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(43:31, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Too Much Light 3:47 2. The Old Woods 5:46 3. If Two See a Unicorn 1:57 4. What a Night 4:02 5. The Conservatives 1:50 6. Winter 3:22 7. I Could Eat You Up 3:36 8. Wordswords 5:40 9. Autumn 3:18 10. Mitch 2:57 11. A Garland of Miniatures 2:40 12. Nightfall 4:31 LINEUP: Dave Willey – accordion, keyboards; bass, guitar; vocals Elaine Di Falco – vocals; piano Deborah Perry – vocals With: Dave Kerman – drums Hugh Hopper – basses Mike Johnson – guitars &: A few more musicians
Prolusion. Dave WILLEY & FRIENDS (DW&F hereinafter) is a new project by Dave Willey, who is widely known for his work with American chamber rock/RIO ensembles Thinking Plague and Hamster Theatre. “Immeasurable Currents” is the first release of the outfit. As you can see above, there are rather many tracks on this 43-minute album, viz. twelve, so the average track length barely exceeds 3:30.
Analysis. No surprise as regards the project’s lineup: almost all of the musicians involved are members of Hamster Theatre. The music, however, is different, often appearing as another story altogether. Strengthening the approach that was signaled (rather barely outlined, though) on that band’s latest album, DW&F present, well, a collection of songs. While the folk component of Hamster Theatre’s overall style is part of this stuff too, the RIO one is either depreciated to a degree, at times strongly, or is completely absent, the music being slow-paced almost throughout the album. What DW&F develop here is a mere song (Nightfall, Mitch and The Conservatives), a song and folk music (What a Night, Autumn and A Garland of Miniatures), a song and folk music with some hints of Chamber Rock (Too Much Light, The Old Woods and Winter) and, finally, a song, folk music and RIO (If Two See a Unicorn, I Could Eat You Up and Wordswords) – only, regarding the latter term, think something halfway between “delicate” and “emasculated”. There are episodes that remind me musically of U Totem as well as Hamster Theatre itself, although the folksy instrumentation causes the result to be much different. Dave’s accordion plays first fiddle almost everywhere on the album, whilst as a fat-stringer he does rarely shine ‘this time’. Where DW&F are good is in imparting thoughtful, partly socially urgent, lyrics to the songs. Each of those is a little poem, telling a story – normally of a dark perspective, occasionally with somewhat morbid details that seem to be written expressly for Green Peace’s appreciation. But beware of what seems at first a well-defined format, since, as I said, every piece is formatted toward the song. Nothing is out of the way: the accordion leads, the synth and piano chords, the vocals, all expressing in one thing – the song. On eight of the tracks the lead vocals are provided by Deborah Perry and Elaine Di Falco, two mix female and male, Dave’s, ones, and two more have the man as a lead singer. Modern-day minstrels of a sort, they do all their best to suffuse every musical moment with heart and soul. So the songs succeed in most cases, at least for their delicate beauty. Occasionally, however, DW&F turn to simplistic music (on The Conservatives and Nightfall), eschewing the nice instrumentation for a more direct approach, the latter piece only using synths as its instrumental basis. The former has at least a full-band sound, evoking Supertramp/Rick Davis at its/his most straightforward and jovial at once. By the way, another song with Dave on lead vocals, Mitch, reminds me of Tom Waits circa “Bone Machine”, on all levels too.
Conclusion. With this release Dave and his (Thinking Plague and Hamster Theatre) friends have made a big step towards a mass audience. Just logically, I fear that some, if not many, of fans of the above two ensembles may frown upon the song format adopted by these RIO masters here, complaining that there are not enough musical explorations for the sake of it, not enough looseness, etc. I can call “Immeasurable Currents” a prog song album, and quite a beautiful one, but anyhow, it’s too simple for me to play it again – and again, unlike those it’s clear by whom.
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