The success of a label is creating an identity that notifies people straight away who released this work, without it being a mere repetition of what has cone previously. Lost Tribe Sound is one of those labels that has a true organic identity coupled with a dedication to putting out the most amazing looking releases that contain an attention to detail that is on another level to most of their contemporaries. The time, effort in promoting and producing this music is second to none. Here I cover most of their recent batch which make up approximately half their “We Stayed The Path That Fell to Shadow” subscription series. The compilation and Gavin Miller albums opened the collection with releases from Spheruleus and Skyphone to ’round it out.
Carlos Morales aka The Phonometrician first came to my attention with his contribution to the opening charity CD of the same name as the subscription with the track “The Fall Of Cormoran”. In a way Morales inhabits the stylistic oeuvre that encompasses the Lost Tribe sound. There is a mix of experimentation coupled with a very strong Americana Folk flavor to his work, listened through a prism of cinematic soundscapes and organic instrumentation. You could place this album as a representation of what sort of music to will gear on this label and that’s not because of a narrowing of style. Rather it has many aspects to it, much like the label itself. You can understand why label boss Ryan Keane welcomed Morales into the clan.
The title “Mnemosyne” refers to the Greek goddess of memory and remembrance. As compared to other releases that have mined similar themes, the feeling is not that obvious, which lends itself to a personal feel rather than something so obvious that requires zero contemplation from its listeners.
“‘Mnemosyne’ is the debut album from Mexico City based multi-instrumentalist, film composer and sound preservationist Carlos Morales, who creates under the name The Phonometrician. “Mnemosyne” is an album that asks what memories would sound like if they were captured through sound. At it’s core “Mnemosyne” is an album built around finger-picked acoustic guitar, somewhat classical or folk styled in nature, yet it’s much more than that. Morales deploys a very specific palette of instrumentation to realize his musical vision, it’s as if the classical guitar is slowly being worn away and devoured by an onslaught of looping, ever-shifting analog sound creatures, scattering for cover when the light hits them directly, continuously eating away at the strings. “Mnemosyne” is further enriched by the hum of mechanical elements in the distance, disconcerting at times, yet at others strangely comforting…In addition, driving wooden stomps and immense sunken bass lines propel the form of these weary recollections further forward. Haunting cellos rise from the grey matter, carrying with them a life time of exaggerated deeds, faded lovers, and the fleeting remains of those lost to completion.”
Morales utilizes layering throughout the album giving contrasts between those organic sounds and those from electronic means. This approach is instantly shown on the opener “We’re Burning” which is nicely constructed with a bed of sound which allows Morales’ guitar work to add filigree on top of the track. What initially started sounding like general static reveals itself to be the crackle of an open fire that is brought to notice with the dialogue “We’re Burning, Open your Eyes” which feels like it is shocking you awake from a dream. “Golden River” just hits you like it would be the opening music to a film or documentary series on Netflix with an emphasis on either hard labor or hard lives, shot through a sepia tone. The guitar once more features, this time on top of a granular base and it finds an able partner in violin which balances the weary hope of the guitar with strong taught string lines. Its hard not to listen to a piece like this and not have a visual component in your imagination.
“You Only Changes Names” feels like an Americana take on the folktronic side. Similar in feel to say Message to Bears, but looked through the lens of fellow Lost Tribe Sound alumni like William Ryan Fritch and possibly Alder & Ash. There are times I find I am catching myself trying to listen behind the strings and guitars, so as to ascertain the, for want of a better word, bed of sound that Morales uses as a base or building blocks in the tracks construction. What I can decipher has hypnotic qualities that subtly add to the piece (and indeed all the pieces on the album). There is a very organic and natural feel to what Morales constructs underneath that without it would leave the pieces a little bare. “Here Comes The Storm” clearly through the sound choices matches the sounds to the theme. Once more the strings and guitar counterpoint each other with tone and tempo, but once more it works as it holds back the feeling and makes me think that the track has nothing to do with weather. Those early sounds were to set a mood but not a road map and the storm is actually internalized. The guitar also feels as the track progresses that it is more on edge which is sort of replicated by the strings and in a weird way it is in the present, while the strings represent the future after all has been dealt with.
“The Toll For Thee” has more of an emphasis on the background sounds which are more experimental than those that have preceded them. As the track grows so to does Morales guitar which has a percussive feel to its playing, creating a rhythm as the movements are explored. The warped mashed up tape like opening of “Chloe” is as close to a clear indications of memory as we will hear. The playing of the guitar feels less of a narrative and more of a tribute. This probably could be be partially be because of its tone and partially because the actual playing feels full of verve and spirit as if Morales needs to make sure the emotion is obvious and laid bare.
“The Curse (When Memories Fade)” feels like a cacophony of sound. A howling sound mixed with scratchy warped electronics battle with cello drones and fast picked guitar work. I can’t really get my head around the piece as the electronics tend to take my focus away and i can’t hero but think how the piece would be different with another element in its place. “The Run” continues in a darker territory which has slowly filtered in the last few tracks. A rumbling bass sound mixes in with wildly picked guitar work, vinyl static and string drones. The feel of the music has changed from the free cinematic sounds of the opening tracks through to more denser and contained pieces. Based that this is an album influenced by memory, then perhaps this is all ‘inside someone’s head’ and the pressure people find themselves under.
“Lights Off” opens with a wall of sound that sounds like old school TV transmissions of nothing. Scratchy mechanical sounds loop over and over with whispered female vocals, long string drones and minimal acoustic guitar creating a piece that feels like it is a memory from a distant time that has had other memories laid over it many times over, each leaving a trace, but also clouding the vision. With “If I Died Tonight” Morales returns to the the more fluid and cinematic touches of the earlier tracks and that thought is solidified with the way the strings cut a mournful presence under the tightly picked guitar work , which itself has a certain amount of tension. The wooden stomp that runs throughout the piece feels like a door on a barn that is being battered by the wind, which matches the Americana Folk flavor of the piece nicely. “Poppy Meadows ” is an interesting track finish the album on. The central heart of the album revealed tumultuous times with its darker and more experimental core. This by no means light and fluffy, ventures closer to the light with an ambient heart as well as the playing have a string feeling of confidence and exuberance. The strings soar, the beat is pounded rhythmically and whatever Morales has gone through he has come out the other side, possibly battle scarred, but in one piece and ready to move on.
With “Mnemosyne” Carlos Morales shows that he is well suited to the LTS roster. The organic feel mixed with electronic and experimental touches and then viewed through a cinematic prism, clearly shows that The Phonometrician is another name to keep an eye and ear out for and hopefully we shall see him once more under the LTS banner.
“Mnemosyne” is available on limited LP/CD and digital.
“It’d be a laborious task to run through all of Fritch’s many accolades, since 2009 he has released over 20 albums and composed music for over 30 feature films and more than a hundred short films. Lost Tribe Sound has been by his side since the beginning, releasing a few of his finest stand alone scores, including the critically acclaimed “The Waiting Room”, “Eagle Hunters In A New World” and “The Old Believers”.Of course, LTS could boast for days about what a musical genius we believe he is.
Most of those familiar with Fritch, know only of his albums as a singer songwriter or genre-elusive multi-instrumentalist, which truly represent a small fraction of the depth and range of his work. ‘Deceptive Cadence…’ gathers the most remarkable and memorable pieces from Fritch’s vast catalog of film compositions. Rather than filling up two volumes with half assembled film cues and fragmented themes, Fritch has gone to great lengths with ‘Deceptive Cadence…’ to make sure both volumes tell a story, build theme, and create a satisfying full album experience as good as any movie they may have come from. While this music once graced a particular film, show, or commercial, it has all been re imagined, reworked and made whole in post-production to complete the epic narrative of ‘Deceptive Cadence…’
William Ryan Fritch is no slouch. A glance at his Bandcamp page shows the variety of releases under his own name and Veio Abiungo alias dating back to 2009 with Fritch and label boss personally going back to the late ’00’s with Tokyo Bloodworm (via Lost Tribe Sound and Moteer labels). This compilation in parts is a re-working of the 2015 “Music For Films Vol 1” compilation (A Digital / art thirty track release). Rather than just repackage it, Fritch Cleared out some of the material and set about constructing it in a way that the monster forty five track double CD flows in the same way to that of a traditional album.
Its a little hard and daunting to attempt a 45 track review, so I won’t be doing my usual track by track review. What I can say is that despite the pieces coming from different scores (I am not sure of the track listing being tracks grouped from the same score or it being a complete jumble) is that how well the material flows together. Fritch has this canny ability to be a one man orchestra. Any people who have viewed some of the videos that show his process can see that he has an abundance of instrument choices to allow him freedom to compose for situation. The music does have roots within Americana, Alt Folk and Roots music, but he can easily skip into a fairy tale like piece such as “Split” or a pure drone piece like “The Weight of What’s Unsaid” which element wise is minimal, but emotionally and sonicly maximal.
The instrumentation changes from piece to piece as does the sound and feel. With a track like “To Ache For What’s Never Been” takes the listener back to a 1940’s noir film while a similar sound palette is used on “Scraping the Dregs” which results in a much different sounding piece, one which seems to be about creating tension and emotion within the music. Fritch is not afraid to venture into Ambient territory and it must be said that if he chose to is a pure ambient release then the results would be quite interesting as he would potentially look at it from another angle than most artists would do. “Fatalist” shows us a glimpse of what might be. A noticeable part of his music is that he doesn’t tend to go for pure electronic sources and go for a contemporary feel which could age the music. Sure, the music can have the influence of a time and place from before, but it can also be rather timeless. The last thing before I sign off – some film scores tend to feature vignettes. The pieces on here probably average out to between three and four minutes. Sure a few ate just over the minute mark, but on the whole all works are fully realized and don’t leave you guessing about what is missing.
“Deceptive Cadence” is available on Double CD with an eight page book and Digital.
“Nearly ten years ago at the onset of Lost Tribe Sound, an artist emerged whose impact would go onto define our core direction as label, to release music that leaves it’s tattered edges proudly in place, acoustic instrumentation blended seamlessly with dirty mechanics, timeworn sound worlds rooted in the muck and more of the present. While we’ve traversed a wide variety of genres over the years, 2019 will find LTS returning to our origins, a label dedicated to exposing some of the most beautifully bizarre beat-driven electro-acoustic music we can get our hands on.
While arranging the album, we focused on songs that showcased a side of Fritch’s musical personality that has been rarely heard. The aim was to make the distinction between William Ryan Fritch, the film composer and singer songwriter and his Vieo Abiungo project even clearer. In place of his signature sweeping strings and intricately layered orchestration, the thrum of plucked viola de gamba forms much of the backbone of the music, played in a style akin to North African oud. In addition, “The Dregs” stands out with it’s unusual percussion teasing out and tangling together poly-rhythmic lines that make for some of the most intoxicating rhythms we’ve ever heard from Fritch. A large arsenal of horns, marimbas, vintage keyboards, mbiras and Tuareg -style electric guitars also find their way into the mix.”
Some artist work under pseudonyms as a way of creating a musical and spiritual alter ego that helps separate and or define a particular style or train of thought that they are pursuing. This is the case with William Ryan Fritch’s Vieo Abiungo alias. You will hear a similar style to Fritch’s above soundtrack work, but while his soundtrack work is open to different possibilities and used in different situations, the music that is released under the Abiungo name, for at least this release is a more focused excursion into a part of Fritch’s overall soundscapes. The instrumental palette is still large and varied, but the tone of the material takes on one of a tribal feel. In ways it’s almost an ethnological musical project where Fritch creates works that are a bit more rawer, darker and I hate to use the term because it doesn’t do the music a good favor, groove laden. Fritch doesn’t shy away from the fact that at heart he is probably a score composer over a ‘insert genre’ musician, but what he does is set about creating a sonic environment that feels like you have been transplanted far from the society that you are used to – picture a remote jungle or a less metropolitan isolated and dare I saw rawer place.
The music varies with each track. A piece like “Swagger” is probably the most contemporary piece on the release with the production techniques it use as it mixes a jazz noir feel with minimal wooden hand banged sticks and delightful melodic motifs that possibly are done on a rhodes keyboard. With “No Diamonds In These Mines” the sound ventures ever so slightly with a trip into 60’s exotica meets walls of sound in the back of an opium den. “Cobble Together” is a tour de force on string instruments and hypnotic percussion that swings us past a snake charmer making our heads spin, being returning where we began while the title track “The Dregs” (which surprisingly isn’t sonicly related to the track “Scraping the Dregs” from “Deceptive Cadence”), takes us into subterranean territories with a ghostly ever shifting soundscape as we seek out the distant instruments that have lured us down this path. There are a further nine pieces that are as equally captivating, but I will leave that for you to discover for yourself.
Sometimes I have been sceptical about artists that release a lot of music usually on the same label. Lesser artist and labels (which I wont name) from my point of view have churned out work that is so similar and feels like that everything that has been recorded has been released. The situation with Fritch and LTS is so much different. The bond between label and artist is one that I can’t think of a of a comparison to put next to. The music of this artist that has come as part of this series is fifty-eight tracks over several hours and each track is killer. Both these releases show different sides to Fritch and highlight his scope of vision as a composer. They are both a welcome addition to anyone’s collection.
“The Dregs” is available as part of Lost tribe Sound’s Dead West Series on Limited Cassette and Digital.