by Dave Lynch
Before the era of ubiquitous Internet file sharing, the prospect of these 3 Mice making an album together might have seemed unlikely. But technology has surmounted geography, and Elaine di Falco (Hughscore) and Dave Willey (Hamster Theatre) — both based in Colorado — worked long-distance with Switzerland’s Cédric Vuille (L’Ensemble Rayé) and Israeli mixologist Udi Koomran to create Send Me a Postcard, an album that sounds like it emerged from a single studio. Given their respective projects melding avant-prog, Euro-folk, world, and classical elements to create music both amiable and challenging, Vuille and Willey are a natural pairing, as becomes clear right from the album’s opening track. « Hot Rod Waltz » features Vuille on cuatro and guitar, Willey on accordion and bass, and L’Ensemble Rayé drummer Daniel Spahni. The piece is indeed centered around a waltzy 12/8 verse and chorus — featuring Vuille’s crisp picking and Willey’s insistent accordion chords and sky-high melody — alternating with a 15/8 bridge (the « Hot Rod » part?) during which, on the second go-round, Vuille’s power-riffing electric guitar charges in and Willey’s ascending line elevates the tune as it returns to the verse. A roaring start, to be sure, and third mouse di Falco hasn’t even made her entrance. Her contributions as composer or co-composer add moody ethereality, ringing vibraphone ambience, and sometimes a bit of darkness to the proceedings. On « Invitation, » co-written with Willey, her deliberate piano arpeggios mark the harmonic changes over which Vuille’s twangy, swooping guitar and Willey’s accordion join in mysterious melodies, accompanied by Vuille’s clarinets and more Willey accordion in a counterpoint stereo throb.
Di Falco’s « Year of My Solstice, » again guided by her piano, has a slow waltz rhythm and tango feel, more wintry than summery as her melancholic accordion melodies are echoed by Vuille’s ghostly theremin; somewhere in the mix a timbre emerges that some might feel uncannily resembles the voice of Dagmar Krause. She also provides the disc’s edgiest moment as the composer of « Experiment, » which builds into a huge droning onslaught of textured sound driven by Spahni’s drums and her rhythm box. Of course, di Falco does sing on Send Me a Postcard, her voice usually multi-tracked in wordless harmony as another instrument in the palette, enthusiastically tackling something light and breezy like « Hey-yay-yay-yay-yay-yay-yay-ay-ay » in the closing « Skallaloo. » And even when she sings actual words, as in her distressed rodent tale « Mr. Hamster’s Dilemma, » a quirkiness keeps this worlds away from earlier 2011 outings Decline and Fall by Thinking Plague and even Willey’s Immeasurable Currents. Overall, in fact, Send Me a Postcard resembles a Vuille album like Faire in the brevity of its 12 tunes, forays into diverse international musical traditions — Caribbean, Latin, and Celtic, to name three — and head-spinning array of sparkling, multi-layered instrumentation. Di Falco’s charming booklet paintings suggest a metaphor that not all items cast skyward travel far and reach hoped-for destinations. Thankfully, these 3 Mice sent musical postcards to one another that arrived as intended.
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