When Andy Reiner came through Glen Echo as part of Firecloud
earlier this month, we picked up his 2008 collaboration CD with beatboxer Steve Foxx, Invasion
"Make sure you crank that one," Andy directed Ryan. So on our way down to Chattaboogie, Ryan was a good contra dancer and did as she was told.
As we went Googling to do some research on Invasion
, we found that Fiddlefoxx classifies themselves as "psych-folk" and we suppose that's as good a label as any -- as we were listening to it, despite there only being half a dozen tracks, we actually lost count of how many different things this album reminded us of, but we will try to recall some of them as we go.
The album opens with "Jambadalay," which mixes a 1960's sort of vibe (think Harry Belafonte) with folk fiddling and hip-hop rhythms. The eclectic mix of influences also reminds us of Blues Traveler, for those who are fans, with some really neat harmonies.
"Ewon" is the first song on this album that has a distinct beginning, middle, and end, with beatboxing framing the vocals and some stretching, wailing fiddle. It recalls the Yellow-Submarine-era Beatles (including some speculation as to precisely what sort of mushrooms are on this "lonely mushroom island" described the lyrics...'nuff said).
The next track, "Vocal Break," is aptly named; there are some really tight harmonies here and this track grows on you as I=you listen to the album a few times through.
The penultimate track, "Bom Biddly Ee," picks some interesting spoken-word, sung harmony, and instrumental samples to loop; the end result is a quirky and very representative track of the album.
The last track, "The Remembered Visit," goes more toward the hip-hop end of the spectrum, with the folkie fiddle framing a cool, smooth rap groove that actually recalls "Epic Rap Battles of History" in a really oblique way and serves as a fare-thee-well conclusion for the audience.
The variety of influences on this particular project is rather fascinating and it's particularly interesting in light of hearing Andy (the fiddle in Fiddlefoxx) play as part of Firecloud with Julie Vallimont for a live mixed fiddletechno-influenced contra dance; we may have to go delve deeper to go find their previous album, UFO
Listening to this album as contra dancers (and especially in the context of being introduced to Andy at an actual contra dance), we found ourselves at times expecting the music in this album to come out square. (That is, to find all of the phrasing to be in the normal 64-beat pattern of all traditional contra music.) Fiddlefoxx refuses to let itself become so compartmentalized, however. "Tripleslip" includes the occasional measure of 6/8 time that completely throws off any attempt to count out its rhythm. "Vocal Break" technically is
square, however the constant stress on the backbeat throughout the piece would make it challenging for contra dancers to follow.
At first, the idiosyncratic phrasing made it hard to categorize the music of this album -- it's way
too quirky to listen to it as pop music, but it doesn't fit the forms of folk music either. However, that very lack of category fits Fiddlefoxx perfectly. They're not out there to follow in anyone else's footsteps. They are creating their own brand new sound, borrowing whatever they need to from other influences along the way.