The new instrumental project of guitarist Jim Fairchild (Grandaddy / Modest Mouse / All Smiles) and songwriter / composer Jacob Snider (named Best New Artist by NPR-affiliate WXPN-Philadelphia), Small Isles inhabits a rare hypnotic twilight between motion picture music and incandescent cosmic folk. At once a love letter to film soundtracks and a meditative balm for our troubled times, ‘The Valley, The Mountains, The Sea’ was recorded by Fairchild on a bare-bones mobile rig while on tour with Modest Mouse, in the cracks of time between soundchecks and performances, from city to city, in darkened hotel rooms and over-lit backstage dressing rooms, giving the album a sense of intimacy, of stolen time and weary after-show solitude.
Playfully conceived as an imaginary score to an imaginary film in the spirit of the 90s sleeper classic ‘The Ice Storm’, the album is cinematic in a homespun way, at times recalling the innovative film music of Hildur Gudnadottir and Oneohtrix Point Never telescoped through a back porch Sigur Ros or the delicate cobwebs of barely-there slowcore Americana.
A linchpin track off the album, ‘Life At One,’ off the forthcoming The Valley, The Mountains, The Sea (AKP Recordings), is imprinted by Snider’s chorale-like humming and an emotionally riveting video by animator Riley Thompson. In the words of Fairchild, “It’s one of the first songs that we worked on together and became the spiritual center for the album. I wrote the central musical themes and once Jacob’s voice entered the picture, providing the autumnal glow, the song became what it was supposed to, and pointed the way to so much more music.”
About the beautifully evocative video, Fairchild had this to say, “I had this vague concept of a person facing down their mortality and then finding redemption and purpose. Where Riley took the song was beyond what I’d hoped for. It is heartbreaking in the best possible way, without becoming didactic. He is also making a chopped and screwed version of the video which will serve as a chaptered visual accompaniment for the whole album. Riley’s work brought the whole album to life in a way I’d hoped for but couldn’t have imagined.”