Sunday 19 April 2020

Fetish Fanning: So shall dissed ants sing!

The KT Fellowship presents Before the Dawn

photo: Tim Walker; design: Stuart Crouch Creative; GIFting: davidly


Fetish Fanning did not bring me here. She's mostly minding her essentials. The Fannings are a family of medical professionals. They're "on the front lines", as she put it in an email to me recently (quotes hers). She wrote, "Funny (not funny) how these metaphors have so inbred that folks unthinkingly use them even when they oppose their use in the more totalitarian  sense of 'We're in a war against this thing.' As is the wont of Fetish, she goes on, "I 'preciate the appreciation, but beg of you to take care not to pile on the fetishizing of whatev's trendy, as these things dissolve at the first sight of the cudgel of the next big thing."

KiKi brought me here, having writ about her fresh fondling familiarity for the retrospective works of Nostra Algius as it relates to Catherine von Cantia, inter alia. In so doing she reminded me that it has been upwards of ten times two plus nine named embers & uaries i.a. since I published my doctoring of the image above, the static original being the cover of the work shuttered therein, indicating not just its release, but-also implying in that furtive fashion to myself that I'd chronicle its contents.. before too long.

Without further a KiKiDo, but with all the love we know for each other, I'll get on with it:

Act I
Lily: Ooh child, everything's not gonna get easier, but if you quell the fear of the scorching flames of your own success, you might reach a ceiling as high as the sky and remain intact to sing about it. This is not for everyone. Some are content with passive rituals from a safe distance while some will slander their own created sacred cows. Spiritual be heard. Listen and you'll get into it. Kevin McAlea blows a great big groove in ya.

Hounds of Love: Who here's not been a child? Afraid of the dark? Crying for the fate of what wound-able? The care taken here to preserve the integrity of the lyricist's voice independent of the whole might make you wanna take your own shoes off and throw them in the lake. Two steps? Ye-ah, yo!

Joanni: Our first foray from Aerial's heights represented here by a warrior princess possibly possessed. Who that girl? Is this the only time KT's quoted the pop princess she'd precede with the headset mic by several years, having preceded sœur lionheart in birth by a tiny two weeks? Jeanne d'Arc est-elle la première Madone? Sing it with me little sister, mm-hm! Les voix: Jacqui DuBois, Sandra Marvin, among others. John Giblin gets into the groove that Del Palmer had once laid beneath the rest of the funky synthesis, here keyed by Jon Carin.

Top of the City: Up on the angel's shoulders. Like the Handke Wender'd peeping toms grasping at pain and longing for love. I dunno if anybody loves anyone in a way to avoid this fate, but the hush that follows KT's cry out of the one thing that can be done about it is reproduced here with incredible accuracy. Not the last time this'll happen.

Never Be Mine: Never performed in the concerts proper, this is recorded without the audience in the house and solidifies my opinion that Act I was also put together on a theme. Maybe it's the story of the artist's life. As always, isn't it of ours, as well? Always to never. The chorus pays their tribute to the serpentine singing of the Trio Bulgarka very well here. So well, in fact, you might think it was playback.

Running Up That Hill: Jack don't know Jill, but Jill don't know Jack. If only. The things we'd do to understand and be understood. let alone to feel and be felt. KT's voice is so true to form throughout. Either Kevin or Jon are so crucial on this on the keyboard. That sound from the original is central. And everyone else is so on point, from the backing vocals to David Rhodes guitar. And Omar Hakim, who does such a great job you might not notice. Speaking of which...

King of the Mountain: This is one of several tracks on which Omar rocks so fucking hard, embellishing in this case on Steve Sanger's original in the way that the live performance requires to climb to the top of the perfect peak to the transition into what's to come. And KT? Hearing is believing.

Act II
Astronomer's Call: Actor Kevin Doyle sets the scene, providing the exposition that some deemed unnecessary even before this record. I wonder how many who loved The Ninth Wave in the eighties had any notion of this narrative. I hadn't the foggiest, fancying it a tale about growing up under the growing pressure of having to become a functioning member of normal society and ultimately finding some personal worth after all the horror of disillusionment and alienation — of course getting waaaaaay deeper along the way.

Keeping in mind that this is the audio document and not the theatrical play, a literal interpretation is unnecessary, and maybe that's half the objection, the other half finding it too obvious. But I do think knowledge of that narrative lends the personal take a context that's enriching. Anyone unfamiliar could use that here. Anyone else can program it out of the compact disc. If you're listening on vinyl, why the fuck would you? You bought vinyl for fuck's sake. At less than three minutes of non-Kate created material, you'll get over it.

And Dream of Sheep: I'd always thought she sang, "...they might take me for a boy." Life was supposed to be precious and here it's too precious and not precious at all. These fairy tales on the surface so sweet, yet beneath it all full of contempt for anyone wandering into the woods. Either way, this girl gonna sink, pretty piano and all (Jane Campion eat the music). Listening to this version, it dawns on me that the production quality makes this black & blue version so true to the pale purple on white that you don't necessarily need to refer newbies to the original...

Under Ice: ...like this one here: If you could find a fan who didn't know about the autumn of 2014 in Hammersmith and played it for them, they'd shit their pants.

Waking the Witch: Hearing this one just now reminds me how much I'd've loved to've been sitting up front for this. Several times. For those who lament the lack of a visual document because they couldn't attend, I can tell you, whatever it'd be worth, it would not translate. To use Fripp's analogy of a studio recording being a love letter and a live performance being a hot date, this is waking up the next morning in bed next to that date and wondering whether you'd done it. What do you think a dvd of that night of romance is gonna look like? Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!  

Watching Them Without Her: Again setting the scene, more text by David Mitchell. What did you think the next song was about? It's only now I realize how good Albert McIntosh's performance is in this.

Watching You Without Me: The accuracy of this interpretation without the use of any kind of playback gives me goosebumps. The backing vox are perfect. And KT... Whoop!

Little Light: KT wants to live! If I take comfort in that, she stands for comfort.

Jig of Life: I can imagine myself in a Cassavettes film doing this jig until I die. In twenty-seven takes. Biggest bro John Carder Bush reproduces himself here.

Hello Earth: OMFG! How she did this over twenty times for several hundred people a pop without becoming a wreck is a guess. The whole side in all its emotional depth is here. It takes half the song's length to come down. Can't say enough about everyone's singing. The choice to keep the chant going this long defines what it means to have made the right artistic choice.

The Morning Fog: As I have resisted thus far, I will not recapitulate the staging of the end of Act II. I have the same misgivings as many regarding live albums. Not least have I ever found anything but intrusive the sound of an audience in action. Here's a notable exception. The cheer in response to the conclusion of the first verse is moving, as is Kate's reaction before the intermission.

Prelude: There was no way they were gonna do this live. Imagine Berties' embarrassment.

Prologue: Here we have the first of two appearances by KT at the piano. The same patient, throbbing bass backs her. The backing vocals seem like they're a response to the call of her keys rather than her vocals, which I'd never noticed before. Things pick up halfway into it. I imagine she drew this out to provide the prologue the energy it would need to set the tone for the spectacle that would follow. This is the track that she shared upon the announcement of the albums release. Now, as then, the exhilaration it elicits is a harbinger.

An Architect's Dream: Albert McIntosh is heard in a brief intro here before the music begins. The stretching and weaving of the vocal phrasing is a soothing sort of onomatopoeia, which is something KT's probably done more than I've bothered to contemplate before.

The Painter's Link: Having played the painter, McIntosh sings what you'd be forgiven if you thought it was just the first section of the next epic track.

Sunset: Who knows who wrote that song of summer that blackbirds sing at dusk? I've always loved KT's lyrics, yet this album contains a book of poetry which'd exist as well alone on the page, and but for the music she creates around it...  I'd recall it that way. The pace of this arrangement is properly well affecting, which is to say it reaches more deeply into my wrenching of my gut. It also happens to have a section of what is probably the most alluring duet of mother & son on record just before it kicks into high gear. Cheers.

Aerial Tal: I had little doubt that she could recreate her birdsong imitations. Our era has given everyone a voice with a potential to magnify the effect of the most awful music press. Some people made clear that they'd be pissed if she didn't sing a slew of her old hits. I wouldn't've been pissed had she not done the birdsong bit, but am pleasantly pleased she did. Here's proof. (Forgive my aggressively passive aggressive hypocritical virtue signal in all its fannier than thou-itude posturing.)

Somewhere in Between: Okay, so regarding my poetry comment, I'm sure it's by some perspective down to my ill-bred unfamiliarity with the form. As that may be, I know a cliché when I read it. And I'm unkind enough to know what's naive. But but for the framing of these things maybe the page would be unkind to her mistakes. (Am I really being that guy?!) But to continue an unfortunately twisted analogy, the frame displays the well-hung painting and KT has a bigger dick and balls than you do.

Anyway, much as I love a measured pound of Prufrock, it's obscured by obscurity. If you can take an innocently simple simile and make it sound profound, then what else can it be but beautiful poetry? As had been made clear to Maya Angelou enough to shake her out of her trauma induced silence, the argument is in the aspic. Sing you caged birds, sing!

Tawny Moon: Imagine if the moon were rotating or could be spun to reveal that, as a matter of fact, it's all light. Well, it's whatever you make of it, innit? Posterity judges this kindly. Not so much sweetly sung as strong and sure. Maybe unrequited love is the greatest love of all. You go, Bertie.

Nocturn: Pure poetry. This is both the pinpoint epiphany that occurred that one time in a dream and the fact that you'll never be able to describe it both captured in song.

Aerial: Intense buildup, eventually to close to cacophonous rock. But wait. What kind of language is this?  If you know and love that this is from the masterpiece released in 2005, I once again remind you that like Act II it could stand alone to reclaim the same status. The last of any latent caveats I put here when I say that I cannot unsee what I saw. But that is by default got round by not having seen it (nuff said).

On to the encore:

Among Angels: Here's the most faithful reproduction down to the lightest touch of the keys and subtlest breath. Only that the previous track's applause is falsely faded out as this begins makes it less than perfect. There's no getting around that. However, in this performance she let's the end fade fully to silence and waits for the applause before breaking the illusion, which exposes her moon-sized balls for all to see, which is why we love her so much. She's so good a singing pianist that you'd be nuts not to think there oughta be more of these. For our purposes here, it's placed perfectly penultimate.

Cloudbusting: Oh my God. I will always remember this. This is beautiful. Thank you so much.


Click the pic at the top or bottom to a link to purchase Before the Dawn at a place that's not Amazon.


photo by Tim Walker
design by Stuart Crouch Creative
GIFting von davidly