Strings of Consciousness: Our Moon is Full
Central Control

To the band's credit, electroacoustic outfit Strings of Consciousness founds Our Moon is Full on a novel and inspired concept: rather than recording eight improvs, the octet builds cinematic and generally disturbed, noir-like song settings around distinguished guest vocalists like J.G. Thirwell (aka Foetus) and Barry Adamson. Strings of Consciousness often merges its individual voices—Philippe Petit (laptop), Alison Chesley (cello), Andy Diagram (trumpet), Stefano Tedesco (vibraphone), Hervé Vincenti (guitars), Raphaelle Rinaudo (harp), Pierre Fenichel (double bass), Perceval Bellone (saxophone)—into a densely textured mass with saxophone, cello, and vibes occasionally rising to the surface to humanize the group's experimental style. There's an equal amount of spoken word on the record as there is singing, with many contributors (Pete Simonelli, Black Sifichi) reciting texts instead of singing them.

After the clarion call of Perceval Bellone's saxophone inaugurates “Asphodel,” the group jarringly juxtaposes percussive exotica with Thirwell's multi-tracked vocals (oddly reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young). In “Crystallize It,” Scott McCloud (Girls Against Boys) venomously spits his words over a grimy wall of congealing guitar noise while Adamson spreads his gravelly voice across the crushing jazz-noir of “Sonic Glimpses.” The nine-minute “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness” provides Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) with ample room to recite his lyrics, at first calmly and then desperately, alongside the group's poisonous, festering broil.

Though Our Moon is Full's first half is generally heavy, even oppressive, moments of light break through during the relatively slower second. The gloom lifts, for example, in the bright interlude “Defrost_Oven” featuring Lisa Smith-Klossner's wordless vocalizing. Abetted by Raphaelle Rinaudo's harp and Tedesco's vibes, Black Sifichi recites his poetry over the quiet ambient flourishes of “While the Sun Burns Out Another Sun,” with the piece's meandering, ten-minute development replicating the “stream of consciousness” narrative technique that inspired the group's name. A daring and courageous project in many respects, Our Moon is Full is uneasy listening for sure but auspicious nonetheless.

February 2008