“The Cinder Grove” reviewed at Pitchfork

Playing to the pedal steel’s strengths of subtlety, The Cinder Grove’s mood slides toward grief without any hard signaling. The restorative serenity of Balsams may have transmitted a sense that “everything’s going to be alright,” but The Cinder Grove acknowledges that sometimes it isn’t. Losing a creative space isn’t simply losing a set of walls and floor, it’s the collapse of an entire little universe. On the way to “Red Branch Bell,” Johnson wanders through soundscapes that explore voids without over-emphasizing their darkness. Sadness feels almost effervescent as “Constellation” floats by with cosmic dreaminess, while silvery ripples balance with lower drifts on “Seritony.” The modulating notes that open “Raz-de-Marée” are the record’s only demanding tones, sweeping like a lighthouse beam through the fog before slipping into full pedal-steel cascades.