, shortly after my return from a year in India. Over time I came to realise that what had initially seemed a disparate selection of pieces actually worked well as an album proper. I started asking labels about releasing it and Irish label Deserted Village came to rescue. Heres a review that I found online recently that I think sells it better than I could:
The End of This Short Road [Deserted Village - 2006]
Antony Milton is a musician from New Zealand known for creating sometimes noisy experimental music, and for his excellent PseudoArcana label. The End of This Short Road was released a couple of years ago, and it deserves a fresh look. Most interesting is the fact that most of the album was recorded in 2000, and was kept in storage for several years. Milton didn't believe the music represented enough of a challenge to the listener, as he had become enamoured with more avant garde, free music. Regardless of Milton's thoughts on the matter, it seems he simply let the dust gather on a more than worthy collection of tunes and experiments. It is a bit derivative of the late eighties/early nineties Xpressway label scene. But with plenty of distance between that era and now, it merely makes for a refreshing reminder of how great some of that music was.
Milton's hissy, bedroom productions will no doubt garner comparisons to early Alastair Galbraith, particularly because of Milton's evocative, edgy use of the violin. Yet there's more than enough of Milton's own vision to steer the End... away from mere mimicry. It starts off with Day of the World, a wonderful, hushed, sepia toned acoustic tune. Milton's vocals are delivered with a world-weariness which so many purveyors of "bedroom" recordings tried to pull off in the nineties. But Milton's tone is believable, and the song is catchy in a clever, subtle way. Listen closely, and you realise that there are overdubbed harmony vocals, and carefully arranged music. This is not a tossed off affair, as you may initially mistake it for, because of the lo-fi, DIY nature of the recording.
The quality level continues throughout the disc. The music, though always relatively sparse, branches out in several directions. There are more "songs", but contrary to Milton's suggestion that the album wasn't experimental enough, there are also some interesting sketch-like pieces artfully scattered between the melodic moments. These pieces run the gamut from lo-fi loop cut-ups to scratchy guitar weirdness. Dreams to the Ridge and Distilled are excellent guitar tunes which evoke Ennio Morricone's music for Westerns. Other pieces, like the electric guitar and one note violin drone Skylight-Rusted 7 p.m., succeeds because of it's ingenuous approach. Milton uses a very simple means to create a muti-layered effect. He gradually shifts the rhythm of the strummed guitar playing a single chord against the violin. He does so with more than a little instensity, making for an altogether hypnotic experience.
Track for the Larkings is a beautiful, double tracked, melodic guitar piece. The foreground track provides a melancholy minor key setting, under which single notes are quietly strummed, generating quiet unease. The next track is Could Be the Killers Talk, which was supposedly recorded over a shop reputed to be an organized crime outpost. It's an eerie drone piece with violin and guitar bits and pieces quietly splintered throughout. As with the rest of the album's tracks, it's brief, at under four minutes, yet it's easy to imagine listening to for an extended time. By the time the track is over, you're completely sucked into this interesting soundworld, and then it simply fades out.
The last track, ...(chairs.) is even more mysterious. The instrumentation sounds barely played, and Milton's vocals are delivered in such a narcotic tone than they're almost alien. It's as if a great song was assembled, and everything but the bare essentials were removed. What you're left with is a ghostly, oddly compelling piece of music. Here's to hoping that Mr. Milton cleans out his closet again someday soon. Perhaps there's another great album besides this one residing in an aging shoebox.
Erwin Michelfelder for musiquemachine.com