Confusion is the name of the game on “I Love You (Dora Lee)”, the new full-length from NYC quartet VaVatican. Self-described by the group as “the first half of a two-part absurdist sound saga”, this single piece spread across two sides of magnetic tape unfolds exactly as such. What starts out as a lush, dynamic, and melodic tapestry of almost post-rock soundscapes abruptly collides into a grating wall of upper-register harmonic extended saxophone technique, and continues this journey into confounding new territories throughout the duration of the recording. Nathaniel Morgan, Owen Stewart-Robertson, Weston Minissali, and Booker Stardrum (the latter two also of avant-proggers Cloud Becomes Your Hand) unite respectively on alto saxophone, guitar, synthesizer, and percussion to push the limits of their instruments to the point where fact can no longer be distinguished from fiction. The group is able to use improvisation within a structurally composed framework to take the listener on an emotional and sonic roller coaster ride, see-sawing between styles of music in a such a way that makes the end result impossible to pigeonhole into any one genre. Electro-acoustic passages are punctuated with seemingly-nonsensical text and speech fragments, collaged together as antagonistic sound poetry. What’s perhaps most impressive about “I Love You (Dora Lee)” is it’s ability to straddle the fine (or broad?) line between high-brow and low-brow, where colorful, texturally-rich melodic drones and even Elvis covers are met face-to-face with farting, giggling, chairs creaking, and downright nauseating atmospheres. While the sounds can be musically serious, the overall narrative remains cryptically playful and tongue-in-cheek, a dynamic not often found in the stuffy chambers of academia and improvised music. Needless to say, VaVatican are not afraid to take risks and embrace the bizarre, basking in the true nature of experimental music in it’s most literal sense.
“A romance, a farce, a stomach bug, a new moon, and Elvis Presley in a tall tree” –VaVatican