Lolasister - Infinite Jest

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-06-15
Lolasister - Infinite Jest
Lolasister - Infinite Jest

Graham Parker wrote a song called “Passion Is No Ordinary Word.” And this album possesses that diction of the heart. This is an intense and beautiful listen.

The band term their music “Pessimistic Pop: Songs for daydreamers and anyone who wants to be one.” Well, fair enough. But I hear the late-night warmth of a cool pool of reflection. This is basically folk music, as it walks through a jazz mirror, and finds a glade of subtle rock color.

They are certainly a different band, but The Tindersticks come to mind. As do the ECM albums by vocalist Norma Winstone or her records with John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler in the band Azimuth. And, to cast the net further into that pool of reflection, I hear an echo of the Heaven-sent Billie Holiday, the great Danish band The Savage Rose with vocalist extraordinaire Annisette, who can calm the dark heavens, and Tim Buckley’ s languid masterworks, Blue Afternoon and Happy Sad.

So, let’s just say lead singer Leoni Altheer soothes the troubled waters over which, the great composer Paul Simon, constructed a musical bridge. It’s that kind of music. “Infinite Jest” is the first song. It is keyboard driven (magically) by Luzius Schuler who subtly supports the folk song that does match the complexity of Joni Mitchell’s work. Sibyl Hofstetter sings a strong harmony. The organ swells. Benedikt Utzinger’s drumming and Jeremias Keiler’s bass are rock steady in a quiet way, and they tether the ethereal voices to an almost Band-like “Whispering Pines” earthy beat.

By the way, this title song, “Infinite Jest,” references (with reverence) the novel of the same name by David Foster Wallace.1

“A Coloured Image of the Sun” is a bit more up-tempo. Again, this is a highly melodic folk song that is fulfilled with the simpatico backing of drums, bass, and an expansive organ. And then friends chime into the mix with sundry woodwinds that add a jazz flavor to the tune. And this jazz possesses the same magical muted beauty that is Lolasister’s signature sound.  The lyrics reflect eclectic interests like “books of French philosophy” (which haven’t been read), “a children’s clock on the wall,” “holy wine,” and “reflections on the guillotine.” So, if you’re hoping to hear Meat Loaf’s immortal lines from Rocky Horror, “Hot patootie, bless my soul/I really love that rock and roll.” Well, perhaps, this record may not be a wise choice.

But there is quite a bit to investigate in the words as they (to almost quote Procol Harum) wander through the playing cards of these songs.

“How to Find It (or at Least Where to Look for It)” is yet another oddly melodic tune. This is a simple guitar song that blossoms with an impassioned vocal, that warm organ, backing vocals, and more horns. Truly, these are beautiful songs, but it’s an obtuse beauty. It’s the beauty of a tintype, or perhaps, it’s a beauty like an Egyptian mummy wrapped with loving devotion from long ago.

But this is folk music. It’s folk music with wonderful vocals that rise and fall with that passion mentioned in Graham Parker’s song.

Odd, this is intensely honest music, yet it is commercial enough to make any coffee house a bit richer in conversation and reflection.

“Zoo” ventures into a melodic jazzy outer space. There is interplay among the instruments that surround the essence of the song. Leoni Altherr’s guitar anchors the tune, as the piano pushes the melody into the cosmos.

The final song (this EP is just too short), “Birds on Wires,” offers more of the cinematic folk-jazz-rock montage as vocals, harmony voices, the absolutely wonderful keyboard work, and a gentle engine room of drum and bass simply create a beautiful world of music that is colored by organic sounds.

This may well be a jazz album

This may well be a rock album.

And, ultimately, this is an album of music that touches the soil of the Earth, and yet somehow manages to admire the constellations. It fuses the sounds of blues, rock, jazz, folk, and even the vibrations of a passing asteroid as it waves its way by to all the possible next of kin. So, the band sings, “Let’s build a tower to the sky.” That’s a nice idea. Yeah, this music builds a tower that babbles, in a very human way,  as Graham Parker sang as a bit of a prayer to the heavens, that passion is not an ordinary word.

 

1David Foster Wallace was an American writer who made an art form of the footnote. These footnotes were clarifications, plot explanations, and general observations (sometimes quite witty) by the author (aka David Foster Wallace). In his book Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, he clarified (in footnote form) the misnomer that lobsters scream as they are placed in hot water; rather the “sound is really steam vented from a layer of seawater between the lobster’s flesh and its carapace.” He also explains that lobsters “communicate via pheromones in their urine and don’t have anything close to the vocal equipment for screaming.” Now, truly, I don’t really care for lobster, but I never met a scallop I didn’t enjoy. That said, and because I have always enjoyed a good footnote (especially in Dante’s Inferno), I will use this opportunity to say I prefer the original piano only version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition way better that the orchestrated Ravel setting. But, truly, my devotion to that piece of classical music is solely due to Emerson, Lake and Palmer and their own rocked up version which is a bit of an over-blown exercise in excessive prog, and I don’t think Modest Mussorgsky really needed Greg Lake to supply lyrics to his composition to make his point. But I like it. And it was a nice means to an even nicer ending. So, I am thankful to many pop musicians for opening the doors of perception to many classics. And, of course, this very album by Lolasister does that very thing. Sure, it is quite commercial, and I hope it sells a lot copies, but it could well be the gateway to the artistry of David Foster Wallace, much like Genesis’ “Watcher of the Skies” led me to Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and a Deep Purple cover showed the beauty of Hieronymus Bosch’s art.  And that is a very great thing to do.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, says that footnotes should be used to speculate about possibilities in the text. For example, while speculating on a parallel universe, one in which very different evolutionary twists and turns somehow put two lobsters in a restaurant discussing (still through pheromones in their urine) about the sounds made by humans in the pot on the kitchen stove and, wanting to avoid any “populist myth, they conclude that those humans, while certainly being able to urinate, do “have the vocal equipment for screaming”; so when those humans are thrown into boiling hot water, there may be steam escaping from somewhere , but in truth, they are, well, actually screaming because, with centigrade certainty, and to quote Meat Loaf once again, there really is a “hot patootie” on the burner. The possibility also exists that the two lobsters could, at this point, chuckle a little bit with the help of very happy pheromones in their discharged urine, which is, as before noted, still their only means of communication because, even in a parallel universe, there’s only so much that can be done (even by mighty evolution) with an exoskeletal chassis.

Still, because this is a footnote about David Foster Wallace, it should be noted that he committed suicide. He was only forty-seven years old. He was a funny, brilliant, and very human man. You know, the equally great Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once wrote, “So it goes.” Sure, but he also wrote, “Still waters run deep.” That’s obviously true for David Foster Wallace, but is also true for this wonderful record that takes the time to bear witness to his greatness.

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