Monday, July 20, 2015

Damon + Naomi's "Fortune": Music Review

Their music grows more reflective as this couple mature. Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, for over two decades, explore subdued moods on their intimate songs and vocals. After the demise of Galaxie 500, this drummer and bassist continued their partnership, insisting on an organic, integral sense of music that turned inward more than their previous band.

These eleven brief tracks accompany Yang's half-hour video piece, "a silent film with a live soundtrack" of the same name, Fortune. It commemorates both her late father's passing and portraits from the middle of the last century painted by the father of Norman von Hotzendorff. Norman inherited his father's archive, as Naomi had her father's photography. Add tarot cards to the title of this album, which conveys a autumnal, contemplative series of songs.

Recorded and played entirely by the duo, this album is closely miked. Acoustic guitars and reflective keyboards play off gentle washes of snares and a steady bass. The pair had brought their talents to Galaxie 500 in Damon's jazz-based percussion and Naomi's self-taught and insistent bass patterns. many years later, these qualities merge with their voices, intertwined as on "The North Light" beautifully, and on some of the other tracks, separately.

The first few songs set the melancholy but not despairing tone. They blend together. They merge into a tapestry of introspective meditations on loss and recovery. They are dignified, and they drift along.

Halfway into the sequence, "Shadows" stands out as a fine example of the layered, meticulous pace that Krukowski and Yang have mastered. Hushed, it does not let go of emotion, but it cradles it. Damon's yearning vocals over his distant percussion and Naomi's faint backing voice carry sorrow.

"Towards Tomorrow" and "Hurt House" offer lovely instrumental interludes. Yang's "Sky Memories" and allows her a lead vocal. Her contributions to Galaxie 500 before the mike were far fewer than guitarist Dean Wareham, but her unhurried phrasing always complements her measured bass lines.

Concluding with the longest song on an album clocking in at twenty-eight minutes, "Time Won't Own Me" hearkens to Damon + Naomi's signature sound. It's slyly jaunty beneath a shy exterior. It asks for connection; its modest arrangement and hushed delivery confess a desire for closeness. Fortune, another confident expression of this couple's quiet command of music and lyrics, wins us over again. (Amazon US 3-5-15; PopMatters 3-22-15) Artist's website:

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