The needle-drop fuzz that cues Sam Amidon's fourth solo album of songs, I See The Sign, raises the curtain on a world of little theatres, foretelling of an aural gut-grip that is fully human and wholly natural. Amidon's intuitive and often radical reworkings of age-old secular ballads, gospel, folk songs, and hymns render familiar characters new through his direction, vision, vocals, banjo, guitar, and stellar contributions from fellow musicians. Stylus Magazine raved that Amidon's sophomore solo album, But This Chicken Proved Falsehearted, was “the most interesting folk album of 2007.” In 2008, Bedroom Community debuted his third album, All Is Well, which garnered media enthusiasm as a “a goose-bump-manufacturing sonic pièce de résistance” (CMJ New Music Monthly). I See The Sign sets the stage for Amidon's second Bedroom Community release to showcase deft attention to songcraft and collaboration. Where All Is Well foregrounded voice and strings to share tales of human endurance, I See The Sign is a carefully constructed battle and balance of musical sensibilities surveying the psychological extremes of existence. Contributing to I See The Sign is multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, a long-time collaborator of Amidon's whose musical past includes New York City's improv scene as well as playing bass for Rage Against the Machine, percussion for Tom Waits, and guitar for Laurie Anderson. Offsetting Ismaily's expansive contributions, Nico Muhly's chamber-orchestral arrangements for string, brass, and woodwinds continue the groundbreaking work he began on All Is Well. Renowned singer-songwriter Beth Orton emerges after a music-scene hiatus to lend haunting vocals to four songs. In an environment of struggle, euphony, and polyphony, Valgeir Sigurosson's expert role as producer grounds this sonic psychogeography. While atmospheric pressure in “Rain and Snow” builds from the love of trouble and troubled love, “Pretty Fair Damsel” lightens the scene as Amidon's voice and Muhly's keys cast rays of sun through forests of sugar maple to spotlight music for the hopeful and hope-filled. “How Come That Blood” gallops with Ismaily's percussion and Moog bass, accented by string flourishes as pheasants take wing to flee the scene. Through recomposed children's singing game “Way Go Lily” and Georgia Sea Islands song “You Better Mind”, Amidon and Orton pair elegant vocals to play out strains of concern and comfort. Title song “I See The Sign” steps boldly centre-stage to depict the dark clouds of Armageddon hovering over wildflowers, myrtle and marsh marigold blooming against a roiling grey sky. By stark contrast, an intimate rendition of R&B musician R. Kelly's “Relief” is the perfect dénouement to draw the album's drama to its finale. With fearless grace and apocalyptic beauty, I See The Sign performs aurality for vision; sounds enter ears and exit through eyes that shine and widen from listening. I See The Sign enacts a technicolour reality, with sound grown in and on the body - a body costumed in blood-red lichen and moon-silver moss, with the crackle of grit audible beneath boots. An album traversing the emotional gamut, Sam Amidon and his collaborators present I See The Sign as a gift to the listening, sensate body. In your doomsday attire and with your eyes glowing bright, do you see the sign?
(added: 2010-03-26 12:35:09 )