Music Review: The Inevitable Course of Events
Last time we did a review of Joe Boyd Vigil’s Deeper Space, a sort of catch-up article in preparation for his newest album,The Inevitable Course of Events. (Well, ‘newest’ is relative – it came out on December 19th of last year.) This CD is avaliable as a digital download from iTunes and Amazon MP3. You can stream a few select tracks at Last.FM as well. It’s good to see Mr. Vigil is still alive and well, cranking out the songs. Apparently he’s working on a new album as well – when I talked to him in January he mentioned that he was mixing some new tracks, so keep your fingers crossed. Some quick specs: the album is pretty budget-priced, going for a mere $8.99, but it’s shorter as well: the 10 tracks only run for a touch over forty minutes. Stylistically it’s a darker version of Deeper Space, with brooding bass lines and more pronounced beats. The electric cascades and ambience synth are still present, but overall the tone is muted and almost depressed at times. Check these mini-reviews below for more details about the individual tracks. These are just my opinions, but hopefully they’ll give you a better feel for the songs before you buy.
“The Inevitable Course of Events”: Shifting alien tones kick off the album, joined by some light piano. Fifty seconds in, a grundge beat and a ponderous bass line start. The rest of the track is a fusion of the piano and descending bass trios. Minimalistic but sophisticated. This sounds much more like the tracks that first acquainted me with Mr. Vigil some years ago. It lacks agression, focusing intead on progression and contrast.
“Bumblebee Christmas Tree”: More animal titles… Not such a hot one. Music is all about a balance between structure and variety, or more precisely achieving variation within structure. This one leans a bit too much to the structure side of things for my tastes, using the same six notes for much of the song. Highlights inlude the rural porch bells and the warbler that appears later on, but overall I didn’t really get into this track.
“Reindeer People”: A sort of tribal feel appears, with muted steel drums forming the primary background sound. To me, this mix is basically the lower-toned version of Bumblebee, in that is displays the same characteristics, just transposed down an octave.
“Ages of Faith”: Another almost orchestral opening with some piano diddling quickly silenced by a grand, Mother Universe cascade. Tension is built with a mysterious harp and ominous background slides. This one was much more to my liking, partly because of the intriguing voice sample halfway through – a man talking about “Ages of Faith” when mankind was more in touch with nature. The statement is quickly followed up with a driving dance beat, which carries on to the end of the piece. An excellent, if somewhat curious, track.
“Glofish Retouched”: Tinny, feedback-style notes contradict a gutteral tone for the first few bars. This track is surprisingly empty; there’s almost nothing in there aside from a repetitive, almost inaudible voice and some seemingly random sound effects and piano plunking. I suppose this might be good for meditation, but until about a groove breaks out about 3/4 of the way through there’s not much to hold your interest.
“Legend of Blueberry Hamster”: The most aggressive track so far, sporting an instantly recognizable main motif and an uptempo rhythm. I don’t get these names, but this is probably the closest you’ll ever get to being able to hum a Joe Boyd Vigil composition. More inaudible voice samples – it seems to be the theme of the album. Worth it just for the defined melody; the muted horns help out a great deal.
“Window Water Baby Moving”: Funky, with both inertia and rhythm. A good mix that keeps, well, ‘moving’, and didn’t grate on me at all. One of the only tracks on the album that sounds considerably better with some bass amplification – it’s a good low end, but it gets lost a bit in the shuffle.
“That Street Drama”: The opening reminded me of Yuzo Koshiro’s contemplative street mixes, but quickly took on a traditional Vigil air. I like the upswing a third of the way in; it definitely preserves the feel of a street pursuit. Unlike nine out of ten of the tracks on these new albums, it’s almost possible to imagine this being used in a Toonami promo.
“Baia Mare”: Er, no. The South American pan flutes didn’t do much for me. There was very little cohesion in the instruments and beats; the result was just under three minutes of chaos. I can see where Vigil was going with this, but my own pedestrian (I guess) tastes just don’t salivate. Sorry.
“The Mystery of New Orleans”: And we’re done so soon? We start out with some static (maybe tidal waves?) that resolves into a simplistic bass line and improvisational electric piano. This track bleeds jazz nightclub vibe and style – that or sheer noir; I can’t tell which. A solemn, contemplative way to end a mostly downcast album. Of special notice is the way static builds back up until it submerges the music. Is that the inevitable course of events? Who knows…
Although this album was a considerable improvement over Deeper Space and much more consistent in tone, I can’t help but think that there’s something missing. I can’t quite but my finger on it, but Vigil’s style has apparently changed for good and in the transition he lost something – or at least changed something that I had previously found appealing. Maybe it’s the downshift in speed or the more bizarre assortment of instruments; I don’t know. At any rate, what I said about Deeper Space holds true for this album as well: if you’re not into general New Age electronica as much asDeep Space Bass, then you’ll probably disappointed. Time to cue up Capslock one more time…