From Quagmire – The Tropic Of Barren

2 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: From Quagmire (?)

As different as everything on VHF Records is from the “mainstream,” and then, comparing certain extremes to another, even between releases on the label, From Quagmire was still… different. And that admittedly earned it some extra notice from a VHF follower like me, its minimalism and barest mingling of beauty of discordance for sure intriguing. It scratched a particular itch, if slowly. And maybe not particularly well.

I was still excited for From Quagmire’s followups, without really studying why I hadn’t gotten much listening out of this debut. But now with some distance, returning to each album purposefully, I can hear that Tropic is the concept of this trio of guitar, violin, and “other;” the subsequent albums were more realized versions of the execution.

Dorothy Geller’s bare speak-sing, piecing together some emphatic half-thoughts; James Wolf’s strings floating in, just touching melody; Vinnie Van Go-Go’s patter of drums and screeching “drone;” when these three are crawling together, plunking one note every century, and letting silence inform the next surge of emotion, this is quite immersive. Except it’s so scattered, to a fault, that its opening tracks – starting at nine minutes, the next title track eighteen minutes – are likely to break most attention spans, especially given that they don’t even seem like singular ideas, each song pausing halfway through and starting off down a different road, rather disconnected from the first one. This follows along lyrically – Geller gets some steam going with some words, then… has some other words.

The remaining four tracks on this album are logically a bit more focused, but I’d still maintain that there’s something in disarray here, that the trio aren’t quite playing off of one another – they’re reacting, yes, but not intuiting, which creates a rather dry emotional space.

On the one hand, this is simply “not for me,” except for finding much more traction with the discs that would follow.