The folks over at RAIG (Russian Association of Independent Genres) have definitely taken their game to the next level with the release of the latest disc entitled Lovest from U.K. based experimental outfit The Surf Messengers. Bound in a special edition oversized cardboard book cover, complete with fifty pages of fantastic color photo illustrations; Lovest is without a doubt the most ambitious visual project yet from the Russian label. This incredibly impressive graphic presentation alone makes this collection worth the money, and that's before you even hear the music contained within. In a day and age where record companies and digital downloading are making the visual graphic element almost obsolete, it's always a pleasure to come across a treasure like this.
The Surf Messengers comprised of Annie Q (flute, sax, voice), Glenda Pescado (loops, guitars, keyboards), Nick Danger (percussion, & devices) and Will Whitney (drones & samples) have been convening a couple of times per year for the last ten years to create their unique blend of improvised music. Lovest which contains three lengthy compositions was culled from three separate recording sessions in 1999, 2000 & 2006 and was edited and mixed by Whitney.
I'll be honest; Lovest is quite simply a challenging listen overall. The music which unfolds at a languid pace is for the most part very minimalist in nature and relies primarily on various loops and samples to create its multi-layered textures. The opening track "Strange Archers" begins with distant, sampled radio voices, a simple repeating percussive pattern and some interesting sounds made from a 'saw ratchet machine'. This goes on for almost nine and half minutes until Annie Q's ethereal vocals enter into the fray. Interestingly enough the lyrics for this track are printed throughout the whole fifty page booklet along with accompanying images. The lyrics are somewhat mysterious and as they get more abstract towards the end so does the music as the ghostly layered voices return to close out the song.
"Ni, my lovest one" recorded live in 2000 during a twenty four performance, and almost certainly edited down for inclusion here, is comprised of basic keyboard textures, more sampled voices of what sounds like kids playing, 'digital static' and some plaintive passages performed on alto sax. Once again as Annie Q's dreamy vocals appear the composition begins to take the listener on a strangely familiar, hypnotic journey into the unknown.
Lovest concludes with "Bright Clear Blue" which is an absolute epic number clocking in at a whopping thirty one minutes. This track is the one likely to challenge the listener's patience the most largely due to its length; however the musical payoff is well worth the time invested. Pescado's pastoral guitar loops are augmented only by the odd splashing of a ride cymbal, wind chimes and Q's spoken word poetry where she repeats the title of the song over and over. As the composition unfurls more sounds are gradually introduced into the mix and a voice can be heard proclaiming that "everything goes to dust". When coupled with the dreamy flute passage that accompanies it, it gives the listener the affirmation that everything is indeed finite. The final ten minutes or so of this song seemed designed to put the listener into a trance like state as the soothing wind chimes and introspective flute playing brings everything to its fitting conclusion.
As I mentioned towards the top of this review, Lovest definitely demands quite a bit from the listener. However, in my opinion this is often the case with music that has the most to offer, and you can certainly put Lovest in that category. If you're someone who generally leans towards experimental, improvised music I think that if you take the time to embark on this splendid musical journey from beginning to end, that you'll find the end results to be most rewarding.
1) Strange Archers – 26:46
2) Ni, my lovest one – 15:04
3) Bright Clear Blue (everything goes to dust) – 31:18