Disaster Amnesiac is breaking with habit by starting off the reviews out of sequence, having delved immediately into Bill Brovold's Stone Soup's Michael Goldberg Variations, a disc of music that is generally quite introspective and quiet. Bill Brovold, per the liner note, utilized the input of artists Michael Goldberg in creating a piece of music that is Minimalist without being meandering or even repetitive. A four or five note motif is played on an acoustic guitar, around and along and beside which various guests are heard adding their own musical additions. Guitarist Mark Ormerod goes first, finger picking some lovely guitar lines, notable for their at times fret buzzed tension. What sounds like an amp being hit for subtle feedback and viola-like theremin sounds from Scott Burland come next. Disaster Amnesiac is fascinated by the very unique sounds Burland coaxes from his theremin; the instrument really is developing by leaps and bounds, and Scott pretty clearly is on the forefront of that. Bill's former band leader Rhys Chatham appears next with cool flute sounds wordless vocalizations that evoke very primal feelings as they wrap around Brovold's continuing guitar float. Really sweet e-bow riffs on electric guitar, too. Things seem to get back to the aesthetics of the first track as Fred Lonberg-Holm uses cello with implements in order to get shorter percussive attacks followed by long drone bow sounds. This track feels like it go on for a great deal longer, but, in keeping with the overall mission of Variations, it fades into Leonardo ProtoPeople's synth pops and crackles as they fuzz and distort, pointillist additions to the guitar that has transformed into a sumptuous current. Kieth Moline seems to have added both audio processing and guitar to his version of the piece: the repeated guitar riff rings more, colored by buzzing strings and hollow echoes. The track feels like a natural half way point as it up the energy with its other worldly dynamic flashes.
Stone Soup settles back down into an easier boil with Frank Schultz's lap steel bends and turns. The instrument surely brings out a bit more of rural, Western U.S. feel as its Schultz's lines emerge over and atop the motif, cooling it off from its previous interactions and setting up the second half of this disc. Guitarist Nick Didkovsky treats his sounds with great psychedelic tape delay flashes that circle somewhat beneath the Goldberg Variations riff. These allow the buzzing of its strings to be highlighted. It's as if Nick wanted to frame it, rather than add, and even as his playing gathers intensity, it remains settled in a "support" role. Quite an astute aesthetic move. Tracks 9 and 10 segue right into each other, with the former featuring Toy Pop artist Frank Pahl, who adds chiming percussive hits from what sounds like a plastic toy piano. The latter has Karen Haglof spinning out sweet six string Psychedelic, and Disaster Amnesiac is moved to hear echoes of Golden Gate Park 1968. NEVER a bad feeling as far as I'm concerned! This track rolls like sublime fog careening down into the Western Addition. The paired guitar sounds of Beth Wilusz and Erik Gustafson flutter ghostly on Michael Goldberg Variations' penultimate track, ascending and descending subtly around the now transformed central riff, which takes center stage and holds it right on through to disc's end, a second feature for Mark Ormerod. This short piece has small, two note riff, somewhat higher notes giving a last counterpoint. A quick fade, and its work is done.
Disaster Amnesiac's initial experience with Bill Brovold's Stone Soup had me listening to it on a San Pablo Bay cold Saturday, ducking in and out of its sonics as I watched marine layer mixing with ash from horrible fires a couple of hundred miles north of my residence. Michael Goldberg Variations provided the perfect soundtrack for this bittersweet experience, with its pensive modes. It features music that most certainly could be utilized either as good background or for more foreground intensive listening. Either way, Brovold and Co. have clearly done their job. Enclosed within a lovely hand printed and colored cover, this disc just exudes effort and integrity. No surprise, seeing as that it's out on Public Eyesore!