Apr 23, 2010

Palm Fabric Orchestra. Vague Gropings in the Slip Stream.

Some of the best music I’ve ever heard came in snatches from passing cars, or fell from apartments, muffled and crumbling in the rich sonic mulch of the city.

This is the music that wafts through open windows. It’s a masterpiece of floating moods and textures that richly evokes the feeling of being adrift—in nature, in sleep, in life—calm, accepting, and sensual. Like feeling the pulse of the ocean making space in itself for the shape of your unmoored body. Vague Gropings in the Slip Stream works just as well as a review as it does a title. Its gentle, acoustic ambience drifts like dandelion seeds, or swells and ripples like prairie grass in the wind. It’s wordless, though not without vocals, and Susan Voelz’ violin works some kind of magic with Ellen Fullman’s “long stringed instrument”, weaving luminous drones throughout several songs (If you’re familiar with Volo Volo, that’s her playing on the almost otherworldly Entrance and Endtrance). And Frank Orrall’s guitar has the same kind of happy nonchalance that Mark McGuire has been playing with on his solo acoustic releases.

I should probably mention that this album was a side project of Poi Dog Pondering, one of my favorite bands when I was in high school and college. There were bands that I idolized (like the Cure or the Velvet Underground), and then there were bands that I would have actually wanted to be in, and being in Poi Dog Pondering sounded like it would have been one of the most exuberantly wonderful things you could do.

Orrall, who once portrayed "Happy-Go-Lucky Guy" in the film Slacker, managed to write incredibly catchy songs about how awesome being alive feels without any of them being the absolutely gag-inducing shit-fests that would imply. Also, a lot of the songs were pretty filthy (Pulling Touch, Diamonds and Buttermilk). It’s ridiculously happy stuff that doesn’t think feeling ridiculously happy is anything to be ashamed of. Irony doesn’t exist for Poi Dog Pondering. Even some of their best songs (Complicated and God’s Gallipoli from Pomegranate) put relentlessly danceable music behind tales of cancer and loss and death—not as a joke, but as an acknowledgement that eventually life will be your adversary, and that, although you want to live as much of it as possible, sometimes the only weapon you’ll have left against it is joy.

Slip Stream

3 Blurts:

vaubu said...

Yes! That's the stuff- Thank you so much Egnu for passing this on. I share with you too the desire to be with this band when they were happy with a vengeance. In fact I did get to jam with them out on the streets of Cambridge-Boston, as they were prone to do that sort of thing back in the day. I don't really know what they were like after they relocated to Chicago. It's neat they teamed up with Ellen Fullman. And jeez, to hear Abra Moore's voice again . . . I'm falling but it's ok!

Egnu Cledge said...

Sorry that took so long. Hope you enjoy it!

Pomegranate was the last album of theirs I loved unconditionally. I'm pretty sure it was from their Chicago years. A lot of it was very different from the earlier stuff--very dance/electro, but extremely good--but half of the album was pretty classic Poi. They did a great job of incorporating the electronic elements into their natural sound. I got the album after that, but it sounded more like dentist-office-background-music to me. I lost touch with them after that, but I see they had a new album out a year or two ago that's supposed to sound a bit more like their Volo Volo period stuff.

Have you heard any of Susan Voelz' solo albums? I really enjoyed them back in the day, but I probably haven't listened to them in ten years or more. Maybe good for a future post.

vaubu said...

I have not heard an entire album by Susan Voelz but I do remember hearing a couple of songs and being intrigued. I once gave her a bouquet of Brown-eyed Susans and she kissed me in return. I blushed so red she looked a bit embarrassed by my color.