Monday, November 02, 2009


& Bible
of the

It's been three years since the last Starless & Bible Black re-
cord, so I expected them to return sounding somewhat differ-
ent than before. They have. Not that they've re-emerged as a-
nother creature entirely, but the opening track, "Say Donny Say,"
has more of a country feel than anything on their self-titled debut,
which combined French chanson with British folk (though Hélène
Gautier hails from France, the band calls Birmingham home).

That shift distinguishes their follow-up, though their approach
to traditional genres remains refreshingly untraditional. Center-
piece selection "Les Furies," for instance, is full-on space-rock
and yet the quintet avoid sounding like Stereolab copyists by
adding smatterings of Jimmy Page-style acoustic guitar.

In fact, the piece evokes old-
school prog-rock, like Pink
Floyd or King Crimson, more
than any recent inner-space
explorers. Crimson once nam-
ed an album Starless and Bib-
le Black, so it only seems fit-
ting that they would enter
the equation at some point.

Shape of the Shape is another fine effort from an unjustly
obscure outfit, though I'd love to see them rock out more next
time. As John Schacht puts it in his AMG review of their first al-
, "on occasion a synth roar creates memorable contrast,
like low-flying jets tearing over a green countryside," adding that
it's "the more robust cuts that leave the deepest impression." I
couldn't agree more. Starless's restraint is admirable, but "Les
Furies" proves what they can do when they set it aside.

Jay Bolotin, self-titled, Locust Music

"One of the three best songwriters in the country,"
-- Kris Kristofferson

According to his liner notes, Jay Bolotin recorded this LP in
1968 when he was "17—maybe 18" years old (though he sounds
more seasoned). A student at the Rhode Island School of Design,
he pursued an art career by day and a music career by night.

When he
signed a
with ABC,
he thought
he was on
his way.
He record-
ed his de-
but in
NYC with
including drummer Bobby Mason from the Fugs (I particularly like David Mowry's lyrical lead playing). He writes, "People in the control room were inhaling amyl nitrate from little glass vials and smoking cigar sized joints. I had never seen anything like that."

At times, the Kentucky native sounds like Leonard Cohen; at
others, like Harry Nilsson. The 10 elegant tracks offer a pleas-
ing combination of poetry and pop (but without the pomp or
pretense that can attend to the former). At times, he even
predicts Britain's slow-burn Clientele, though it's unlikely they
could've heard this rare recording until its re-release this fall.

Bolotin now lives in Cincinatti. In the notes, he says that "some-
thing honestly upset me about those songs back then." They
were haunted by "a sense of yearning for grace that I feared
would not—could not—be fulfilled, either by me or by my gener-
ation." With the hindsight of 40 years, he concludes, "Yearning
for grace seems not to diminish with age." Suffice to say: grace in-
fuses his first record, no matter the psychic toll it took to make it.

Endnote: For more information about Starless & Bible Black,
please click here or here. Images from the band and Gimme Tin-
. Jay Bolotin's "The Jack Leg Testament" from libbyrosof's
Flickr photostream
(click here for more pictures from the series).

No comments: