Jan 23 2019
Every year, without fail, one of the top albums of the year will be in possession of a lyricism that is positively epic, as if existing in some primal state of mythology. It’s the kind of things one can imagine viewed by an ancient community sitting on rock ledges in a makeshift theater on the edge of the forest, as actors orate timeless tales of the gods and their impact on humanity on an otherwise ordinary day. This particular album will hint strongly of a narrative arc. Despite the odds against it, the album will attain a cohesion in the face of its wild nature. A sharp intelligence will act as an undercurrent to implausible plot twists and otherworldly conflicts. The album will conjure up the uncommon magic that lies at the heart of mundane events and seemingly ordinary times.
In recent years, we’ve seen John Ellis’s 2014 release MOBRO and Michael Blake’s 2016 release Fulfillment fill this role. They are recordings that put their imprint on their respective years of release, but more importantly, they belong to a lineage of music projects that possess the wild abandon and creative courage required of epic tales. It’s no small thing, and it can never be overvalued in the context of any art form, any life. For 2018, the album to achieve these heights is Rhapsody by Bobby Previte.
It’s a story about traveling. It’s about a life in motion, and about the state of existence in between. When you’re no longer in the place you were and not yet in the place you are headed, you exist in a perpetual state of transition, where what was old is being shed and what will be new has not yet been embraced. These changes may only be momentary and impermanent, but it’s during a state of flux that all of the rules of expectations and understanding may be warped and broken and bled. It is during these moments that the greatest upheavals may occur and the most sublime segues. Bobby Previte’s ensemble of guitarist Nels Cline, pianist John Medeski, harpist Zeena Parkins, vocalist Jen Shyu, and alto saxophonist Fabian Rucker exploit every instance of those opportunities for the most dramatic, thrilling, expressive and fun recording of 2018. This is what it sounds like when a creative vision is completely unleashed.
Rhapsody is The Bird is the Worm 2018 Album of the Year.
Released on RareNoise Records.
Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Music from New York City.
Read more about the album on Bird is the Worm.
I also wrote about the album for The Bandcamp Daily.