Pastoral scenes carry their own weight on Golden Brown’s verdant new album, Gems and Minerals. This is the wilderness I want to get lost in. As the solo vehicle for Colorado’s Stefan Beck, Golden Brown has always offered a type of gentle and expansive sonic reverie. Worlds where crystal blue rivers wind across lush landscapes, where skies shift from every shade of gray to pink and purple at the blink of an eye live in these diffusive spaces. Where Beck always catches my ear, though, is in the emotive melodies that indicate he’s not simply creating worlds for us to escape to, he’s contemplating the reasons we want to escape.
Gems and Minerals brings a familiar palette to the table: guitars, lap steel, keyboards. Sara Beck adds cello to a few songs, too. Across 12 tracks, a pathway emerges as we travel through the spirited woods. “Emerald Ash” and “The Lyre Tree” offer similar moments of contented solitude. The former hops through meadows, sun-kissed and breezy, with ebullient chord changes rising as the road meets the sky. Both are short and sweet, but potent. “The Lyre Tree” stops for a brief moment, a sweetness billowing through the air attracting electronic swirls that lead us toward a secret space where stars dance a joyous celestial ballet to “Ash Emerald.” Gems and Minerals is full of these wonderful moments.
Beck dives into the deep end, too; it’s not all blissful hikes through magic terrain. “Spores” is heady, Sara Beck’s cello playing adding an elemental disquiet to the plucked guitar and lap steel swells. There’s a colder spirit saturating these inquisitive passages as it builds in grandeur and solemnity. On the magnificent “Turtle Spirit,” a similar contemplation emerges, but it’s softer and more forgiving. Beck’s guitar work is precise but bathed in a welcoming resonance that adds a subtle warmth to the early moments of the song before the cello sets the whole thing aglow. Soothing luminescence surrounds us as it fades into the electric echoes and quiet birdsong of “Mycelium.”
Golden Brown simply makes beautiful music that never fades to the background. Gems and Minerals comes to a close with a pensive lament on the sublime “Palimpsest.” Like a balloon floating ever upward, moving further and further away, “Palimpsest” hangs in its hovering resonance free and at peace. The journey is ever-changing, but finding this inner quiet holds more weight than any destination.
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