Monday, March 27, 2017

More Co-Album-Reviewing (with Chris Bathgate) featuring Audra Kubat's 'Mended Vessel'

Chris Bathgate is getting into the game of writing album reviews. I'm honored to have sort of opened up the bombay door and held his hand while parachuting out into the experimental skies of this enterprise. We've been writing letters back and forth about Audra Kubat's Mended Vessel for almost five weeks now. 

This song is called "Midnight Train"


The release of your OWN music has now begun to overlap with our letters about Audra. By the time I hear back from you, the vernal equinox will be here. I'm eager to get back out into my own garden and start growing things, again. Meanwhile, I hear you're harvesting truffles?
This is my fifth or sixth time revisiting 'Mended Vessel,' but I recall, vividly, that "Midnight Train" was an immediate standout, because of what she's doing with her voice. It crests, and then it stretches, and then it kind of drapes and elegantly drags its way into a subtle vibrato. These are my favorite kinds of choruses, the kinds of choruses that just don't sound like typical choruses!! 

The melody lilts and almost wobbles until it sails forward. Her voice might be more whispery on other tracks, but it's so full on this one... "Midnight Train," just like your new song "Northern Country Trail," is something meant for traipsing, for slow hikes, preferably illuminated only delicately by a yellow dawn or a red-orange dusk. Acoustic music is always my favorite thing to listen to in the darkest days of winter, because they bring me back out to the warmness of an outdoorsy vibe, which is certainly the case here. But let's talk about those quiet bongos... Bongos? Congas? What am I hearing in there...? I love the tender chimes that follow the first chorus, embossed by that pulse-slowing piano. If we choreographed a very slow, dance-like walk, each step would match up with those pianos or those chimes. It would be like the music video for "Billie Jean," only... in a forest, and with patches of dirt or moss lighting up as we stepped upon them... Have I gone off the rails? What better track to do it with...

Also, I'm smitten with, again, the subtlety... The subtlety of that guitar that comes in before the final chorus... What does that add, for you? 

Tell me everything,

"the bittersweet-ness" 


It’s true, a new song of my own is in the world, it feels wonderful. It's mixed with the joy I feel, not only from this experience of writing to you about this music, but from this 5th track in particular. Midnight Train raises the bar of this whole record. It’s winding elements transpires the intelligence of those that came before it. I feel its production is flawless. Its acrobatic melody is innovative, ecstatic, and nuanced. This song gives me goose bumps. 

It’s no surprise you’re feeling this song's careful languid march with the water drop like timbre of the percussion.  With the addition of the lyric’s imagery: the swell of feeling in this song’s characters, the metaphorical and physical movement, the dawn breaking, I’m right there with you feeling like I’m pushed forward, out of civil twilight. 

This song is perfectly adorned by its supporting musical arrangement.  The conga’s, the bells, the piano, the ethereal drones off in the distance, all create a mood I’ve yet to feel on Mended Vessel so far. Though, these elements aren’t making their first appearance on this record. I think that speaks to the beautiful math of this songs construction. 

That new mood I feel on Midnight Train could accommodate such a woodland spectacle as you're imagining in a video. Though, something is more bittersweet in Midnight Train for me. A bittersweet-ness that invigorates the soul.  Though, considering your vision, I’m left to question if light-up moss and bittersweet-ness can co-exist. Though, I think Billie Jean contains bittersweet-ness so I’m drawn to say yes. 

I, like you, love the subtlety of that supporting electric guitar in at 1:54. There’s a bit of hesitation here. There’s a little blip, a little hiccup, in the delivery of this joyously mid-range, roomy electric melody. While I appreciate the musicianship of a slick delivery, I’m always more drawn to humanness, rough edges, and hearing fingers and picks in addition to strings. This kind of move is very much in line with my own production aesthetic.  

Though, there’s some conjecture here.  I’m assuming that in production of Mended Vessel, with multiple takes of this particular part, Audra and crew chose this specific take over one that had a more consistent volume. Though, for all I know the part is designed exactly that way. It’s quite possible they chose this particular moment for its accuracy, which is designed to seem inaccurate. Whichever path got them here, I’m thankful. It reminds me of the line “The imperfect is our paradise”, from Wallace Steven’s “Poems of our Climate”. Imperfection adds a specific kind of detail, one that has impact on the listener. I’ve learned from the production of J Dilla, and broadly through Jazz: when things fall out rhythm it’s human nature to pay more attention. 


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