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The Clearing 
Demo 2000
~reviewed by Matthew
If you are a fan of darker, emotionally driven music, you have an intimidating and vast scope of music to choose from.  Whether it is Classical or Black Metal, emotion is a key ingredient to music.  When it comes to 'Gothic' music, it is even more of a challenge as there are so many varying styles within the genre that are more less linked by one trait  and that is of course sensitivity to emotion.  While Pittsburgh's The Clearing are not a Gothic band per se, they have risen from the ashes of one  of the most successful and longest running darker bands to have emerged from  Pittsburgh over the past ten years, and that is the near legendary outfit  The Garden.  The Garden were a whimsical, acoustic driven project that opened for several acts such as And Also The Trees, for example, while they were an active attraction in Pittsburgh.  Their sound could easily be likened to the mature sounds of 4AD as well as the more melancholic indie rock bands such as All About Eve, etc.  Over the years unfortunately, the band was set back by daytime careers and the expectant necessities of life. But regardless, they were responsible for some of the fondest of memories at the core of Pittsburgh's independent and underground music scene.
I mention all this only since there are obviously many readers outside of the Pittsburgh area that are not familiar with The Garden. But alas, the musicians responsible for this seminal band are at work on a new and promising project, and hopefully, familiarity will not be an issue much longer.  The Clearing faithfully carry on the jangling acoustics, lush bass lines and swinging drums of The Garden, but introduce distinctive female alto vocals and a slithering violin lead to modify this already successful
sound.   This style of music is the kind of music that can appeal to several different audiences.  With one listen to the four songs presented on this  short demo EP, one can easily deduce from the subtle pop hooks that The Clearing are faithful to the brooding Romanticism of alternative goth, yet deliver it in a way that is easily identifiable to fans of traditional down tempo rock as well.  The music explores the darker cavities of the broken heart, but similar in approach to the independent music or avant-garde alternative of yesterday.  Despite being atmospherically rooted in themelancholy of early 'adult' post-rock, this mini-CD still manages tostrike a universal nerve.
The extent of The Clearing's success is dependent upon whether they can achieve a solid live presence and their music can be heard, first in Pittsburgh and then hopefully in the surrounding areas.  There is certainly a lack of darker themed bands that possess so organic a sound and presence. It is disappointingly rare to see a full-band perform music like this, not to mention an incredible classically trained violinist accompanying such a band.  This 'dry spell' is definitely not isolated to Pittsburgh alone, for as the years have gone by,  'alternative' music has changed so drastically and there has been a constant rotation of record buyers and concert attendees.  While The Clearing without a doubt are shooting for local and perhaps more mainstream pastures, I think this music in particular is relevant to 'elder' Goths and indie-rockers everywhere (otherwise, I would
not opt to review this CD for a national zine)  since so many have become disinterested in their scenes due to the electronic invasion at local clubs.
However, this sample EP is a direct response to those missing older organic alternative rock and the blissful sound of 4AD. Whether you live in Pittsburgh or not, I would highly suggest contacting these guys at the email address below if you are in want of more mature acoustic rock.  It would certainly be a pleasure to see a Pittsburgh band make a credible name for themselves and revive classic alternative rock styles.

Track List:
1.) Empress
2.) The Latest Gossip
3.) Heaven
4.) Luminous Words

The Clearing is:
Susan Stringfellow - vocals, lyrics
Christine Sacramento - guitars
Anthony Lacava - bass
Tanya Kavalkovich - violin
James Perry - drums

In order to inquire of the recent EP, please contact: