It’s not often that beauty comes from tragedy, but The Island Moved In the Storm achieves just that. Inspired by a woman known as Tent Girl, who was found deceased on the side of a Kentucky road in 1968, Matt Bauer creates an obscenely intimate and haunting album.
Banjo, acoustic guitar, and female backing vocals make up the core of Bauer’s sound, with the occasional warmth of horns, strings, and slide guitar added for depth. The songs are often fairly simple, but the devil is in the details and ghosts come through on the often otherworldly vocals.
A creepy-through-context girl choir joins in with Bauer’s broken, strained whisper on “Barn Owl” as he croons things like ‘the snow blows like a bridal train / sideways through the pines’, while the two work in a push-and-pull harmony during “Blacksnake in the Carport”. The girls hit their peak on the 24-second title track, beckoning one to ‘come, I will tell you where the island moved into the storm’, opening a gateway to the cloy of “Florida Rain” and the pretty but deadly “Foxgloves” and ‘hummingbirds with ruby throats / invisible wings / invisible notes’.
Bauer gradually grows his sound on the final three tracks of the album, starting with the introduction of electric sounds on the very sonically interesting and powerful “Old Kimball” and continuing through the slide-guitar-laden country lament “(Corolla) The One You Love”.
Extremely well put-together, The Island Moved In the Storm is a broken fairy tale, a fever dream.