VA: Lost Tribe Sound: One
How to characterize Lost Tribe Sound's first compilation? It's not an easy task, as the seventy-three-minute collection heads down multiple pathways during its twenty pieces. Words like bucolic, organic, and folktronic definitely come to mind, but they hardly tell the whole story. A scan of the contributors' names perhaps works better, as those conversant with the output of Part Timer, The Remote Viewer, Helios, Aaron Martin, Benoit Pioulard, Gavouna, and Brael already will have some good inkling of what to expect. Anything but abrasive, the compilation's overall vibe is soothing, warm, and heartwarming. Melody and atmosphere are paramount, and tracks are built using acoustic and electronic elements as needed.
The compilation comes to life immediately with “Bolivia,” a transporting weave of delicate acoustic guitar plucks and swooping cello melodies by William Ryan Fritch under his Vieo Abiungo moniker (more of his stately cello playing surfaces on “Cold Fingers Buttoning Sleeves,” which is credited to his birth name). Fritch vies for MVP status on the release by also adding sinuous strings to Tokyo Bloodworm's haunting electro-tribal setting “Old Friend Shaped of Light.” No slouch in the cello department himself, Aaron Martin contributes a beautiful piece, “Sea Wasp,” that exudes the mournfulness of an Arvo Part composition, and then guests along with chanteuse Heidi Elva on Part Timer's softly murmuring “Unfound.” John McCaffrey adds another Part Timer piece, this one a lullaby called “Creak” whose gentle melodica melodies interlace with downtempo electronic beats and acoustic guitars. Thomas Meluch elevates his entrancing Benoit Pioulard track “Aeolian Death Song” with a hypnotic vocal line (delivered in his customary multi-tracked blur) that travels upwards and downwards in step-wise fashion. But how nice it is to hear Meluch's voice sans multi-tracking during the stark acoustic version of the Pioulard track “Hirondelle”—also a lovely way to end the album. Helios contributes a typically stirring guitar-and- electronics setting (“Aside”), while Brael brings some rhythmic heft to the project when a funky hip-hop-inflected beat pattern underlays willowy radiance of synthetic colour during “Week of Wonders.” From Gavouna we get “Tricle-Rem,” a light-hearted and wistful piece for piano and acoustic guitar, and “Just Ondes,” a brief yet nevertheless charming setting for Ondes Martenot. Tracks by lesser-known artists (to me, at least) such as Ben Swire, Pollution Salute, Cock & Swan, Richard Crandell, and Children of the Wave appear too and all at least merit a listen.
There is, admittedly, somewhat of a patchwork character to the project but that's to be expected when such a large number of different artistic sensibilities are convened on a single release. But that's a small price to pay for the wealth of quality sounds offered by this solid collection. It bears worth mentioning that nearly every track was produced specifically for the release.
It's interesting that while many a new label issues a compilation as its inaugural release and then follows it with an artist album, Lost Tribe Sound has done the very opposite. That strategy might work against William Ryan Fritch as his Vieo Abiungo release, Blood Memory, which was issued earlier this year, can't capitalize on the compilation coming out before the solo project as a way of introducing the name and generating interest. Hopefully the album won't go unnoticed as it's a very fine recording by an immensely talented individual.
The Vieo Abiungo world is densely layered, sometimes raw and earthy, and oft-exotic. Not only is Fritch a songwriter and film composer but, being a self-taught player of over thirty instruments, he also gives new meaning to the word multi-instrumentalist (and even obsessively lists those used for each of the thirteen tracks). Familiar instruments such as violin, viola, cello, trombone, clarinet, acoustic guitar, flute, trumpet, and sax rub shoulders with less familiar sounds (sitar, erhu, tongue drum, mbira), which in turn lends the music a ‘world music' (or ‘fourth world music,' if you prefer) feel that's reinforced by the undulating string melodies and swaying, percussion-rich rhythms Fritch favours. That vibe is perpetuated by “In a Wash or Haze,” where zither and hammered dulcimer add to the track's exotic dreaminess, and in “Nervous Laughter,” where berimbau and hand percussion lay down an Arabian rhythm for Fritch's violin to sweetly sing over. The sinuous theme coursing through “Gaunt Wolves with Buzzard Beaks” helps make it one of the most memorable tracks.
In the time-honoured tradition of one-man bands, Fritch manages to make the tracks sound like the work of a ten-piece ensemble. Admittedly there are moments when the music begins to feel like it might collapse under the weight of a too-dense arrangement (e.g., “Rust and Bile,” whose untamed spirit is reminiscent of a free-jazz improv) and consequently a less cluttered episode (such as the crackled-drenched one halfway through “Red Earthen Mouths”) becomes an even more welcome event. Even so, there's much to applaud about the release, especially considering that it's a debut outing.