In their earliest incarnation, Friends of Dean Martinez were sort of a cactus league Ventures, writing spiny, windswept instrumentals that imagined the Rat Pack carousing in the Mojave. Ten years and numerous lineup shifts later FoDM is now a trio led by Texas-based steel guitarist Bill Elm. And while vestiges of that tumbleweed lounge music remain, Lost Horizon digs deeper and burns brighter, becoming more than just music without words. The shift was evident in the thick shadows of 2004s Random Harvest, and it comes to fruition on Horizon, where guitar and subtle electronics flicker over crisp drumming that gives the occasionally drifty compositions real backbone. The dry, resonating acoustic tones of Dusk and the lazier notes in Departure hark back to the arid desert, but its in the lengthy Landfall or the lingering noir mirage All in the Golden Afternoon that the trio really finds something tangible, something shimmering beyond instrumental. Its in the half smile of Two Hundred Miles and the howling guitar fuzz of Hidden Out of Sight, a sense of weight and dusk shared with Airs music for Virgin Suicides or the post-rock sweep of Explosions in the Sky. In a word, Lost Horizon grips.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.