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Klara Lewis and Simon Fisher Turner, "Care"

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cover imageThe news of this intriguing collaboration delighted me, as Klara Lewis has carved out quite a wonderfully idiosyncratic and incredibly constrained niche over the last few years by largely avoiding any recognizable instrumentation.  Consequently, I had no idea at all what would happen when her surreal collages collided with Simon Fisher Turner's formidable talents as a composer.  As it turns out, a pure collaboration resulted, as Care does not particularly resemble either artist's previous work.  Instead, it feels like several divergent albums have been deconstructed, warped, and obliterated to leave only some lingering shards in a shifting and hallucinatory fantasia of drones, textures, and field recordings.  That fundamental disjointedness can admittedly be a bit challenging at times, but Care ultimately comes together beautifully with the lushly rapturous closer, "Mend."

Editions Mego

From the first moments of the opening epic "8," it was abundantly clear to me that Care was going to be quite a bizarre and disorienting experience that would sidestep just about every expectation that I had.  That statement is not meant as unambiguously rapturous praise, as my mind was not instantly blown or anything–the album simply takes a very different path than I imagined.  For example, I have always found Lewis's collages to be tightly and meticulously crafted, yet "8" is an extended dive into a fog of amorphous, drifting, and abstract phantasmagoria.  It does not have anything remotely resembling a conventional structure or even anything resembling an unconventional structure, as nothing is constant at all.  Instead, it feels like I am floating weightlessly through an ether of ghostly drones, vaporously indistinct voices, and submerged song-fragments that is unpredictably and jarringly disrupted by stuttering and jackhammering deconstructions of sultry dance anthems.  I doubt I would even describe it as having "dream logic," yet it is still a strangely compelling piece solely because the duo manage to make seemingly benign snippets of pop music feel lysergic and haunted.  While I have personally never died, "8" feels like an eerily uncanny evocation of what the final mental spasms of death might be like: near-silence mingled with occasional intrusions of real ambient sounds like voices and birds, as well as colorfully vivid and ephemeral blasts of disjointed memories.

The following "Drone" is considerably less of an uncategorizable mindfuck, initially resembling a brooding and throbbing dip into Fisher Turner's soundtrack work.  At some point, a strange harmonica- or hurdy-gurdy-like motif emerges and it seems like something more significant might cohere.  That proves to be an illusion, however, as the piece instead dissolves again into a mysterious coda of crackling noise.  Elsewhere, "Tank" takes a somewhat similar trajectory, blurring together moody cinematic atmosphere with eruptions of noise and dreamlike snatches of field recordings from far-away places.  Of the two pieces, "Tank" fares a bit better at achieving a kind of "hallucinatory travelogue" feel, but I still cannot escape a nagging desire for the duo's fragmented entropy to cohere into something more structured in a lasting way.  Instead, Lewis and Fisher Turner just conjure up the occasional fleeting glimpse of a surreal and vivid vista that quickly dissipates back into abstraction.  The album's sole exception to that tendency is the swooningly lovely closer "Mend."  Like the rest of the album, "Mend" is composed of just a few simple pieces precariously held together, but differs from them in that the woozily squirming central theme is quite a strong one and it remains constant.  In fact, it even steadily builds as the piece unfolds, gradually transforming from an undulating, liquid drone into a vivid crescendo of swirling and howling tendrils.  There are also some crackling and enigmatic radio transmissions in the background to deepen the experience, but the real magic is the main theme itself, which constantly heaves, shudders, and sways like a massive, slow-moving snake.

I am always a bit confounded when an album features one piece that this on a completely different plane than all of the others, as I tend to wonder if an artist just decided to release an album to showcase that one piece or if the other pieces were also intended to be great in a way that somehow eludes me.  Given the caliber of the participants here, I have to assume it is the latter, especially since "8" displays an extreme attention to detail and sound design.  The uncharitable interpretation would be that Lewis and Fisher Turner had some excellent but divergent ideas and the only way they could seamlessly bring them together was by completely obliterating them into kaleidoscopic fragments.  The alternate possibility is that the duo set about making a boldly experimental headphone album that feels more like a memory virus than a series of structured compositions: intriguing, sharply realized forms erratically appear only to disintegrate, dissolve, or get pulled apart until they are just another part of an enigmatic and living fog of real and imagined sounds.  If so, that was a great idea, though I remain perplexed by the execution.  For now, I merely like that unapologetically abstract side of the album, while I absolutely love the more conventionally structured "Mend," but I am open to the possibility that the rest of the album will someday grow on me if I immerse myself in it long enough.

Samples can be found here.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 October 2018 08:11  


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