Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mister Tucker Reviews: Luis Mojica - Wholesome (2016)

The following music review comes courtesy of friend and writer Marc S. Tucker, carried over from his newsletter VERITAS VAMPIRUS and is NOT of my doing despite being featured on my blog - please keep this fact firmly in mind for future reference.

LUIS MOJICA – Wholesome (2016 / no label cited)
Review Written by Marc S. Tucker

Weird. I like to bitch about how horribly, horribly, HORRIBLY (!!!) mistreated I’ve been under the aegis of editors (o woe and horror, that such a flock of albatrosses should us plague seraphic critics!!), except of course for FAME’s Dave Pyles, because I’m obliged to. It’s sez so right there on my License To Criticize and is in fact a grand tradition among writers, yet only now have I come to realize that the gig’s actually been evolutionary (no thanks to same editors).

Starting with my debut in Sound Choice (mid-80s) on up to this very moment, the river of CDs I’ve received has constantly increased and improved to the point that, now that I’m independent of overseerage and ensconced in my own private gig, the submissions have been ridiculously excellent. I can’t decide whether this is because the aesthetic levels in this country and in the world have ratcheted up so steeply, and they certainly have, or mayhap, in my dotage, that I’ve just come to dig the hell out of everydamnthing. Both perplexing and immensely pleasurable while simultaneously worrying, as my one-time beloved status of Cynical Shitheel Bastard stands endangered. CDs like Luis Mojica’s only “aggravate” my "problem".

Luis hails from one of the several female-fronted and/or all-women bands I’ve dug over the years (and so’s we’re straight on the subject, Lita Ford, Joan Jett, and all the radio mercantile mediocrity facsimiles were never in the running): Melora Creagar’s Rasputina. That group indexes with such acts as The Cocteau Twins, Shelleyan Orphan, Spires That in the Sunset Rise, and others whose art is decidedly eccentric, oft with classical bases by way of Elizabethan, Victorian, and chamber wonts (tho' Spires was a good deal more psychedelic than the rest, more Meredith Monk-y, vaguely Comus-esque). I say all this in order to prep the reader for Mojica’s music, which requires refined aesthetics and discernment and is damn near a new wrinkle in the sonic territory wedding chamber classicalism with progressive rock…yet sports a wide assortment of populist devices: beat box, pop, neojazz, and etc., everything informed, luxurious, and almost sinfully hedonistic.

Wholesome defies easy categorization – resists any attempts at pigeonholing, actually - but follows in the grand tradition of 70s genre-bending heard in the earliest works of Arthur Brown, Bowie, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Gentle Giant, the quiet side of King Crimson, etc. brought up to date, and is, I strongly suspect, influenced by the gaggle of classicalists who impressed those ensembles: Ravel, Debussy, Saint-Saens, Satie, the Romanto-Impressionists. The degree of sophistication is both ravishing and intriguing. Mojica’s possessed of a smooth, clear, lucid voice with a good deal of acreage, sliding easily from mid-range to falsetto, heard right from the opening “Conquered”, a composition residing in a cappella and chorale.

Then there are his keyboards, autoharp, glockenspiel, and percussives. I don’t know if 1) the gent’s academically trained, sure as hell seems like it, or 2) if the paganistic wont he embodies (the CD cover is festooned with three wild images, including an Ophelian-esque / Dalinian Dia de los Muertos back photo), a manifest of spirit that’s intellectually driven even above its spiritual ways, or 3) having spent the last four years  in the mountains account for the depth of composition in every bar and measure, but it hardly matters; the mere appearance of work on this level is justification and explanation enough.

There’s a very strong high-level degree of cabaret present, not Chicago or Chorus Line but rather what Weill and Brecht were doing in Weimar Germany…in a much different time and much different context, though the title cut’s indeed quite Weill-ian. The degree of literacy and intelligence places this disc in the RIO (Art Bears, etc.) and 4AD camps, but, I’m tellin’ ya, an exceedingly flavorful and gorgeously austere version of Bowie’s Aladdin Sane and Ziggy release pervades as well. Don’t expect Mick Ronson, Mike Garson, or Tony Visconti, though, as Mojica already has that covered on his own.

His sessioneers, Creager among them, were extremely well-chosen and then ceded the democratic ability to arrange their own participations within the compositions, resulting in a ne plus ultra degree of artfulness as kindred minds and spirits cross-collateralize so tightly that a stellar degree of cohesion is achieved. I must note that this song-cycle collection is so extraordinary that it’s so far captured the #1 spot on my year’s-end Best Of list, a status I’ve only ever awarded once in 31 years of reviewing, to a Kevin Kastning / Carl Clements’. Should something better come along, it might knock Wholesome off the pedestal, but, frankly, I don’t see that as even vaguely possible. The disc in fact de-throned the only other possibility: the hideously cool, high-spirited, heart-warming collection of kidz mania, Andrew & Polly’s way bitchin’ Ear Snacks - another extremely unique gig - down to the #2 position (something I’ve never awarded otherwise). God himself would hafta release a gatherum for any dimmest chance of…oh wait, I’m still way pissed with that asshole, so, no, f’geddabout it!

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