Agony Shorthand

Friday, January 06, 2006

One of the new CDs in my ongoing JOSEPHINE FOSTER excavation series. BORN HELLER's debut is one sparse, somewhat difficult nut to crack, but having spun it six ways from Sunday over the past couple weeks, I think I've got it figured out. This is truly what folks are referring to when they yammer on about "avant-folk", as this is as icy-distant and morosely shimmering as NICO's "Marble Index" while treading on something approximating an acoustic, non-percussive, no-horns-at-all sort of guitar-based jazz. It's some intense shit, brother, and you better not riding a bummer when you tote this disc to the changer. I guess it came out in 2004 on Locust Music, and Born Heller are a duo comprising Ms. Foster and another guitar/bass picker named Jason Ajemian. She does most of the singing, sounding almost disengaged or even haunted at times, but he contributes a few ghost whispers as well. Subject matter is almost universally downbeat; then again, there might have been a few glimpses of sunlight buried in there somewhere. I'm sorry, I was busy sobbing, in big, heaving gasps. I see the reviews online on this one throwing around references to both "Appalachia" and the "English countryside", and with all due respect, since I do that sort of thing all the friggin' time, that's some lazy-ass shorthand. BORN HELLER are a naked and frozen beast who will demand your rapt attention if you may be so bold as to offer it. I know I've already bought a ticket for their February San Francisco show so I can slam in the pit & obnoxiously yell out for "more ukulele".