Joanna Newsom's hubristic Ys was enough to put many off chamber-folk for a while. Too bad they didn't hear Blasts Of Holy Birth first: The latest strum-plus-orchestra offering from songwriter Lou Rogai, while by no means restrained, manages to tuck all its loose threads and broad gestures into a spare, whispery fabric. Rogai has a gift for speaking plainly while tonguing poetry, and his meditations on life cycles and pastoral philosophy blossom and collapse with organic grace. The album is even structured as such, opening and closing with brief, hushed sketches that bracket the more vibrant tracks—including the disc's heart-stopping centerpiece, the 10-minute "Before It Breaks You." Contributions from members of Man Man, Rachel's, and Hella might draw people into Holy Birth, but Rogai's cloudless, crystalline vision will keep them.

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