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Desert Rats: Chris and Thomas took inspiration for their new album from Joshua Tree National Monument.

Wide Open

Folkies Chris and Thomas explore music's white spaces.

By Curtis Cartier

In music, knowing when to play a note is just as important as knowing when not to. Los Angeles folk duo Chris and Thomas know this fact well, and on their new album, Land of Sea, the two songwriters have created a work that's as much defined by its silence as by its sound.

And now, thanks to rave reviews and some clutch live performances the pair has found itself at the center of the up-and-coming California folk scene and plans to bring its spacy ballads to Monterey Live on March 11.

Chris Anderson met Thomas Hein in Liverpool in the mid-'90s. Both were strangers to the country, with Anderson hailing from Tennessee and Hein from Germany. Both were also musicians with strong ambitions and talent to spare. And though they quickly became friends, the idea to team up musically didn't materialize until a trip west across the Atlantic, past Anderson's home of Memphis and into the entertainment capital of the world.

"We came to L.A. and we decided to try and play each other's songs," says Hein from his home in the City of Angels. "We worked a bit on each other's stuff, then we said, 'Let's start from scratch.' After that we found a symbiosis and a great chemistry."

Land of Sea was named after Joshua Tree National Park, a stunning desert oasis just north of Palm Springs. Hein says the park's huge boulders and strange cacti remind him of an ancient ocean floor only recently abandoned by the waves--a notion that, geologically, is quite accurate.

The title track kicks off the album and paints a lyrical picture of this stark landscape: "Signs and traces left in stone, ruins of a past unknown." Other standout tracks include "Broken Chair," with its hollow, woody echo and somber cello and the lilting reflection of "Horse in the Sky."

Though the empty space of Land of Sea has come to define the record, it was not a conscious choice, says Hein. The two recorded the album in less than two weeks with accompanying musicians they had never worked with, and for Hein, "simplicity" was merely the best way to keep everyone on the same page.

"Our first goal for this record was to just get the songs done and make sure we could play them live," says Hein. "It was never really planned that way but I think it came out great."

CHRIS AND THOMAS Wednesday, March 11, at 8:30pm at Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey. Call for ticket prices. (831.375.5483)

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