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Geoff Farina : Blobscape

REVIEW: Geoff Farina: Blobscape
5.19.2002 by Sean

Geoff Farina: Blobscape [Kimchee, 2002]

Three words? Instrumentals that murmur.

On Blobscape, Karate's Geoff Farina puts aside the rock, the roll, the empassioned lyrics and winsome delivery - he throws it all into a burlap sack, ties it with twine, and tosses it into the armoire. This isn't a solo singer-songwriter project in the vein of Jeff Tweedy or Stephen Malkmus. Blobscape is more in the vein of Herbie Hancock going out on his own, of Wynton Marsalis dismissing the Lincoln Center Orchestra and recording some avant garde jazz in his basement.

Blobscape is the collection of sixteen short instrumental pieces, each improvised by Farina at the "Narragansett Grange Hall, Wakefield, RI." There are no edits in the material, no overdubbing - this is solo electric guitar, all ambience and concentration. Farina's guitar murmurs with the same resonant intimacy as the guitar-work in Julie Doiron's recent material, but it's a much more sophisticated sound. These are not chewy math-rock attempts, nor the epic instrumental narratives of John Fahey. Though on "Chewable Resources", Farina's virtuosic fingerplaying carries him almost into the blues, he never quite makes it: these are streams-of-consciousness, easily diverted but never schizophrenic.

The opening strains of "Feign Elsewhere" explain what this disc is about, straight from the start. Irregular chords hang in the air, join their twins, love and lose. The arhythmic movement of notes sings out a 'Marco', while the listener's heart twinges a tactile 'Polo'. Still, this isn't an album that is easily appreciated: the compositions fade together - alike in sound, production, and their unpredictable jazz quality. Although the tracks diverge into slightly different styles (blues, avant jazz, Jansch-like baroque folk), Blobscapes speaks more as mood music than as a series of discrete pieces. Listening calls for a grey afternoon or a sweltering night, for the body to be breathing at the same pace as the music. That's not to say that this is cry-into-pillows music - these aren't Nick Drake's dark compositions from Pink Moon - but Blobscapes works best when you immerse yourself in it, rather than waiting for a particular musical moment to speak to you. Once you acclimatize yourself to the landscape of Farina's compositions, images begin to flutter out from between the chords. There is an ambiguous happiness towards the close of "Some Details", a distracted insolence in "Universal Indians", a suppressed pain in "Piss".

Blobscapes is a record that must not be heard, but felt. As with most jazz, it requires a listener who will devote some time to its consumption, to its sensation. Geoff Farina demonstrates here a depth he's never before shown, an emotional breadth that is consistently affecting. Though Blobscapes demands a particular time, a particular ear, its rewards are diverse and tactile.

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