On my first few listens to the four pieces included on Allison Cameron and Contact’s A Gossamer Bit, I felt that two of the compositions were quite good—so good, in fact, that I decided a fifty percent average wasn’t at all bad and started questioning how good something needs to be in order to be good. I worried about that a fair bit as I listened more, focusing on the two pieces that had initially struck me: 3rds, 4ths & 5ths, a nice bit of chromatic fantasia with a wind-chime feel and some subtle harmonica that gives way to a rather elegant violin-and-piano episode and flute passages; and In Memoriam Robert Ashley, which blankets the great and recently deceased composer’s voice in acoustic drones suggestive of (without trying to emulate) his own, prolonged voice-and-electronics works.
As I was listening—and worrying over my semantic dilemma—something unexpected happened: I noticed myself enjoying the other two pieces. There’s not much to grab hold of in the title piece, which bears a dedication to Ives; but as its softly persistent snare rolls and prolonged flute and string lines made themselves familiar, I found myself welcoming its return, and—if less so—that of the somber D.I.Y. Fly, with its pop-song harmonies and incongruous toy piano. Then I began to wonder if the real problem with goodness is how long it takes to be assessed.
Once in a while, musicians are good at naming their albums, and Cameron’s particular gossamer eluded me at first. It isn’t particularly challenging—nor do I think it’s trying to be—but its a lovely forty-five minutes of melancholy.