With haunting orchestral arrangements and compositions as elegant as soap carvings, A Whisper in the Noise's new release, Dry Land, can sound a little overdressed for the tweeters that came stock with your 1991 Dodge Dart. They seem better suited for something more ornate. An eroding Victrola, perhaps? Often sounding like the score to an Edward Gorey book, vocalist and lead songwriter West Thordson's moody string and piano arrangements suggest the desolation and vastness of Victorian moors. Like Catherine Earnshaw before him, Thordson occasionally gets lost in his own meanderings (the children's choir accompanying him on a cover of "The Times They Are a Changing" undermines his otherwise remarkable finesse). But his works always raise the neck hairs, and Dry Land, which drops tonight in the opium-den finery of the Varsity Theater, evokes from its antique, dusty vinyl atmosphere a despair that is chillingly modern and all too near. With Humanboy. 18+.
Thu., Feb. 28, 7 p.m., 2008