Andrew Weathers Ensemble: Build A Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall
Full Spectrum Records

Andrew Weathers' latest ensemble collection is a panoramic suite that weaves various strands in American music-making into a vibrant whole. From sunblinded vocal drones and instrumental folk to classical minimalism and dazed psychedelia, the ambitious song-cycle features contributions from no less than eighteen individuals, with everything from strings (violin, fiddle, cello), woodwinds (flute, oboe, bass clarinet, and alto, soprano, and tenor saxophones), guitars (acoustic, electric), keyboards (electric piano, piano, organ, synthesizer), upright bass, accordion, and percussion (marimba, vibraphone) folded into the mix; field recordings and computer also factor into the production, as do vocals by CJ Boyd, Blaine Todd, and Weathers.

The work's utopian spirit can be attributed, at least in part, to Weathers' recent obsession with the Industry Workers of the World's Little Red Songbook (1909), a collection of union songs, hymns, and anthems about dismantling capitalism and giving power back to the workers. As an independent artist attempting to forge a living within a capitalist society, it's not altogether surprising that the book's contents would prove so inspirational (the project also came about as Weathers experienced a major life transition in moving from Oakland, California to Littlefield, Texas).

However lyrically provocative the project is, it's the musical presentation that hits hardest. Though nine separate tracks are presented (split between vocal and instrumental pieces), the album plays like a suite of connecting parts, from the slow blossom of the placid, guitar-laden overture “The Proper Dream Always Projects The Phantom” to the peaceful resolution wrought by the set-ending “Tule Rush / Tule Mind.” A quietly uplifting spirit animates the dirge “I Am Left Buried Where I've Been,” which merges the naturalism of Weathers' earnest vocal delivery and dramatic guitar flourishes with the shimmer of Reich-styled marimba and keyboard pulsations. As affecting is the supplicating vocal meditation “The Light Pulse Earth Grid is a Channel,” where Weathers emotes expressively alongside a slow-motion blaze of guitars, accordions, and synthesizers, and the gentle, hymn-like “Astral Swords (Nine - A Future).”

While surprises regularly occur, from a proggy synthesizer that surfaces during “I Am Left Buried Where I've Been” to the unusual juxtaposition of acoustic guitar picking and swelling synthesizer drones within “Uplift! Infinite Fracturing,” the ensemble's nucleus remains guitar playing and the leader's voice. A bounty of instrument sounds constellates around that core, making for an ever-engaging presentation. Weathers' songwriting is consistently strong, but it's the dazzle incurred by the Ensemble's kaleidoscopic sprawl that argues most vehemently on the recording's behalf.

September 2017