Elintseeker: Geography of the Heart

While Elintseeker is Fuzz Lee's solo project, Geography of the Heart is hardly a solo album. Numerous guests contribute to its dozen pieces, and their contributions amount to something considerably more than window dressing. With Noël Akchoté aboard, for instance, “In the Air, Across the Sea, On the Way Home” becomes, in essence, a solo vehicle for the French jazz guitarist, and American singer-songwriter Jessica Bailiff, guitarist Scott Cortez (lovesliescrushing), and Shunichiro Fujimoto (Fjordne) are some of the other well-known names who enhance the songs on which they appear.

But while guests do figure significantly into the fifty-two-minute presentation, Lee is clearly the one in charge. He composed, mixed, and produced the material, and, though he's credited with bass, field recordings, electronics, and vocals, it's his guitar playing (acoustic, nylon string, electric) that is the album's unifying thread. On paper, Geography of the Heart would appear to invite an electronica classification, yet its connection to the genre is generally tangential; if anything, the album plays like a collection of soothing folk-pop settings whose melodies the Singaporean Lee has fleshed out with a rich array of sounds, electronic and otherwise.

There's much to enjoy, from enveloping guitar-drenched reveries (“Letters To Reja,” “Große Schiffgasse”) to pastoral ambient meditations (“Assistens Kirkegården”). With Lee's acoustic strumming accompanying Junya Yanagidaira's (ironomi) jazz-styled piano, “Kraków Gardens” is very much in the elegant ambient-electronic style one associates with labels such as Kitchen. and Schole. If there's an album standout, it's the gentle title track, to a large degree because of the appealing vocal duet by Lee and Japanese singer Ferri, as well as the stirring melodic character of the song. At nearly eight minutes, the song comes into focus gradually, with sultry vocal lines and an electric guitar solo emerging after a two-minute intro and the song cresting as it reaches its dream-like climax. It's hardly the release's only memorable moment, however: Lee and Bailiff trade vocal lines to powerful effect in “Where the Two Rivers Kiss in Belgrade,” wordless emoting by Macedonian singer Genoveva Kachurkova elevates “Up Wawel Hill,” and Ferri quietly entrances once more during “Strasswalchen in November.”

One of the most unexpected and surprising things about Geography of the Heart—even if the title does offer a preliminary clue—is how sensual its music is. Not surprisingly, the vocal settings are suffused with warmth and tenderness, but the instrumentals are also delicate, a quality enhanced by the music's oft-acoustic emphasis. The material is in places so soothing, it suggests the kind of music that would be playing in a dimly lit bedroom as two lovers lie in a state of post-coital bliss. In keeping with that sensuality, Geography of the Heart is very much a painterly album, one enriched by tiny details and open-hearted feeling.

September 2015