Distorted, twisted, haunting and hard to fathom
Aquarius Records | San Francisco | 10/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Daniel Higgs is a very strange man. Or maybe we should say, Daniel (Arcus Incus Ululat) Higgs, Interdimensional Song-Seamstress, is a very strange man. His artwork is amazing and bizarre, Spock ears and eye-balled Christmas trees, emaciated figures riding strange hellish beasts, an amazing personal mythology represented as a menagerie of impossible and impossibly beautiful figures and beasts. His music seems to somehow embody the same mystery, a world that Higgs inhabits simultaneously to his presence in our own. That must be the only thing that can truly explain the man and his music. That he walks around, one foot in our world, of people places and things, the other in some kaleidoscopic world where sounds are tasted and sights are smelled, a synesthetic wonderland, that when translated and brought over to our plain of existence, appears distorted, twisted, haunting and hard to fathom. But at the same time imbued with some otherworldly warmth and a beauty that while alien, represents a higher state, maybe unreachable here.
That is Higgs' gift. He is a traveler and a troubadour. He allows us to see visions, to hear musical mysteries. Through paintings, drawings, tattoos and especially music. From the moment we first heard his 'rock' band Lungfish we were smitten. Actually, the very first time we heard Lungfish was in a record store in another town, years ago. Our first thought was "What the hell is this?" But after several more songs, we were compelled to sheepishly approach the counter and ask the clerk what was playing. We bought it, and loved it. And maybe that's the magic of Higgs' music. It's esoteric and not always approachable. It takes some trust, a leap of faith, some sonic daring. But that faith is always repaid many times over. Outside of Lungfish, Higgs also plays in the Pupils along with his Lungfish bandmate Asa, a more intimate stripped down version of his rock band. The same cyclical riffs and chant like vocals, but all acoustic, and sparsely arranged. There is also his amazing sort-of Appalachian solo guitar work, and his very very strange solo Jew's harp recordings.
This disc is Higgs' first proper solo release and manages to tie up all his disparate sonic threads into one big gorgeous Gordian knot. Several tracks sound like they could have come straight off the Pupils record. Simple, haunting acoustic guitar riffs, repeated and repeated until they becomes totally hypnotic, mantra like, with Higgs' gorgeous vocals over the top, a mix of old timey sea shanty and folk standard. The rest drift dreamily from sound to sound, like a sonic journey through the soul of the man. Gorgeous tangles of banjo or some banjo-like instrument drift amidst field recordings of birds (knowing Higgs it may have been actually recorded right there in the woods, although he has been known to travel with a portable recorder to capture whatever strikes his fancy) a steel string buzz, that wanders from near traditional sounding Appalachian twang to some sort of jaunty Celtic melody to brief melodic flurries, impossibly buzzy and blurry. Thick swaths of buzzing guitar swirl and squirm, doomy, melancholy melodies spread out over a machine like whir, sounding like a guitar being played like a bagpipe. While over the top drifts tiny tangles of steel string picking all drenched in strange FX and allowed to twist and distort, sounding almost the way a Jew's harp does when you change the shape of your mouth. And as if pre-ordained (which it most likely was), out comes the Jew's harp, but it sounds like no Jew's harp you've ever heard. Super brittle and distorted, like some sort of metallic marimba, or a Konono outtake broadcast via shortwave and played through a crappy transistor radio. A gorgeous buzzy abstract hoedown.
Finally, the record winds up (most definitely not down) with a thick swirl of super lo-fi psych guitar freakout, the chords and notes bent and twisted, pitches slipping back and forth, overtones subtly shifting, notes colliding and exploding into little bursts of jagged buzz before settling back into a droning hypnotic thrum. Like some alien jig, if aliens had a practice space full of strangely tuned guitars and really loud amps with blown speakers. And again, it sounds like somehow Higgs figured out a way to hold the guitar up to his mouth and play it like a Jew's harp, the sounds changing shape as much as tone, a warm and fuzzed out smear of distorted buzz that washes over you, as does this whole sonic scripture, like a shower of rich wet soil and sparkling uncut diamonds."
Mordikai Crump | Olympia, WA | 10/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Okay, Daniel Higgs is amazing and a musical genius. I have an album of his played entirely on mouth harp. This album uses some mouth harp, some folk song craft and some things that sound like his great band Lungfish. I thought that many of the songs were reminiscent of Amps for Christ and later Michael Gira type stuff. Different and the same."