Emily Bezar
Fooled By Yesterday

(DemiVox Records)

It was about two months ago that I wondered for the umpteenth time what had happened to Emily Bezar, the one-of-a-kind, versatile artist whose recorded work has been dear to me for about twenty years now. Sure, she's never been the type you'd call "excessively prolific", as easily attested by the series of fine albums she released during the 90s - Grandmother's Tea Leaves (1993), Moon In Grenadine (1996), Four Walls Bending (1999) - and during the course of the last decade - Angels' Abacus (2004), Exchange (2008). But I started wondering whether the Muse had stopped sending her messages - which can sound a bit strange, I know, but as Miles Davis used to say, "When there is no more, there is no more" (or at least, that's what I was told he used to say).

It was at about the end of the year that I had a whole series of surprises. There was, in fact, a new album, called Fooled By Yesterday; but it was of the non-physical, "download only", kind - available, of course, in both mp3 or FLAC format. No fixed price point, either, la Radiohead, the album offered the courageous "pay what you want" option. Last but not least, listening to the album gave me one more surprise: featuring almost exclusively Bezar herself (on vocals, piano, keyboards, electronics), Fooled By Yesterday presents such a great variety of styles and instrumentation - those songs we know and love, electronic paintings, a few jazz standards for piano - to become a virtual "Emily Bezar sampler".

Which could be an intricate imbroglio for a reviewer, whose competence is put to the test. And will this album become the mega-seller we've always hoped for Bezar? Well, let's have a listen.

First track on the album, My Magnetic Sleep is a fine instrumental composition, sounding not a million miles away from some "synthetic" instrumental interludes performed by Irmin Schmidt of Can in their Future Days, Soon Over Babaluma, period; sporting very fresh sound design, the composition offers a beautiful, fascinating melodic development, with many sonic layers, and some dreamlike vocals which definitely reminded me of the "Big Boys Don't Cry" section on 10cc. hit, I'm Not In Love. Fooled By Yesterday is a great piano ballad that has the Bezar signature written all over (here Dan Feiszli is featured on electric bass), synths, a very fine bridge (always a Bezar's specialty), and an "orchestral" ending; the whole sounding quite a bit reminiscent of Bezar's first album, Grandmother's Tea Leaves.

Then, four piano tracks recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California: an improvisation, and three among her favourite jazz standards. December Glare is an improvisation which to me appears to have a thematic element as its core, a melody of great beauty. Bezar's piano style reminds me more of Bill Evans than Thelonious Monk (best I can do). Great formal elegance, and at about 3' there's an aria halfway a folk melody and a hymn that in a way reminded me of Wayne Horvitz (at about 30" from the end there's something which sounds definitely very Monk-like).

I have to admit that when it comes to jazz standards I'm really out of my depth. So, as a listener, I can only say that the ballad Out Of Nowhere is very well performed; that the Kurt Weill-penned Speak Low is definitely not among my favourite songs ever; and that Thad Jones's A Child Is Born is performed with much swing, fine hand independence, an agile 12/8, and many "blue notes" - this is easily my favourite non-original track of the "jazz" section.

Then we have three electronic-sounding instrumental tracks, which are quite dissimilar from one another when it comes to "style"; all are very successful, and make for rewarding listening sessions. The outcome of an improvisation which makes intelligent use of a new virtual plug-in synth called Zebra, Zebratropic presents a "space exploration" which reminded me a bit of Zero Time-era T.O.N.T.O., with a fine melodic development and a very "classical-sounding" melody.

Dance Of The Tangerines is an "improvised dancey track". Here Bezar herself mentions Tangerine Dream (as per its title), also Jean Michel Jarre - but if my memory serves there's also a hint of Jim Aikin's old album, Light's Broken Speech Revived (definitely a "cult album"!). The tracks offers lotsa movement between the channels (very appropriate, this), a finely modulated filter in the bass parts, an "ethnic-sounding" melody, la Joseph Zawinul; it's a complex track that on the surface appears as being quite simple, as it's typical for this music.

The long - 18'-plus - May In Mesolimbia successfully marries an improvised, "synthetic", part, which was "mixed and processed" later; and a piano rumination (a sample piano, sounding very good) that appears exactly as played. The piano part is quite melodic, the synth panorama rich with "wild abandon" - lotsa helicopters, crickets, and buzzes, reminding me of pioneer-era synthesis (always a compliment in my book).

Closing track is Richard Strauss's, Die Zeit, Die Ist Ein Sonderbar Ding (Time is Weird). Here I can only say this is a very dry - as in anti-rhetorical - performance, with fine Bezar's vocals and a long instrumental coda for multiple guitars, all played by Erik Pearson, with deep reverb and a long delay.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2012

CloudsandClocks.net | Jan. 20, 2012