Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ghost Brâmes – Eagle Arpegi [Foxglove]/Justin Shay – Vocalizations [Foxglove]

These two releases come from the megalithic latest batch from Tulsa’s ultra rad Foxglove label. The first is from French duo Ghost Brâmes (sometimes of the Cerfs or Cerf’s Magickal) which is comprised of Florian Tositti (a.k.a. The Reggaee) and Jacob Garett. The guys had a couple of nice releases last year on Ruralfaune and 267 Lattajjaa, but this is the first for the double oh seven. Justin Shay is a dude from L.A. apparently, and other than that I’m totally unfamiliar with him. I think he’s been making music for a little while though I’m unaware of any other releases he may have.
Eagle Arpegi, is a single 39 minute ditty. It’s also a single 39 minute ditty of the best kind, one that is constantly, though logically, moving forward. The two guys are busy at work through the whole track, with looped keyboard drone, percussive clatter, muted guitar plucks, occasional bits of toy flute, choirboy voices (or maybe a bowed something?), rattling and chiming, and a few things that I can’t really identify or verbally approximate. I’m assuming because of its length, the track was probably recorded live which is quite impressive, and it was probably improvised too which is even more impressive. I’ve never really noticed it until now but these guys occupy a similar sonic space as the (VxPxC) dudes, especially around the 24 minute mark. The drone becomes a bit more subdued and some really great guitar/wooden flute interplay unfolds. It’s a beautiful stretch of time, the guitar is all jittery but pensive, jammin’ on a repetitive melody. The flute is an MVP contender, with some really wistful but insistent wind blowing through the track—emerging just long enough to make its point and then dropping back into the ether. Scattered but rhythmic percussion, electronic twinkling and rumbling, and slurred vocal groans augment the existing sonics splendidly; taking the track into slightly more shadowy, blurred territory. This thing is not only a sonic mindfeast but a journey too! The track slowly dwindles after the crest, smeared by guitar feedback and synthery. Awesome. I admit, I’m often wary of 40 minute tracks but this one really hits the mark. Recommended, and if you’re into 40 minute tracks than I’d rate this essential.
I was intrigued by Vocalizations, because I really love voice in music from Sacred Harp Singing and traditional Native American music to The Skaters and Robedoor etc. According to Foxglove, this thing is composed “entirely from vocals and effects”, my ears don’t believe it though. It’s definitely mostly vocals but no one can be that good at imitating keyed and stringed instruments. But anyway that is beside the point. The album is kinda hit or miss, though most tracks are hits. The first two don’t really grab me, the first is kind of glitchy and the second is beatboxing and a couple looped vocal melodies which just gets grating after three minutes. After that though, things start falling into place. A couple breathy vocal loops and occasional beats of mouth percussion and (effected?) chimes make up the third track. At 10 minutes, it runs a bit long but creates a nicely accumulating fog from a very limited palette. Next, the fourth track begins with, what sounds like a banjo to my ears and vocals slowly creep in. Amounting to a vibe maybe a little like The Books but more rural sounding and less electronic, like someone playing along to slow motion Sacred Harp records. Elsewhere on the record are a handful of tracks that I really like a lot. The fifth track is somber in mood but a totally glistening choir of voice loops. Really meditative and calming, like an ancient medicine man curing a guy with a lousy case of influenza. That simile is totally not mystical enough to be an accurate descriptor, but unfortunately it’s all I’ve got right now. Track (lucky number) 7 does a great job with the vocal-loops-but-not-drone aesthetic. There are a bunch of ascending and descending melodies all cycling continuously. What’s great about this track is that each time the loops cycle, they line up differently yet they are always able to lock into place and sound beautiful for a few seconds before repositioning again. Then 3/4s of the way in, the sound cuts out and your jolted out of your delightful haze, only to hear Justin do it all over again and create another beautiful, brief vocal tapestry for the final minute. Really splendid stuff. Two shorter tracks (8 and 10) are wonderful as well. In track 8, Shay’s vocal waver almost resembles a piano to me, which adds an interesting dynamic to the praise swells that emanate through the track. Track 10 is similar but with all the voices in a tangle rather than in unison. There is a minimal, precisely metered percussive loop for a bit that works really well, almost like being accompanied by a metronome (which is usually lame, I know, but it’s really cool here). There are some other great moments on the disc as well, but I’ll let you discover those for yourself.
Both releases are packaged in a plastic slip with paper/cardboard covers and an insert. The insert from Vocalizations is full color and actually pretty neat. Both are still available from Foxglove last time I checked, along with a bunch other stuff from greats like Antique Brothers, Apple Snails, Orphan Fairytale and more. Considering that Foxglove is on the verge of retirement [insert sad face emoticon], I suggest you grab some cd-rs while you still can.

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