FareWell Poetry: Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite
Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite is the debut album from FareWell Poetry, a mini-collective that pairs Parisian musicians Frederic D. Oberland (electric guitar, autoharp, field recordings, music box, keyboards, crystal glass), Eat Gas (electric guitar, bass, glockenspiel), Colin Johnco (machines), and Stanislas Grimbert (drums, percussions) with Anglo-saxon poet Jayne Amara Ross, who contributes texts, Super 8- and 16-mm hand-processed films, and tape recorder to FareWell Poetry's haunted sound (the album also features contributions from Gaspar Claus on cello, violinist Christelle Lassort, trumpeter Uspudo, and electric guitarist Dave Olliffe). In some ways, the group's approach updates the spoken word tradition associated with the 1960s bohemian scene where beat poets accompanied by improvising jazz musicians unleashed stream-of-consciousness raps in smoke-filled basement cafes. Listening to Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite, one might also be reminded of The Velvet Underground performing at The Factory, with all of the visual spectacle attendant upon such a “happening,” as one more precursor to FareWell Poetry. One shouldn't make too much of such references, however, as the mesmerizing Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite is radically unlike the material others before them have issued (its texts are anything but off-the-cuff, for example); certainly the deluxe treatment Gizeh has given the release, with the CD supplemented by a DVD disc containing forty minutes of material, enhances the impression made by the project.
The album's twenty-minute epic “As True as Troilus,” its text referencing the tragic tale of Troilus and Cressida that one most naturally associates with Shakespeare's 1602 play, artfully segues from passages of delicate restraint to frenzied freakout, with the group's musicians sympathetically wrapping their collective sounds around Amara Ross's dramatic whisper. Prodded by a mournful wave of E-bow guitars, the music slowly builds in intensity until it deflates midway through, as if readying itself for the even more intense climb undertaken during the second half. A subsequent passage finds chiming guitars accompanying shifts between dreamlike and mournful moods until, fourteen minutes in, the music detonates with an immolating fury that's almost overwhelming.
Strip away the voiceover and instrumentally the group could at times pass for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. That's especially evident during the instrumental moodscaping that occurs during the two-part “All in the Full, Indomitable Light of Hope,” and especially during those moments where electric guitar, glockenspiel, and strings collectively generate elegiac atmospheres. Both groups also share an affinity for slow builds and cathartic climaxes, something clearly heard on FareWell Poetry's album in “As True as Troilus” and in the second part of “All in the Full, Indomitable Light of Hope” when the pieces build to crushing climaxes. Without wishing to stretch the connection too far, even the sombre, piano-laden coda “In Dreams Airlifted Out” suggests kinship between the two outfits. Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite's four tracks were performed in the studio live (though re-recorded to add the natural reverb of the Saint-Margaret of Antioch Church in Leeds to the resultant sound), and as such the material exudes a freshness and spontaneity, the material structured certainly but definitely coming to life in-the-moment.
In featuring Amara Ross's black-and-white film treatment of “As True as Troilus” as well as a bonus live performance shot at Saint-Eustache Church in Paris, the DVD proves to be considerably more than a minor add-on. The twenty-minute film production has Jean Cocteau's Le Sang d'un poète (Blood of a Poet) and La Belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast) and David Lynch's Eraserhead as precursors (one might also cite Guy Maddin's entire filmography) to the chiaroscuro visual style used in the FareWell Poetry piece. The visuals display a scratchy, time-worn look that reinforces the hallucinatory, even surreal character of the film content. In certain moments the images, sometimes violent and sexual in nature, are duplicated on left and right sides of the screen and include figures dancing, hands sewing, and a ship at rest in a harbour (additional background details relating to the film are included in an insert, along with the texts for “As True as Troilus” and “All in the Full, Indomitable Light of Hope”). Put simply, Ross's powerful piece brings an entirely new dimension to the CD version of the piece. The twenty-minute live presentation is compelling in its own way too in the way it humanizes the group's ethereal sound by showing the musicians and Ross, like some modern-day enchantress, bringing “As True as Troilus” into being before a small but appreciative audience.