REVIEW: KNIFE & FORK – THE HIGHER YOU GET, THE RARER THE VEGETATION (2012)
For a lot of people, the name Eric Drew Feldman might not conjure up much recognition. However, when his name appeared in the subject of an email from a friend it caught my attention easily. I got my first spark of fervor for playing music when I found Nirvana, and when I retraced their steps I found a brighter flame in The Pixies, then when I moved forward again I found the post Pixies work of Frank Black. Some people barely recognized it, and others only remember ‘Headache’ but what I found was a library stocked with my new favorite songs- and Eric Drew Feldman.
Eric started his musical career dropping out of high school to join Captain Beefheart. He soon lent his multi-instrumental talents to The Pixies, then Frank Black, and PJ Harvey. Beyond playing with Black he also co-produced the first two solo albums, which included ‘Teenager of the Year’ -a masterpiece in my mind, and easily the height of Black’s post Pixies endeavors.
Before getting the email, that was where the story ended for me; I haven’t heard about any of Eric’s projects since (though he’s certainly been busy.) I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The Higher You Get The Rarer The Vegetation (a name I love, by the way- it’s actually a Salvador Dali quote) is not what I would have guessed. The album is beyond moody. It’s dense and cinematic, heavily laden with a montage of varied instruments with dark tones to match dark lyrics. This is anything but easy listening music.
Singer Laurie Hall’s voice came off as abrasive to me at first, especially over the erratic opening track ‘Tightrope.’ As the album progressed the consistent themes and tones hold things together as Hall laments ghostly wails through each song. The songs rise and fall with laborious and grandiose flair ending in climactic orchestrations that fade into each following number. The feeling is almost similar to a Danny Elfman composition -only more brooding and frightening. A monster created masterfully with brilliant layers striking synth tones.
As the final track ‘Bury’ played I felt as though I’d finished a somber and complex movie. Maybe I’d just seen Bruce Willis die in slow motion in the 12 Monkeys. And at the climax of the movie, the story hadn’t ended the way I wanted it to- but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. If you’re in the mood for this- or you’re willing to let Eric and Laurie set your mood for you, you’ll play this over and over. For a quick peek into their world check the more easily digestible ‘I count the days’ or ‘Tailspin’ for appetizers and see if you’re ready for the entire album.
I’m glad this one came by me so I was able to catch up with an old influence and see what’s new, it makes me wonder what else he’s dreamed up the past… 20 years or so- time to start digging!