Andrew Lipke is a singer with a highly impressive talent for writing and arranging mellowly progressive rock tunes with an unusual base (guitar, cello, drums, bass) and rich overtones bringing light modern classicalism down to kiss textured compositions with heaven-sent rainbows of moody clouds and golden rays. Of course, there are a few heavysides (Mindgames, etc.), but the strangest thing is that I want to classify Motherpearl and Dynamite in with Al Stewart and the Strawbs but can't. Though worthy of the companionship, Lipke's dynamics and imagery are completely different, almost Cale-ish in their elder days schooling but without John's dementia and neuroses.
Ryko Records was impressed enough to distribute this CD, and well they should. Lipke aces Steve Kilbey and some of the experiments the label tried over the years, most of them to very uneven success. Motherpearl makes up for such failures, so think of it more in line with Ryko material somewhat like the Dave Stewart / Barbara Gaskin work, even if only in spirit. Lipke's much more coherent, though, in terms of atmosphere and consonance, while owing no definable artistic rent anywhere discernible. Especially his inclusion of Krista Nielsen on cello is a flash of brilliance, transporting songs several degrees to the side of attempts to pigeonhole him. About the only true comparative I can think of is Leigh Gregory's superb Rainy Season Never Ends (reviewed here), though Gregory's work is decidedly more classicalist.
Lipke's voice could be the showcase here if he weren't so skillful in weaving his musical and emotional contexts so attractively into everything, thus the two enhance one another but never dominate the spotlight to the other's disadvantage. There's an almost athletic bravado to the manifold tones and leaps he takes in cuts like Get It Over With, but the mix hides it a bit too much. Had I been the engineer, I'd have chosen a more emphatic role for the guy's pipes, because he really is that good a singer, but I can't say I'm unhappy with their result either. Just so long as music like this makes it to the consumer, I'm content.
A side note here, as I feel it's important: this is only the second time in 20+ years of critiquing that I've mentioned a promo company, 'cause I usually hate the bastards (Kayos Productions, Cuneiform, et al) but Howard Wuelfing of Howlin' Wuelf Media is of an ilk with Rhonda Kelley over at Rainmaker Public Relations, people with their aesthetics in a very unusual place, possessing uncanny abilities to unearth and tout the cause of strikingly unique new talents. I have to say I've more than once been shocked by how strange and/or fresh some of their clients have been. This doesn't happen by accident, and I suspect people like these two may very well play a major role in a long overdue shift in the music world that must occur, comprehensivising talent in a way that agglomerates a critical mass necessary to achieve a new milieu. If we're to escape the hyper-corporate doldrums presently strangling art and artists, business and the art world must achieve new ground together, and, in cases like this, there's a very good chance of that. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Wuelfing is an artist of note in his own right...and I suspect that's the real bottom line.
Of course, I could be wrong and corporo-artistic fascism just might be the way to go, but, uh, I sure as hell hope not, 'cause if it is, I'm manning the barricades.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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