BEAT CIRCUS – Boy From Black Mountain
An outstanding record to begin with, quite dissimilar from the previous disquieting release Dreamland on this same label (another must if you ask me). Here we observe Beat Circus’ penchant for the expansion of moods directly related to earlier eras of the American history, those in which leader Brian Carpenter’s parents and grandparents fought to survive. However, implications and hidden meanings were clearer once I became aware that the original concept behind Boy From Black Mountain is Carpenter’s attempt to depict stories through the eyes and brain of an autistic child – his son, diagnosed with the disease a few years ago, now luckily healthier following years of treatment. Let’s just say that this is a collection of compactly designed and finely orchestrated songs, in which a relatively deadpan and occasionally gravelly voice pilots a superb ensemble that looks able to execute whatever score one puts in front of them. You can find traces of bluegrass, Cajun, Irish reels and rural folk in there, Ron Caswell’s tuba and Andrew Stern’s banjo in evidence at various junctures. “The Sound And The Fury” throws in – for good measure – a Chinese reed instrument, tremolo guitar and marvelous samples of choral singing by what sounds like a group of Buddhist nuns. Shades of Steve Reich-esque strings (hats off, Jordan Voelker, Paran Amirinazari and, in other tracks, Julia Kent) inform “Nantahala”; a tender accordion characterizes the conclusive “Lullaby For Alexander”, a piece that made this writer brood over the late Lars Hollmer. A touching goodbye to the kind of juvenile incorruptibility that can’t seem to be found anymore.