What attracted me to Lacuna was not initially Paul McNees or The Mockingbirds but the presence of Mark Growden as producer and player. I'd first been stunned by Growden's brilliantly mephitic Saint Judas (here) and then by the much different but equally affecting Lose Me in the Sand (here), so when his name popped up here, I rapidly paid attention. Lacuna isn't at all the luxuriously grim tableau of Judas but much more in common with Lose Me before it turns a corner to become its own beast, a quiet beautiful folk-chambery work that possesses affinities in Randy Newman, Tom Rapp, Harry Chapin, Kenny Rankin, Van Dyke Parks…but, um, don't lean too heavily into any of those references, as they're just touchstones.
Lacuna is the perfect title for this disc. The word refers to the empty spaces helping define the visual in the graphic arts and the aural in the sonic. That mode works in two ways here, not just in notes and chords but also lyrics, wherein writer McNees purposely truncates images to make the listener reach beyond mere identities. Then, he flips around and every so often adds repetition within gesture to achieve the exact same effect, as in Wanting. The song becomes a zen koan, a pensee upon the perversity of desire, and it will leave you perplexed, not sure what to make of it all. As opposed to the Rod McKuen / Oprah Winfrey school of gushing sentimentality, that's exactly what poetry is supposed to do.
The release was engineered by Myles Boisen (John Zorn, David Lynch, Fred Frith, etc.) and fashions an exposition that is by turns spare, lush, and undecided, hovering in the borderlands, but always with a generous spotlight illuminating each carefully crafted line clustered around McNees' singing, obtaining a sense of intimacy within oft austere mid-West spaciousness. Lacuna is chiefly a melancholic reflective cycle of songs hovering between anxiety and enlightenment while walking the paths human beings are fated to tread. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of that is the tension between the spooky unknown:
…and the humdrum, plentiful here and which waxes ever more precious the more one contemplates it until everything becomes…perhaps…the alpha and the omega?, an Escherine mobius strip?, and there is no lacuna? As I say, this is what poetry invokes. When it's married to music, it becomes all the more poignant. This CD won't resolve the dilemma, it's not meant to any more than Frost's The Road Not Taken was written to choose your calling for you, but it'll guarantee you don't too quickly go looking to the TV for a quick fix either.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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