Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Skidmore Fountain - Cloudless Blue (CD)

It’s not very often an entire album captures my imagination. Skidmore Fountain starts off this CD with two violins introducing a standard rock tune called Asylum. It’s a good tune, and one I would have easily picked for a song of the day. The violins are playing in a different time signature than a tune, but that intro soon leaves room for a standard “take no prisoners” tune that asks “are you having a good time?” I’m sucked in as an audience member & fully convinced that these guys will entertain me and I’ll be totally pleased with the experience, even as one of the characters in the song states he “lost his way.” When they ask again “are you having a good time?” I’m shouting yes!

Then the magic happens. Purple Mountain starts with a drumstick hitting 4 times, but we are not in standard rock 4/4 time. No need to bore with time signatures, etc, just know that many bands have tried this and failed. What makes this succeed? “Sweat is dripping down” is an easy answer, but for my ears, it’s the fact they can play with time signatures AND be melodic. This is not a common experience, so there’s a fresh flavor here that I can only exclaim as awesome. The rock guitar solo helps to ground the experience and enhances the overall dream. I’m impressed, but the journey is just beginning.

Drive By Reflection is a word montage that meanders around the image of a girl who becomes a playground in the narrator’s imagination. The tale in and of itself is fantasy, however, the musical arrangement is fantastic. Guitars meet violins in this symphony of visual metaphors. “Sideways with butterflies, I’m losing my grip. Everything is coming undone.” The poet character is exploring the places we seldom want to reach for, and what’s exciting me is the musicians are reaching those spaces with their personal flights into these spaces. Kudos especially for the percussionist who manages to keep the guitars and violins balanced and not smashing into each other as they do their blue angel behaviors miles above my head.
When The Sun Shines starts with vocal harmonies that perfectly suck me into a party atmosphere. “I would fly away” the narrator explains while a breath later he says “I’ll stay by this house all day”. A lesser poet would simply say “I don’t know what to do with myself”. Again the poetry becomes second to the sonic realities of the musicians. Wisely placed, this central philosophy has a music that is easy to dance to and re-center the musical neurons while still managing to sound fresh and unique.

I could keep on this mode, but I’ll stop and simply say the rest of the CD is just as powerful, and should be on your short list of CDs that you should purchase soon. Cloudless Blue (“we spill our secrets”) is a slow mental picture that approaches a psychedelic feel. Whole World Crashing Down (“we live underground”) has a powerful build, and features some pretty cool contrapuntal excitement. Sun In The Sky returns to a central image in this song cycle with beautiful 3 part harmony while the guitar slowly plucks chords. The narrator begins to sound apocalyptic and anticipates a thematic climax. “One man in charge leaves us standing, our backs against the wall” introduces Have We No Right. We’re brought back down to earth in a very interesting way with Memory. The guitars are slightly off, but so are the voices. Not off to sound bad, just off from what we think we want to hear. Masterful performance and powerful experience.

I’m most impressed by the fact these guys can’t be categorized. They work with jazz rhythms, but have a firm rock foundation. Their melodies are pure pop with story lines nearing pure poetry. I’d bet words like art and experimental follow them, and I hope this doesn’t limit their audience. It’s a music that challenges, but quickly becomes knowable and familiar. A special thanks to Laura for introducing us.

Skidmore Fountain