Black tape for a blue girl:
As one aflame laid bare by desire

blat-aoa.jpg Black tape for a blue girl:
As one aflame laid bare by desire

(Projekt - 1998)

1998 was quite a good year for Sam Rosenthal, his band and his Projekt label... national media exposure, representation by major music/book chains, romance and love, not to mention the great sounds coming out of Projekt (two discs made the AmbiEntrance Top Ten list for 1998)... One might expect the inner gloom which drives Black tape for a blue girl to have been somehow weakened by happiness and success...

But, As one aflame laid bare by desire proves that melancholy waters run deep. Perhaps not as gloomy, and certainly not as maudlin and angry, as some previous releases, angst as art is still the source of fuel for Rosenthal and crew's perpetual dark flame. In fact, the art aspect is intensified as Sam laces threads from dadaist Marcel Duchamp's artworks and literature into Black tape's gauzey fabric. Think modern Gothic chamber music with some ambient/electronic overtones.

Echoes of Duchamp are evident in the title track. Somber piano and oboe spin a web to catch Sam's whispy vocals in As one aflame laid bare by desire. An extended musical interlude, which prominently features Lisa Feuer's flute, leads to Julianna Towns' side of this story of longing. Vicki Richards' violin dances into Given (1. the waterfall 2. the illuminating gas) which shares its title with a work of Duchamp. Julianna again sings of desire, contributing guitar as well. The track fades out, vocals and all... Lisa's delicate flute passages are underscored by Sam's balefully rumbling electronics in the short entr'acte [the garden awaits us]; with my own ambient listening tendencies, I surely wish this could have gone on. The piece basically is an opener for...

...the powerful Tell me you've taken another, wherein Oscar Herrera adds his charismatic vocal to Sam and Lisa's stirring accompaniment. (Part of the lyrical content is, literally, masochistic, having been paraphrased from Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, circa 1870). By turns aching and menacing in betrayal, one can easily envision Oscar spotlit upon a stage, acting out his emotions. Melinda Matthews Rosenthal's clarinet joins Sam in the almost medieval etude, entr'acte [the carnival barker] (1:00). Wordless crooning and violin weave ethereally through another mini-track, dream.

Muffled wails, blurred vocal samples and chittering cicadas swirl rise in a mysterious haze, through which violin and cello eventually come forth. When instruments fade, The apotheosis is surrounded by wind and waves only to be rejoined again by intermingling phrases of synth and string, creating a "classical" sense of ambience. A surging piano solo takes us to Russia, eventually to be backed by flute, synth and violin. Various vocal tracks split the lead into a beautiful multi-streamed entity, marking it as my personal favorite. Another snippet, Your one wish is built of keyboards and misty male voices which phase in and out like ghosts. Droning synth and voice open Dulcinea which remains as a dense fogbank floating around Julianna's and Sam's hushed words, stirred by a cyclical keyboard riff and flute embellishments.

Murky swells of brass foretell the opening of The green box, a seething mass of dark symphonic loveliness (and yet another Duchamp reference). Soaring strings override and bring height and light to this amorphous instrumental. In Denouement / denouncement fragile piano notes and distant drone are swept under by Julianna's soft, throatily melancholy contemplations. Nick Pagan's harpsichord and Sam's harmonium add a time-worn sense to her bleak musings, and Vicki's violin swirls in acknowledgment, before all disappears... to fade in faintly, as The passage (15:48) leads to smoothly becalmed atmospheres. Long, lush, flowing tones of electronics and violin which rise, fall and overlap in slow motion close the disk with the most ambient of tracks.

Obviously not straight "ambient" overall, but definitely quite atmospheric. Lyrics can generally detract from ambient listening, but here, the words tend to be fairly obtuse and flow into the material. As one aflame laid bare by desire should appeal to anyone who craves music with a bit of arty, ethereal gloom for their own chamber. A 7.9 for casting a welcome pallor into mine.7-9.gif
This review posted January 27, 1999

AmbiEntrance © 1999-97 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).