If one were to take one of every orchestral instrument, march them into the jungle, and play while surrounded by curious birds and baboons, one might be able to replicate the sound of Vieo Abiungo. As an alter ego of William Ryan Fritch (the flagship artist of Lost Tribe Sound), Vieo Abiungo has always demonstrated a flair for the exotic. At Once, There Is No Horizon carries this to a pleasant extreme.
The first sound is that of tribal percussion traveling speaker-to-speaker, swiftly joined by flute and bass clarinet. This is what one might hear if the orchestra were to swap instruments with the natives. There’s a blazing bonfire, but no one will be eaten. Meanwhile, cheetahs and panthers lurk about, hoping someone will wander into the woods. Percussive sub-rhythms amplify the intrigue like a third tribe approaching to parlay. The title “Balkanize” refers to the division of one body into competing groups, which one can hear in the music ~ the difference being a desire to work in harmony while preserving one’s own tribal identity. The world might learn a lesson from this musical metaphor, which seems to represent multiple regions while disguising any single national identity.
The timbre of Vieo Abiungo ~ as opposed to that recorded as Fritch ~ is so distinct that it has become a signature sound. Strings are always present, but never dominant. Percussion is integral, yet there are no drum solos. At any point in the mix, one or another instrument might pop in for a spell, sometimes only for a phrase. It’s easy for the instruments to retain their humility when they are all played by the same person! Fritch’s seeming intention is to introduce a form of world music in which every culture may hear a hint of its own heritage: a difficult task as it implies homogeneity or a sloughing of edges. Fortunately he is able to avoid both extremes.
Perhaps the best words to describe this music are lush and dense. It’s easy to have one without the other, but the combination is akin to the foliage of an unravaged forest. Just as the human eye has developed to recognize gradations of green, so the listener may momentarily spot one instrument or another before they return to their sonic camouflage. Midway through “Future Tense,” the bass steps forward while the snare tiptoes through the woods. Then the attention is stolen by the electric guitar, which we didn’t know was part of the hunting party. When only two minutes remain, we notice the glockenspiel like a rose-ringed parakeet, green on green.
What might the CD title mean: “at once, there was no horizon?” We speculate that this optical effect, apparent in liminal times, may also be applied to cultures and beliefs. Vieo Abiungo’s invented world suspends the world’s focus on differences in order to find commonality. Every voice remains distinct, yet has a voice at the larger table. (Richard Allen)