Monday, September 01, 2008

The Orange Spotlight

Richard Leck Memory Hair (Words Like Kudzu Press, Fall 2008)

"Feeling the narrowness of now"

At the age of 75, Richard Leck has achieved what many only wish to achieve. He has published his first collection of poems. At this stage of his life he it is clear is feeling the weight of all the years he has lived, and beginning to fear the future. One would think that this would be a time of reflection, but instead Memory Hair is filled with more of a concern over the mortality of memory. Richard focuses on the slow fade of memory, as ghost lose their shine and genuine thoughts are replaced by snapshots. It's the window slowly closing that will never be reopened. One of the poems in this collection really sum up this emotion this best is "Empty" where he talks about "Faded echoes in the walls" and how each room cries its own sadness. These verses are both touching and heartfelt and cold and empty. They fit perfectly with the image of someone looking back at life and wondering what had happened.

One surprising aspect of the collection is the abundance of verse. It had been a long time since I had read a verse poem, but I was pleased to see that the poems still retained a deep meaning while using rhyme. It is a fine debut on a fine mircopress. Words Like Kudzu is Pittsburgh press run by Karen Lillis. Karen herself is an accomplished writer, her latest novel, The Second Elizabeth, will be released by Six Gallery Press in December.

To order a copy of this chapbook please send $5 to Words Like Kudzu Press c/o Karen Lillis PO Box 8142 Squirrel Hill Station Pittsburgh, PA 15217

High Places High Places (Thrill Jockey, Sept 23rd)

It is rare these days that a band or musician brings forth a new and original sound. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with that either. Everyone is inspired by something or someone, everyone has influences, but it is all about how you build on your influences. Yet, every time I hear Brooklyn’s High Places I can't help stop still and wonder where that sound came from, how was it created, what instrument is that? Mary Pearson and Robert Barber make a magical sound, and if I hadn't seen them perform live I would have never believed it was just two people. Their sound is filled with bells and bird calls over a wash of ocean waves; mallets hitting mixing bowls over treated guitar and glockenspiel; Mary's reflective vocals over Rob's homemade beats. Stretched out before them on a folding table was an array of shells, bells, and other percussion instruments. Robert was steady in his banging out the beat, which was filled with tropical storms and walks on the beach, while Mary wore bells on her wrist and tweaked and twisted and shook until her lilting voice was fully covered in sound.

On their debut self-titled full-length album, High Places further explore the sound that brought them so many new fans last month when their singles collection was released. Their sound is vibrant and tropical, and I am often reminded of lo-fi, basement, DIY version of The Creatures. Well maybe not basement, the album was recorded by Rob and Mary in their apartment in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood between January and May of 2008. They employed a wide variety of instruments to make this album ranging from the more traditional: 12 string guitar, banjo, shakers and rattles, bass, bells and Kalimba, to the inventive: plastic bags, mixing bowls, wood blocks and other common household objects. Rob and Mary met while Mary was completing a music degree in bassoon performance and Rob was teaching lithography and etching at an art school. They were brought together by their love of layers, and they have become one of the most inventive duo's in music.

The Storm/You in Forty Years/The Tree with the Lights in It/Vision's the First.../Gold Coin/Papaya Year/Namer/Golden/A Field Guide/From Stardust to Sentience (mp3)

The Midwest leg of their tour:
Sep 17 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
Sep 18 Grand Rapids, MI Division Avenue Arts
Sep 19 Madison, WI Majestic Theater w/Dan Deacon
Sep 20 Champaign-Urbana, IL Pygmalion Festival
Sep 21 Rock Island, IL Huckleberry\'s Pizza Parlor
Sep 23 Chicago, IL AV-aerie
Sep 24 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock
Sep 25 Grinnell, IA Gardner Lounge w/Ponytail
Sep 26 Iowa City, IA TBA


Karen Lillis said...

Thanks for reviewing "Memory Hair"! Besides mail order, the book is available at St Mark's Bookshop, and will be available at the Small Press Fair in NYC in December. Check our website for more details.

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