Mike Gangloff's perambulations have taken him a long way, both stylistically and geographically. A couple years ago his drone ensemble Pelt joined Gate and Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides in Newcastle Upon Tyne, where they improvised upon a gamelan. More recently, he and Nathan Bowles of Pelt and The Black Twig Pickers serenaded peach preserve purchasers at a farmers' market in Blacksburg, Virginia, with old time fiddle and banjo tunes. What connects his disparate endeavors are the long, raw tones that ring and fade through everything he plays, and an abiding respect for music's capacity to bind people together.Black Ribbon of Death, Silver Thread of Life
does not break that circle. It is the essence of a family affair. Mike and Cara Gangloff started playing duo concerts in the spring of 2013, when they toured Ireland on their honeymoon. Both of them supplement their voices and his usual stringed instruments with a sruti box and a hurdy-gurdy, whose drones flow inexorably through the tunes. A poem, haunted by mortality and dedicated to Donald Miller of Borbetomagus and his spouse, weaves through the album much like the drones. Divided into three parts, you can feel it even when it's not there. But meditations on the hereafter are balanced by celebrations of life's pleasures. Friends drop by to lend some harmonies and lead a clog dance, and Cara takes a break from the mountain songbook to celebrate newfound matrimony with a nearly a capella rendition of the Gershwins' "Someone To Watch Over Me."
The only aspect that feels out of balance on the record is the couple's vocal harmonies. While it has generally worked for Mike to bawl along with his similarly indelicate mates in The Twigs, his voice occasionally clashes unproductively with Cara's more nuanced delivery. But one suspects that time and familial proximity will take care of that.
-- Bill Meyer, The Wire