Lost in A Moment
f all the things belabored in the evaluation of music, perhaps the lowest ranking of them has to be the physical context of its production. What I mean is that every utterance of the conditions under which a song or entire body of work was created usually hopes to elicit reactions of curiosity or to make more physical the profundity of the artistic process. So we’re told that boom mikes were suspended 40 feet in the air and wrapped in pieces of the drummer’s ex-lovers’ shower curtains to create sound X or, better yet, the songs contained in the album are like footprints of a peripatetic artistic process; as though we’re meant to say, “A-ha! This song was written in Colombo but recorded in Caracas!” The where of an album is perhaps its least important and least perceptible facet.
The where is only of utility insofar as the music itself is produced in such a manner that it becomes spatial to some degree. We can never experience the space itself, and music of the sort just described doesn’t want you to. Instead it essays to fabricate an environ that’s veracious and palpable, one that captures materially the evanescent guitar strums and vocal harmonies. Near the end of Shrift’s title track, the faint cries of children playing come forth. It’s an abused trope, but its use here is of significance because it becomes the center of Nina Miranda’s breathy, diaphanous performance as well as the soft gel of electronic instruments. I’m not sure of it yet, but I think the environment created in that song and the album itself is a dream.
But to be more terrestrial in my description of the music, picture the Brazilian Girls channeling the spirit of Jao Gilberto or Bows reinterpreting “The Girl From Ipanema.” The bossa nova references are fitting considering Miranda’s dual musical upbringing in Brazil and England, a history that allows her extensive flexibility on the album, and programmer Dennis Wheatley, whose work with Atlas often employed Brazilian singers. These influences all emerge on Lost in A Moment, but most acutely through “Snow Samba” and “Floating City,” the latter, interestingly enough, sung in English. The strings of the orchestral samples get tangled in reverb and playful ecstasy while the percussion maintains the song’s structure. The distortion is light, Miranda’s voice is cool and benign and both pieces are just easy.
The creation of an environment changes to an emotive personality on “Yes, I Love You,” which only features the repeated refrain. It’s as though each declaration gains importance, gains weight, and gains reality, a rare feat considering how easily the attempt could have turned gimmicky. Each statement, while syntactically identical, manages to pull you deeper into some warmth, some soft and beautiful creature. Even the dance personality of “To the Floor” is relaxed in its progression, the handclaps and Miranda’s vocalizations begging you to enjoy the blur of the moment rather than sift out elements you may prefer. This album beckons you to revel in the forest created without worrying about the trees.
Of course the great tragedy is that Shrift will go criminally overlooked or underappreciated. Comparisons will be made to other duos inaccurately and like bromides and Lost in A Moment will be unceremoniously lumped with the rest, refused even the privilege of a distinct body tag. Strangely enough I’m content with that outcome. I’m content with being one of the few lucky ones to witness such splendor and subtlety. I’m content with being one of the few who gets the opportunity to be lost in Shrift’s world and their moment.