Throughout the past year, we’ve been blessed to receive new music from Fritch nearly every month: a cavalcade of soundtracks and short albums, as well as the artist’s collaboration with Jon Mueller as Death Blues: an album that appears on our list of 2014’s Top 20 albums. The latest we reviewed was the Heavy/Empty diptych, which appears as a digital bonus for those who purchase the LP; the last to be released was the sumptuous score to The Sum of Its Parts. This work, laden with french horns, vibraphone and string ensemble, is one of his best works to date, an accompaniment to a film about robotics. Yet even the most robotic beat (“Gnashing Metals”) cannot disguise a warm melodic heart.
Fritch’s music is always more smooth than sharp, and his timbre has become instantly recognizable, something that cannot be said about many contemporary artists. Even when joined by collaborators, as he is on Revisionist, his distinctive tones shine through. The latest album enlists the aid of Benoit Pioulard, D.M. Stith, Origamibiro and Esme Patterson, who all make good company. So much of the series has been instrumental that the vocal tracks are welcome; it’s not often one has the chance to make a grand statement at the concluding end of a hundred plus songs.
The title reflects the theme: as Fritch describes it, “the psychology of revisionism.” While the theme is applicable to the rewriting and whitewashing of history texts, it also finds play in Roger Clemens’ famous statement about misremembering (which led to the non-word actually becoming a word, another case of revisionism), in the debate between creationism and evolution, and in ISIS’ shutdown of Syrian schools. Everyone misremembers, even those with eidetic memories, but not everyone causes harm by doing so. The most benign revision is a simple fish story; the most malignant is to insist that the Holocaust never occurred. Pretending that abuse didn’t happen is a crime, but repositioning one’s self as a survivor rather than as a victim is not.
“How easy to wash our hands of this,” sings Fritch in the opening moments. “Easier than dealing with the trains of blood.” There’s no backing down in this presentation: no waffling, no mixed message. The swirling strings, deep bass and crisp mastering bring the point home, but they also serve as a reminder that we are a small part of something larger, whether it be responsibility, judgment or grace. To the guilty, let there be fear; to the innocent, hope.
Despite its subject matter, the album doesn’t come across as a United Nations summit. Instead, the music echoes with the weight of prophecy. The instrumental parts are like big epiphanies: sinners falling in the rain, soldiers refusing to fire, whistle blowers stepping to the stand. The title track is particularly effective, due in large part to an emerging string line that carries the piece home like an injured sibling. The finale of the subsequent piece, “Winds”, is like gauze applied to an unhealing wound. And Esme Patterson brings it all home with a heartfelt performance on the hopeful “Still.”
João Raus’ gorgeous cover art augments the message. “Arachne” echoes the Greek myth in which the weaver’s art was ripped to pieces, after which the artist became a spider, weaving until the end of her days. Raus’ art is itself torn and reassembled like a memory, a theory, an interpretation, a revision. (See the video below for close-ups.) We highly recommend the physical purchase, a durable vinyl keepsake; but for those who still haven’t subscribed to the series, this may be your last chance. Act now to be part of one of the most remarkable runs in recent musical history. (Richard Allen)