Jherek Bischoff - Composed (The Leaf Label)
I should fess up, I’m a sucker for chamber pop. We can agree that Van Dyke Parks was the chief pioneer in this area – the man is one of my heroes – and the whiff of VDP floats around this album like a warm embrace, in its showtune interludes, beautifully subtle keyshifts and full use of every orchestral voice.
Actually, “chamber” is a moot point – you could say orchestral – but I’d stick with the word on the basis of the winning personal and intimate atmosphere all through.
The guest vocal turns will attract most of the headlines – David Byrne, Caetano Veloso, Dawn McCarthy, Mirah Zeitlyn, Zac Pennington, SoKo, and more. What’s really impressive though is how the changing musical setting for each voice is perfectly judged, each arrangement retaining its integrity and being all the more moving for it.
Here’s some other stuff I love about the album.
-It has David Byrne and Caetano Veloso singing on it.
-The opposite and complementary lilt in Byrne’s voice on ‘Eyes’, as it rides a fluttering orchestra.
-The lewd saxophone solo that breaks in on ‘Young and lovely’, giving a great, sleazy, waltzing twist to the otherwise cautionary tone of the song.
-The to-die for harp (or is it ukulele?), combining with tabla drums, on ‘Blossom’, sung by Bischoff himself, which, with more fluttering strings, achieves the majestic switch from torch song to Bollywood ballad, and on to noise wig-out via Nels Cline’s (Wilco) guitar shredding.
- The fact that Jherek Bischoff composed and arranged this whole album without any formal musical training.
-The cover of Bob Lind’s sublime ‘Counting’, with Carla Bozulich (Geraldine Fibbers) on tremulous vocals, which takes the dreamy, delicate original and gives it bass heft and an emotional string section oomph.
-The weight of the swinging cellos against Dawn McCarthy’s airy, soaring voice on ‘Insomnia, death and the sea’ – it’s a haunting combination.
-This quote from Jherek, from the Leaf website - http://www.theleaflabel.com/en/artists/view/55/Jherek%20Bischoff (you should read the rest of that interview too, it’s fascinating and hilarious)
I wanted to try to make pop music using only the orchestra - no guitars, no drum set, really no chordal instruments providing the harmonic content but just a bunch of single note instruments playing melodies creating the harmonies.
-The bird-swoop strings on ‘The nest’, which is also adorned with the gorgeous, expressive voice of Mirah Zeitlyn.
-The innovative, stuttering playout on ‘The secret of the machines’ which is quite simply inspirational. You also need to hear Veloso’s elegant, head-held-high vocal on this.
-The fact that anything could (and frequently does) happen at the drop of a hat.
-The gifted opening melody of ‘Your ghost’, with echoes of opera, dance or ballet to it, seguing into a brilliant brass backing to Craig Wedren’s dulcet vocal tones.
-The fact that the music is joyous and uplifting without feeling like any kind of a sell-out.
There's a full album stream over on The Line of Best Fit on this link - you should all take some time now to improve the quality of your day.