In the album Overloaded Ark by Helena Espvall & Masaki
Batoh less is more and tradition is regressive. Both musicians
have worthy credentials - Espvall is of the modern-psychedelic act
Espers and Batoh is in the progressive-folkers Ghost -
but on Overloaded Ark they backtrack into the past for mostly
traditional sounds, and sadly this causes them to become both uninteresting
and lacking in enthusiastic spirit.
Overloaded Ark gets off to an average start with the merry
and dancy "Little Blue Dragon," a track that, according
to the inside notes, is known as "Salterello", a 15th century
folk song that originated in Italy. Oddly, it reminds one of something
out of a Cocteau Twins record, with its scattering percussion
and what sounds like a crumhorn's lighthearted hum. Once also covered
by Dead Can Dance, this opener sets up a mood of renaissance
fair and may feel appropriate, but it also feels usual for an album
of this ilk.
Sadly, the beginning of the album is its most urgent-sounding and
is less yawn inducing than the proceeding couple of 10-plus minute
original compositions. The title track - a dreary and subdued Indian-sounding
song with a little bit of spacey experimentation thrown in - would
not even make good background music, while the other, "Until
Tomorrow," even beats that one in emptiness. In a nutshell that
is also the rest of the record, as nothing really exciting happens
in the entire album.
Many will want the duo to have fun and break barriers by crossing
their usual modern experimentation with the past. Instead, we are
treated only to the past and the music feels more suited for the
background of a movie. Yet, since its not, we can instead call it
the soundtrack to watching paint dry.
Even in symphony music there is a good climax at some point in the
songs that builds up one's anticipation; in that way, the songs like
they have a point. In Overloaded Arc, however, the album starts
with the climax and settles down into slumber, as if daring you to
keep awake to its end so you can get a gold star.
Actually, if you finish the album in one sitting you have earned
the patience equal to that of the Dalai Lama. As an endurance test,
Overloaded Ark is quite exhausting and as something - anything
else - you will realize why this music was like so 400 years ago.
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