Crossing Of Shadows
Improvised and recorded “at the Luna County Observatory and outdoors within the shadows of Hell Gate,” orchestramaxfieldparrish's Crossing Of Shadows was recorded during the summer of 2006 and subsequently released in a private pressing in summer of 2007, and now appears in a fully remastered form for public consumption. It wouldn't be stretching things too much to say that the respective characters of the recording locales are manifested by the music, given that its six dark lamentations are both ethereal and earthy. It also wouldn't be reading too much into the album's elegiac tone in noting that the album is dedicated to Jeff Ladd, a dear friend of Fazio's who co-founded Faith Strange, played with him in Life With The Lions (among many group ventures), and passed away on May 21st, 2010. As such, one could quite legitimately hear Crossing Of Shadows as a memento mori, though one whose journey might begin in darkness and despair but is finally imbued with hope. As the saying goes, from tragedy great art is born, and the principle applies here too, as Fazio transmutes the great personal pain he endured into a moving fifty-two-minute statement that could be the most personalized work he's ever produced.
There's much to admire about the new release. On presentation grounds alone, it's striking, as Fazio prepared two limited editions of the release, the deluxe version a hardcover book-bound edition (75 copies) and the other a Japanese-style mini-LP sleeve (225 copies). Part of the recording's appeal is that it sounds almost nothing like Fazio's previous orchestramaxfieldparrish recording The Silent Breath of Emptiness, Fazio's thinking being that repeating a previous release's sound is pointless. It's a more sonically expansive recording than its predecessor, for one. Whereas the earlier recording focused on a purer distillation of guitar-generated textures and tones, the new album brings into its orbit field recordings (untreated and heavily treated) and piano while it at the same time downplays the guitar's presence, at least in so far as it appears in recognizable manner. It's an album that's also best served by a surround sound playback so that the multi-dimensional distribution of its elements can be experienced. Spatial positioning in this case transcends simple foreground-background determinations; instead, entire geographical expanses are suggested by the album's material.
The album begins with the magnificently realized rumination “Thirst (Revisitation),” so named because it originally appeared as part of the soundtrack to the Caligari: An Exquisite Corpse DVD project. After first rising out of the gloom like a softly moaning spectre, the piece builds gradually in intensity, its elements filling in and spreading into the space, until a lethal metallic drone detonates with a violent clang and thereby opens the gates to a flood of spectral noises. Ethereal creaking sounds whistle until they're supplanted by a low-level rumble and crackle, with the volume level and intensity continually shifting. “On Nine Mile Marsh” then unfolds like a patient scanning of a lunar surface alien territory, after which the brooding nocturnal ambiance of “Mystery by Moonlight” appears, enhanced by the inclusion of cricket thrum and an overall sense of dreamlike calm that nevertheless contains an undercurrent of turbulence and threat. Near the end of the piece, the musical elements fade away altogether, leaving in their wake the cricket drone accompanied by the sound of footsteps trudging through the undergrowth at three in the morning.
An intentional moment of silence separates parts one and two, the gesture signalling a subtle shift in tone towards a second half that plays like a requiem of sorts, even while flickers of light seep into its material as if to posit the possibility of rebirth and hope. “A Walk Amongst the Raindrops” unfurls peacefully with the flutter of spindly textures gently prodded by a whisper-soft shuffling rhythm, and then takes a meditative turn in its second half when a speaking voice recites text in a foreign tongue and acoustic piano playing appears. Only once does the album recall the sound-world of The Silent Breath of Emptiness, and that's in the closing piece “Lament (“The end is where we start from, a new beginning always begins with an end.” “…Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is…”),” which pairs celestial streams of guitar-generated material with piano chords—the ethereal and earthy united a final time.There's a certifiably enigmatic quality to the album that enhances its appeal, and one of the mysteries, naturally enough, concerns the identity of the speaker in “A Walk Amongst the Raindrops” and an account of what he says (though one presumes that the speaker is Fazio, there's nothing to confirm unequivocally that it is so). This is a recording that is not only a superb addition to the orchestramaxfieldparrish discography but also a beautiful tribute that honours Ladd's memory in dignified manner.