The name Vieo Abiungo may sound familiar, while the specific memory may be elusive; the last time William Ryan Fritch released an album under this moniker, we were only three months old! Since then, he’s become the flagship artist for the ever-reliable Lost Tribe Sound, while we’ve steadily increased our global readership. It’s fair to say that we’ve grown up together.
Last fall we wrote about the latest Lost Tribe Sound subscription series, and last winter we chose Fritch’s Deceptive Cadence: Music for Film Vol. I & II as our modern composition pick of the season. Unexpected delays have caused a shake-up in the series schedule, but the label has found a generous way to fill the gap: two new installments in the Dead West Tape Series. James wrote a wonderful review of MALK’s tape over at Fluid Radio, while we’re covering Fritch’s tape here. Together, the tapes provide a tag-team score to the desolate cactus lands, which seem somber on the surface but burst with unexpected life.
The Dregs is an ironic title, in that it connotes the leftover, overlooked, and worthless: dregs of coffee, dregs of society. These tracks were rescued from “lost and abandoned” albums, but are by no means dregs. Their power conveys a different message: that too often we weigh the worth of things, or even people, in a rash and inattentive manner. Ryan Keane’s video edit for “Cobble Together,” paired with the title, “No Diamonds in These Mines,” calls attention to rich cultures treated treated as means to an end by Western societies. While not overtly political, the album continues Fritch’s fascination with the world at large, especially when it comes to rhythm and melody. There’s always a facet of Fritch’s music that seems like it comes from another country, although the specific country is impossible to identify.
A link can be drawn to George Harrison’s explorations of Eastern music, most famously in Within You Without You; we’d be shocked if Fritch didn’t consider him an influence. Yet Fritch has established a signature sound that shines through no matter how hard he tries to distinguish Vieo Abiungo from the work released under his own name. The Dregs may contain a bit more viola de gamba and a few less strings, but there’s no hiding that unique percussion. Ironically, Blood Memory actually came out before Music for Honey and Bile, so we initially heard the artist under his adopted moniker.
Horses trot across the landscape of “Fronting,” providing the impression of a caravan. The deep tones of “Cobble Together” conjure images of a desert troupe breaking for the night, playing music around a fire as children dance, delighted by the long shadows they cast. Whenever their strings are plucked, they sound warm; when they are drawn, they sound transcendent. But with percussion this elaborate, even the electric guitar sounds exotic. “Tinkerer” contrasts wood sticks with military drums: cultures colliding yet coexisting. The stereo separation falls into focus: this is widescreen music, the antithesis of mono. One can picture the sharp evening stars, the howls of local wildlife, the flasks and canteens. Every once in a while ~ for example, the end of “Unravel Together” ~ the attention shifts to a single instrument, in this case the organ. In such moments, one feels the clarity of an uninterrupted sky, miles from any trace of light pollution. The hums of “No Diamonds” imply the warmth of human interaction. Beyond the bells of “A Branch Gave Way,” one can hear the sea.
Over the past decade, Fritch has carved his own sonic Wakanda: an awe-inspiring, inclusive kingdom that could be real. Leave aside the title; these are the diamonds in the mine. (Richard Allen)