Thursday, January 17, 2008

Biota - 1995 - Object Holder



Review of Object Holder - from CMJ New Music Monthly (June 1995)
by Douglas Wolk

Out in Colorado, the musical collective Biota (this time, seven people plus four guests) and its visual-arts comrades Mnemonists (three members of Biota and eight others) have been making beautiful, startlingly original records for 15 years, untouched by genre, fashion, influence or much of an audience -- there's really no word that approximates what they do, even one as broad as "rock" or "jazz." They play guitars, piano and drums; more often, though, they play accordion, flugelhorn, hurdy-gurdy, nae, clavioline and whatever other reed, percussion and keyboard instruments are at hand. Most of the time, their records sound as if they'd heard about music and liked the idea of it but never actually heard anyone else's, then come upon a cache of instruments and learned to use them to make something that sounded good to them. Biota's music is dense, rich and consistently lovely, with "processing and tapework" adding rumbling, musique concrete-like layers to the sound or streamlining it, as necessary. Object Holder, essentially a 24-part suite with sections that segue into one another, adds an element that's new to the group: vocals, from guest Suzanne Lewis (a New York resident, from Biota's labelmate Hail), singing texts by members of the group. With the incorporation of "songs," it's their most accessible record to date, at least on its surface. But it takes patience to appreciate it fully; it may take years to probe its depths.