new time-lag records release out now:
Foxy Digitalis :: Visitations "I Wish We Could Look Into the Future" :: 150
When I first heard Visitations’ grandiose self-titled debut last year I must admit I was a bit nonplussed. However, what had appeared to be an amateurish mish mash of child-like folk, stumbling cautionary tales, dark gospel, and tongue-in-cheek homage to 1950’s science fiction film themes, ultimately revealed itself as a cracked masterpiece, a utopian space opera set primarily in the dense Maine woods. To be sure, there were moments of earnest idealism, but these were leavened by a sly sense of humor.
In stark contrast to the debut’s bizarre amalgam of sub-minute noisy interludes and ecstatic jams, "I Wish We Could Look Into The Future" contains four longer untitled pieces recorded live that give a very different view into the band’s workings. Live, the band builds hopeful, uplifting, and mystical dances around the campfire out of overlapped chanted and moaned vocalizations, hypnotic guitars, jaw harp, synthesizers, and whatever percussion is at hand. In general, the playing is simultaneously more expansive and focused than on the debut and the sound quality of these recordings amply displays the cohesiveness the band has developed.
On the first track, meandering chants, recorder, jaw harp and guitar materialize slowly out of the mist while a pulsating synthesizer swims in and out eventually emerging as a blissed out sunburst of warm yellow light. The later intrusion of creaking boards around the edges of the cozy center locates an ominous presence beyond the light of the fire. One gets the feeling that there is an evil lurking out there that can only be warded off with swirling ritualistic incantations.
The second track expands and contracts at first buoyantly recalling an “untroubled” walk through the woods but gradually dissipating in an ever growing cloud of unease. By now listeners can discern a theme of happiness constantly under threat by an impinging sense of doom. The third track makes this theme explicit. A gorgeously hovering theremin introduces a hymn to the alienation people can feel when confronted with the horrors of the modern world and an attempt to offer reassurance through a philosophy of connection with others. If at times the lyrics contain clumsily expressed sentiments (“try to just love everything”, “every one just needs to have a little faith in themselves”), it’s also obvious that even when Visitations gravitate towards platitudes, they arrive there by way of good intentions.
The final track continues Visitations mystical fascination with our purported extraterrestrial origins. With lyrics like “We are sent here as free beings and with that notion we grow/We landed here for love so many years ago”, they replace the peculiar concept of original sin with a more attractive state of grace. The entire song reinforces the premise that “free beings” will and should choose love over hatred and distrust. As quaint and naïve as that may seem, the band makes a compelling case for surrendering oneself to its simplicity. The song ends with a charming soft-spoken ghost story of sorts where a young girl overcomes her fear of the unknown to fulfill her destiny. Even though its chilling (albeit a bit trite) ending contains a meditation on legacy and remembrance, like the best parables it never seems unduly forced. After listening to it, you too may be tempted to tell it the next time you gather around the campfire to sing away the shadows. 8/10 -- Steve Rybicki (19 September, 2005)
Freaky Trigger :: VISITATIONS, Visitations & ANNIE, Anniemal
Good lord last week was busier than I thought when it came to work, and then when I went home I either had committments or didn’t want to write much or anything. So hurrah for what may or may not be a brief Sunday recharge. Anyway:
So the other day along with some other goods from the fine folks at Time-Lag I had ordered and received the home-made CDR by this couple in Maine called Visitations. And I mean homemade — it’s a blue sorta felty envelope stitched together with red thread, with a small piece of velcro to hold the flap shut and a glue-created “VISITATIONS” slip of clear paperish stuff including with the otherwise unmarked disc itself. And then on the other hand there’s the (in the UK at least) apparently heavily hyped upcoming debut album by Annie, currently floating along through various electronic channels and the new single of whose is discussed on ILM and yet again there.
What connects them? Theoretically nothing, but now that I’m listening to the Annie album, something does — the sense (the illusion?) of something crafted at home for one’s own amusement first and foremost. Both albums in their own distinct way strike me as celebrations of a place and time and state of mind, projected forward to here and now, and enjoyably so. The first thing I thought of when the Annie album fully kicked in was Tom Tom Club, like that slow-and-easy-and-danceable aesthetic from the first album or so was suddenly drop-kicked two decades up with no worries. Not an exact comparison and I’m sure others have made it but that’s what I liked about this album, the more so because I’m actually not the world’s biggest fan of Tom Tom Club anyway (a couple of singles okay but then again Talking Heads in general never lit my fire). But this Annie album, now this is great, I’ll happily be listening to this again down to the handclaps on “The Greatest Hit.” And it has synths and digital beats and really sometimes that’s ALL I will never need, anywhere. It’s so lively.
Visitations, meanwhile, I’m just sorta waiting for someone somewhere to do something like “Hey, a couple who have a band! And they’re sorta halfway affiliated with all that New Weird New England New Folk Newness of the New Sunburned Hand of the Banhart aren’t they?” I really know NOTHING about them so I can’t claim to know what they’ve listened to or what inspirations they have or what they want to do exactly except, well, fill up a CDR with a lot of different songs and compositions and performances that all nicely blend and/or slam into each other, I seem to recall. There were acoustic campfire semijams and droned-out psych-noise of the backwoods variety (some days I think that if Pelt didn’t exist they’d have to be invented from the way that so many people this year have suddenly been talking about that approach) and odd little experiments and the whole thing actually reminds me suddenly of what lo-fi was promising ten years ago but couldn’t deliver on for a damn most of the time, a lot of different things to be done because you could do them and put them out yourself and nobody could stop you, and because I admit I like CDRs more than homemade tapes I have much more sympathy with Visitations’ approach than those of possible forebears.
And they both sound great on late summer afternoons, I found. Very handy.
Written by Ned Raggett on Sunday, September 19th, 2004.