Ya gotta love a title like How to Live on Nothing. It's not only cynical but perfectly apropos for our times. Troy von Balthazar, however, is a bit ahead of the wave, and, right in the initial cut, Catt, there's a glitchy rawness that strikingly sets off his folky pop voice and otherwise ersatz MOR approach. Then Very Very Famous waltzes in on what sounds to be a toy piano and gobsmacks the ear once more, setting the stage for a succession of amalgamations that diametrically oppose one another yet come off beautifully…if, that is, your brainworks have been tuned to appreciate the unorthodox sitting right down on the face of the standard. Myself, I love it when it's done right, and von Balthazar has a most peculiar method to his restrained madness.
Some of this I suspect Donovan would have done had he taken DMT instead of LSD, strange visions invading his dreams of flowers and Atlantis. It's dicey music to create as the chances of commercial success aren't promising, yet the art factor is quite high and more than justifies the efforts and results, especially when they manifest as they do here. Von Balthazar's voice is delicate and almost childish, a fit companion to instruments sounding as though they came from KayBee's or other wonderlands for wee ones. A huge slice of innocence seems inevitable until you listen to the lyrics, boasting such gems as "I drink to keep the tigers away". Not something Little Johnny is going to sing about for Show & Tell, or so we'd hope.
The entire CD is of a piece, a kind of demented Willy Wonka with surprisingly mature sentiments slyly laminating candy-coated surfaces, attractive for the sparkle and simplicity but a bit shocking once you take a bite. Thus, the screaming guitar that breaks into In Limited Light takes your head off while the soul exclaims "Oh hell yes!!!", further scorched by signal cut-off ragging the already tattered edges of the envelope into frayed dissonance. There's a lot here to take you by surprise.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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