No, the signifier agrees
If you once stood in a place you had never been and knew you would probably not return to, so you tried to impress it on your memory; not just the sight, you might have recorded that, but your physical presence in that space and moment, the sense of, say, rock and steepness, ocean and birds swirling below, the surge saying: silence, warmth for a second – but you are there too much, you are so much there, right then and there, you cannot properly remember anything afterwards but the fierce being there: Big Thief’s U.F.O.F. is a bit like this.
It is not so much a record of anything as it is the landscape not to be recorded. It most certainly is not an album, not a book of pinned-down pieces of music, labelled and fastened for scrutiny and decsription by some aurelian of songs, beautiful and quite dead. There is nothing dead about this record, no stolid identity with a once fixed down self, nothing to be described or depicted except by the band themselves; and they are gentle surveyors, not letting their observation interfere more with the phenomenon than strictly necessary to trace it, and tell you about it. If it is a record, it is a record of something moving, like a log on the migration of bluefish or sea gulls, notes on measurements to deduct the speed of ice and land masses drifting.
Even more or more obviously than its predecessors, U.F.O.F. relies on each individual instrument and occasional sample to take the bearings, shifting the symmetry of the observational set-up from something of a line towards a rectangle. Among the four of them, the band are spanning a lot of space for the song to take place somewhere between the notes and noises. They know how to be transparent, to stand aside and let the song pass on, turning some lights on it to give you an idea of its shape and form. There’s nothing arbitrary about it: They keep the focus as the angle is changing and the song is running its course of evolution, side branches budding, barely perceptible or erupting into foliage, unfolding, or folding back on themselves; fern woods once covered the earth; meanwhile, the horizon expanding, still more oxygen, more air clear enough to see through.
And they own their history like nothing came before them. Yes, one could point and name: folk, here, something jazz there, oh look, a particle of rock’n’roll – yes, but why would you? I may feel reminded of something or other here and here and here again, trying to get the name, the style, the other band from the back of the head to the tip of the tongue before everything shifts once more, only to discover it wasn’t a memory at all; a déjà vu, maybe, or a shared structure of soil. Whatever one might name or knew about before, it has returned to a primal state, a musical pattern freed of adhering implications. Meanwhile the song is already growing into something that is as much still the same song as you have always been the same human. It is rare to witness this on a record.
The band takes the time and measures necessary to accompany the becoming of a song, not to arrest it. When the music’s over it is there, the landscape you left behind, undoubtedly still changing, doubtful which one of you is gone.
All the reviews on this album have long since come out, I’m still dodging mine. It seems weird to write much about musical restraint such as this, imprudent to try and describe songs which are best described by the band playing them; downright objectionable to try and pin down a masterpiece in not pinning down. I’d rather not, not on screen and not in my head. One could perhaps learn that from Big Thief.
Da Mosher hier nicht ganz das richtige Maß wären:
05. Open desert
10. Terminal paradise
12. Magic dealer