Lewis & Clarke
Blasts of Holy Birth
La Société Expéditionnaire
Music user sketchE comments: “There’s something Japanese about this.” While you kinda have to laugh, if you listen even to just a bit of Blasts of Holy Birth you’ll probably come around to sketchE’s considered opinion. Lewis & Clarke’s second album pals around in that nebulous ambient space that can best be described as “Eastern” and “Zen-like.” Hushed. Guitars are plucked, percussion often doesn’t extend above a quiet rattle, vocals are maximized for the softest impact possible.
“Secret of the Golden Flower” starts off like any good contemporary ambient record from the ‘00s, not giving up whether the sounds you’re hearing are processed or made in real-time. Guitar drones lap up against one another—or are those cellos? Before you have time to answer, the title track fades in and only a guitar remains, along with Lou Rogai’s voice. Things pretty much float on from there, with a bit of cooing and aahing to help you along your way—as well as a nice bit of harp, Hammond, and various strings to seal the deal. It’s almost enough to make you ignore Rogai’s lyrics that enter again, halfway through, “And are we sick of settling? / Is it because we’re doomed…When you think you’ve worn your welcome / You’ve worn it pretty thin.” Huh?
Amidst all of this meditative trancey fingerpicking, Rogai indulges in a good bit of the old Jim O’Rourke bait-and-switch, unleashing Insignificance-esque couplets like “You may see a horizon / But the end is never in sight.” But more often than not, they’re followed by New Age platitudes about going to the river. (So, you know, don’t get too excited about the possibility of another bitter Fahey-lover, mining relationships for one-liners. This ain’t it.) Rogai is a family man and proud of it. He lives near the Delaware Water Gap. He goes swimming in the river. He wants his child to grow up before getting married to his partner so that he can enjoy the ceremony.
Which sort of brings right back to where we started. Rogai’s life is all about community and the ideal of making hand-crafted objects that can stand the test of time. Half of Blasts does that (the first) and the other half features lesser versions of what’s come before. “Crimson Carpets,” for example, is the sound of the title track petering out, rather than ramping up to a full-bodied conclusion. Blasts is, perhaps, two stunning EPs, but only one pretty good LP. Not sure what’s Japanese about that, but I (or sketchE) will get back to you.
Reviewed by: Matt Weatherford
Reviewed on: 2007-08-23