Review of Between You And The Shapes You Take [12k1078]

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An anonymous listener of the inital demo recording of the second collaborative album by Richmond based musicians and sound artists Stephen Vitiello and Molly Berg said: “I’ve fallen face first into a machine that erases the memories of an ended relationship as if it were a sound instead of a real life that fell in love with the girl again in the end”. I’m pretty sure that these words managed to get a few smiles out of the authors of this sonic gem, which tunefully overlapped the gentle vocals of Molly Berg, who often adds clarinet and thin percussions as well, and (acoustic and baritone) guitar, modular synthesizer, loops and measured processing by Stephen Vitiello, whose work – named after a verse of the 32nd stanza of Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Man with the Blue Guitar” (in turn partially inspired by Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”) – could persuade Micheal O.Stagman to update his essay “Checklist of Musical Compositions Relating to Stevens” by means of an afterword. Unlike their previous collaborative release “the Gorilla Variations” which was recorded in Vitiello’s office at school, “Between You And The Shapes You Take” was recorded in a proper studio; each recording session is the result of edited improvisations, which according to Stephen’s words came without any proper score: “Things tend to go best when Molly and I don’t speak beforehand or plan anything for the recording beyond a time to meet and to begin. We’ll play for as long as we can and generally find that the beginnings and endings are implied in the performance.”. Even if this album could sound vaguely melancholic, the main features of their music consists of a sensuous binding between idyllic suggestions, imaginative exfoliations and wobbling ethereal morphing so that listener’s imagination could produce figments which are other than eraser machines. For instance, Molly’s angelic hums over stretched and reversed tones, whistles and noises which are similar to the noise a bark makes when it got stripped off on the initial “From Here”, which sound reprised later on “Recap” where the violin by Hahn Rowe – former member of Hugo Largo – is more clearly audible, could make you envisage a wood-nymph while getting out of the tree she was resting in, while the sweeet tonal paste which got blended by Molly’s warbling (almost an all in one with her whistles and gentle guitar plucking while rendering a sort of a gradual swooming) on the following “Back Again” will make you imagine saccharine resins getting out of the tree while that nymph finishes her meioisis. Each element of this “orchestra” sounds somehow spotlighted in many moments of the album: for instance Molly’s astonishing voice reaches the most entrancing pinnacles on tracks like “Voice Loopsize”, processed guitar prevails on other elements on the heady liquefaction of “Easy Travel” or the effulgent “Five Was 5” and clarinet (together with a set of impressive noises which could remind the noise of rubbing on wet gum or the popping of electric flyswatter) shines by shaded nuances on “Clarinet Assembly”, while Stephen’s baritone guitar stands out on “Baritone Final” when Molly just emits feeble lulling hums. It’s going to make you lapse into lovely daydreaming.

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