BIOTA – Cape Flyaway

RēR Megacorp

Am I hyperbolizing by stating that the “Biota sound” is one of the most immediately identifiable in the history of modern music and, absurdly, also one of the less known? No matter. Quality prevailing upon quantity is a necessity when considering the potential audience of Cape Flyaway – which, like any release by this never-enough-lauded collective of multimedia artists, is destined to remain in the memory and the hearts of those who have been following them from the beginning and are conscious of the process of evolution, refinement and acknowledgement of artistic and cultural roots that has informed the group’s output.

It’s not a real surprise to see British folksong materials employed as a crucial element in this addictive album. Biota have been interested in purely acoustic fonts for a long while: steel-stringed guitars, accordion, violin and zither are a fixture in their palette since decades ago. The coexistence with the vintage sonorities generated by Micromoog and Hammond organ (or the by-now-mythical Biomellodrone *) turns the innumerable transitions to which the music is subjected into a reversal of roles between the sonic object and the listener. It is in fact the latter that gets studied, permeated and ultimately cleansed by a ceaselessly mutating cosmos of interlaced timbres, ever-shifting spectral dissections and incorporeal-yet-solid contrapuntal constituents. Fragments of traditional tunes, the “presence” of Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch, Judy Collins, Christy Moore, June Tabor, Bothy Band as ghost guides; textural remnants that touch the very depths of one’s soul (the ninth track – all are nameless – is literally moving in its juxtaposition of guitar arpeggios, bent-string peculiarity and orchestral evanescence).

Though singling out names in such an outstanding joint effort is profoundly unjust, I’ll force myself to point out the impressive-as-ever mixing and editing job performed by William Sharp (assembling scattered sources and giving them meaning and intensity in a coherent wholeness is not an everyday task), the nearly regretful apparitions of Charles O’Meara’s piano and, of course, the modestly excellent contribution by vocalist Kristianne Gale, whose heartfelt renditions add further humanity to the record. Expectedly (and luckily), the inside booklet contains a set of magnificent visual works by Mnemonists which no word of mine can describe (check for more). The same feel of inadequacy is experienced by this writer whenever a new work by the ensemble is spinning in his player. How to set the continuum of many superimposed existences – biological and aural – into mere words? Can you detail a REM phase without producing nonsensical literature? Can you explain why certain combinations of frequencies make us suddenly envision a blurred phantom of events occurred thirty-five summers prior, in turn eliciting a state of melancholic torpor?

If you can, give me a call. The CD is still emanating its scents as I’m writing, but specifying my exact mental position at the moment is unusually tough. This sense of displacement recurs every five/seven years or so: bet your house that we’ll be there at the next meeting too, incongruously attempting to babble details about what refuses to be detailed.

(* To know what a Biomellodrone is, check this excellent interview to Sharp by Beppe Colli)

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