US - Rhode Island - Full Moon 90 - 02/06/04
Black Forest/Black Sea
Forcefields And Constellations
I hadn't heard of this young band until the day they turned up in Oslo one cold forsaken evening
in January. A friend called and told they recently had contributed to a Pearls Before Swine/Tom Rapp
tribute sampler. And the line-up included guitar, electronics - and cello. Along with the appealing
band name this stirred my curiosity enough. The duo is on a four months'(!) European tour at the
moment. The Oslo gig was to some extent limited because the male part of the band, Jeffrey Alexander,
had slipped on the ice earlier the same day, fallen on and damaged his guitar. And his strange
additional guitar wasn't very easy to keep in tune. But they managed to accomplish the gig anyhow.
It was straighter and warmer (in spite of the temperature outside!) than expected and even included
a different version of Robert Wyatt's most sincere moment, "Sea Song". No wonder I had to buy the
band's second and brand new album afterwards.
Forcefields And Constellations is a harsher and less available album than the concert
suggested. Both Jeffrey and in particular cello player Miriam Goldberg seem to be classically trained
musicians who got fed up and wanted to produce weirder and freer sounds than written scores could
offer. There are lots of effects around, echo in particular. The music has been described as glitchy
improv-chamber-folk. The band members don't know what that mean, but think it sounds cool. I guess
it gives you a clue. To me their sound is not so far from the home-produced experimental stuff with
or without electronics usually released on cassettes I used to listen to way back in the good ol'
1980s. The opening and closing track of the album, "Orion" and "Jamestown", are filled with
improvisations and effects. They might even be misinterpreted as tuning the first time around,
especially the latter can drive you nuts if you're unprepared. Other tracks are beautiful, melancholic,
challenging, gloomy - even eerie. But living in Providence, Rhode Island, where
H.P. Lovecraft once wandered about, you
can't really blame them. It might be easy to dismiss Black Forest/Black Sea for being dilettantish.
On the other hand they have a certain something extra. "These Things" is a beautiful little song
with backward effects that gives me shivers every time. "F vs. BF/BS" (the track contains a sample
by Fursaxa...) is a very different instrumental piece, but attacks the same dorsal vertebras of
my spine as the former. And the packaging of the CD in a transparent envelope is also worth mentioning,
simple and elegant.
Black Forest/Black Sea will play about everywhere on a free night along their route if they
get a place to stay overnight. I guess you might hire them for your local pub (and maybe even your
sitting-room?) if their path crosses yours. You can find details of the ongoing tour at the band's
home page. And Forcefields And Constellations
is available from BlueSanct.
Copyright © 2004 JP