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Andrew Spencer Goldman has been making music for more than 10 years. Best known for his project Fulton Lights, the Baltimore-based multi-instrumentalist recently released A Secret Spell, a new EP under the moniker A. Spencer. Recorded across Nashville, Brooklyn, and Baltimore, and featuring a small army of collaborators, the EP offers a meditation on the role of music in our lives through a decidedly low-key approach to Goldman’s signature brand of indie folk.
A Secret Spell came about after Goldman had been working on a Fulton Lights album for several years. “After a while it begins to feel like you’re constantly lugging around a heavy bag of your own expectations,” he says. “So in some ways it was just a relief to finish three songs that seemed related enough to stand together, and that sounded distinct enough from the Fulton Lights music that it made sense to me to get them out as their own thing, sui generis.”
Opener “A Secret Spell” begins with a quiet acoustic riff and a touch of Adam Ollendorff’s pedal steel, but slowly swells as drums, piano, and other instruments are introduced. The song, Goldman says, “in some ways feels to me to be a meditation on openness and inclusiveness, and what music does or can do, ideally, in terms of forging connection.” The meditative nature of the track is apparent in the way that Ollendorff’s pedal steel and piano blend together and dance over the periods between Goldman’s singing to create spacey, dreamy expanses.
The second track, “You Can Lie To Me” sees Goldman exploring the depths of Leonard Cohen’s statement that “a singer must die for the lie in his voice” and again meditating on the role that music should play in our lives. “You can lie to me, but be true,” he sings. “If the lie is the truth, that’ll do.” Interestingly enough, though, Goldman’s vocals largely fade away in the final ninety seconds of the song, leaving room for Thor Harris’ (Swans, Shearwater) dulcimer to take center stage.
The EP concludes with the positively sublime instrumental track “Good Night and Good Luck.” Though it doesn’t have any vocals, the track feels like a culmination of the ideas expressed in the first two tracks and the only logical conclusion to A Secret Spell. The addition of a baritone guitar (played again by Ollendorff) lends a level of instrumental depth that fills in for Goldman’s singing.
“‘Good Night and Good Luck’ just is,” Goldman says, although that seems to rather downplay the importance of this final track––after all, he’s concluding his three-track meditation on the importance of music with five minutes of pure, unadulterated music. The title, “Good Night and Good Luck,” implies a farewell, but also a desire for listeners to find success in determining the role that music should play in their own lives.