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Artist: Thomas Farella & Kevin Schaefer
Label: Earthboys  
Length: 7 tracks

Porte Des Morts

During my college stay, I decided to take a break from the usual string of required classes - the ones that really have no application to your chosen field of study, but some university beauracrat still feels you need to take them - and took a World Music class. Officially, it was to fulfill a multicultural credit, but personally, I took it because I thought it'd be nice change of pace. It was during this time that my awareness of music beyond the radio dial had its beginnings, and I thought there'd be no better way to feed this awareness than by studying the music of other cultures. It was also during this time that I discovered ambient music. 

Before long, I discovered that I could combine my two newfound interests in the form of artists such as Banco De Gaia, Robert Rich, and O Yuki Conjugate. Here was music that didn't seem like music, at least, not the kind of music I had purchased before. No, this was something else, like long lost "messages in a bottle" from some dying civilization that existed long before mankind. Or maybe it was the closest I could come to experiencing an altered state of consciousness without really doing anything illegal. 

It'd be very easy to lump Effigy into the whole "ethno-ambient" camp. But the more I listen to this disc, the less sure I become of that label. The disparate sounds that seem to detach themselves from my speakers sound "ethnic" and "tribal," but only if you mean "ethnic" in the sense of an alien culture. There's something ultimately unsettling about this album. There's a very, very fine line between being a masterful sound sculptor who takes unrelated sounds and creates something more with it, and someone who just throws random drones, whistlings, and percussion into a studio, presses "Record" and calls it good. Thomas Farella, Kevin Schaefer, and their collaborators walk this line, and skirt dangerously close to the latter category. 

Overall, I'd compare Effigy to Tertium Non Data's The Third Is Not Given, which was another attempt at sonic alchemy. At times, I can see the direction the music was heading, somehow the elements came together and for a brief moment, it all makes beautiful sense. But more often than not, I find myself waiting and wandering if all of the synthesizers and ambient tendencies (of which there are many) are going to be anything close to something greater than the sum of its parts. It just feels like something is lacking, like the musicians were tossing out ideas and hoping some of them would come together and create a song. Maybe if there were visuals to go with the music, or a strong narrative that used the music for what it's probably best suited for, background music. 

The liner says that all of this music was improvisational, and that almost always sets off an alarm in my head. I don't normally like improv music, simply because it just reminds me of bad jazz fusion and progressive rock. I am impressed with quality and lushness of many of the songs, especially since it was recorded to 2-track. I just wish that the music had a bit more focus, that in the end, someone gathered together all of the loose strands that flow through this disc and had woven them together a little more tightly. 

Jason Morehead 5/29/2000

Jason Morehead is also the publisher of Opuszine, a webzine devoted to independent music and cult cinema.  All of his reviews can also be found at http://www.opuszine.com



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