Wednesday, 23 June 2010

David Karsten-Daniels & Fight The Big Bull I Mean To Live Here Still (Fatcat)

David Karsten-Daniels and Fight The Big Bull’s new collaborative venture, I Mean To Live Here Still, is a beautifully fractured thing, managing to sound simultaneously of one cohesive mind and entirely diffuse, as though several totally separate visions have collided to form an improbable whole. You’d hardly place the two artists together - Karsten-Daniels’ soft-spoken folksy twang doesn’t exactly slot in neatly in the file alongside ‘nine piece jazz group’ – but it’s exactly that tension that ensures that when they hit, they hit like a tonne of bricks.

Third track ‘Die & Be Buried’ is a perfect example. If it were taken a capella it could easily be mistaken for pure gospel, the ghostly opening cadence building to a reverent whole, but beneath Daniels’ voice Fight The Big Bull open with a succession of minimalist brass flourishes that swell from beneath, lifting him even further to the heavens. Celebration gradually melts into dissonance, before exploding into triumphant life once again with the chorus. It’s the kind of unexpected fusion that Volcano Choir’s excellent Unmap album explored, although perhaps a little less accomplished than that project, which saw Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Collections Of Colonies Of Bees achieve a near-perfect synthesis of form and mood. Volcano Choir’s success, though, was largely due to the close similarities between both artists, sharing an earthy sense of freedom far removed from Fight The Big Bull’s jazz abstractions.

The moments when Karsten-Daniels and Fight The Big Bull gel most convincingly are those when each artists’ natural strengths are subsumed beneath the will of the music in its entirety. So the fantastic ‘On Fields’ begins as a gently strummed tale before shattering into glassy fragments, percussion dancing wildly around modal brass phrasing as the sense of panic escalates to breaking point. Similarly, an interlude in the centre of ‘Salmon Brook’ sees every player pull away from one another for a fraction of a second before launching into stammering, Reich-esque polyrhythms. It’s the most deliciously fragile moment in an album not short of similar ones, and serves as a highpoint to a thoughtful and often lovely record.

Words : Rory Gibb

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