At Home With My Candles, the third full-length album by eclectically esoteric and long-time local project Half Shadow, is a lush collection of poetic musical musings that invites the listener on a humbling spiritual journey (away) from the safety of their own home.
Following an exhausting tour culminating at the end of 2019, artist Jesse Carsten returned to a “country-wide lockdown, and a requirement to view the home-space in an entirely new way.” After some much needed—and somewhat forced—introspection, what started as a short stint of recording for the new album turned into months of compiling notes and sounds to include in the project. Utilizing familiar folk tones, surreal imagery, and newly incorporated “pop” features, Carsten weaves his words of wonder, and those following along, through the seemingly mundane spaces of the external world, to an enigmatic inner-ether, and back again.
The album quickly envelops the listener, moving swiftly into memorable singles like “Song for the Garden,” “I Practice Dying (in the Spare Room)” and “Moonless (Unmoored).” The tracks are accompanied by impressively conceived DIY music videos made in collaboration with Carsten’s partner, Allison Riegel. These frolicing, psychedelic adventures—reminiscent of early videos by The Cure—are pieces of art themselves, ripe with creative editing and scenery that work to further convey the project’s intended expression.
“Flame (Flower in the Air),” alternatively, begins as a spoken word poem recited atop a silky melody. The track then opens to a much fuller, more integrated sound, combining additional instrumentation as well as supporting vocals. It plays like a love song to a partner, to one’s family, or to life in general—to a gift worth protecting like a flame in the wind.
“Home becomes a portal to the imaginal,” suggests Carsten. “How do we truly relate to these spaces that we inhabit, habitually, unconsciously, that holds us in our most fragile moments and challenge us in their monotony? How do we love in these spaces, find connection, grieve, and grow?” Exploring bright and shadowy dreamscapes with captured sounds from nature and mounting multi-instrumental crescendos, these quarantine-steeped recordings facilitate a deep exploration of these poignant inquiries.
At Home With My Candles is released collaboratively by labels Bud Tapes and Dove Cove Records. The project was recorded at the House of Plenty, Sou’wester Lodge, and the Riegel Homestead in Granite Bay, California, save for pieces recorded and submitted by friends along the West Coast. Listen for contributions from artists Zach Burba (Iji, Dear Nora, Mega Bog); Julian Morris (Layperson, Past Moves); Jem Marie (The Ghost Ease); Yarra Valey; Kira Sassano; Marit Schmidt; Grant Fairbrother; and Jacob Jaffe. Mastering completed by Kevin Christopher (Oh, Rose, Ancient Pools) of Heavy Meadow Sound.