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Frankie Sparo - Welcome Crummy Mystics

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Artist: Frankie Sparo

Album: Welcome Crummy Mystics

Label: Constellation

Review date: Jun. 9, 2003

A Choice Greeting

Months passed before I was able to listen to this wailing rotation of dirty dirges, depressing melodies, and possibly incestual lyrics. Violin, stand-up bass, Eastern percussion, reserved drums and meditated horns (with a touch of brass) figure as prominently as acoustic guitar, and Sparo's voice cues in somewhere in-between a Whisky-ravaged blues singer and a singer-poet (think: Leonard Cohen). Melodramatic, at points overwrought, but never lacking in sincerity, Welcome Crummy Mystics is the ballad remix of post-rock melancholia, minus the wall-of-guitar monstrosities of Constellation's well known Godspeed, slowed down to halfspeed, let loose with silence and jazz overtones, crossmixed with, if we can say it, Irish feel.

The intensity of this release testifies to its duration. At times, the opening chords of ambient ping make me pop it out, immediately – if only because, truth be told, I can't deal with it. I know the opener, "Hospitalville," will advance step by step to a growing violin overture, a breath of toms, and a release into nothing less than despair. At other times, I feel happy listening to Sparo – if only because, truth be told, I feel less fucked up (the day in question) than he. The Big Question that all Rock Reviewers ask, however, is: so does it sound "authentic," or is it Crap? I've never quite understood this question, unless posed in the domain where pop singers try to sing sad-sounding ballads while stuffing their pockets with millions in revenue. Is Sparo "authentic"? He whispers and mumbles with a quietude and a restraint that many crooners would do good to pay attention to. His barely intelligible lyrics on "This Lie" speak to the arrangement, allowing piano and stand-up bass to cultivate the atmosphere of the recording which, if anything, is organic and wooden. Resonance and acoustic hum are felt around each instrument and each track works within a recording studio that must have been, one feels, a barely-standing, dirty sunlit shack. Eno's influence on rock-ambience is felt throughout this album, from the emerging strands of "Sleds to Moderne" to the muffled drums of "Akzidenz Grotesk." While Sparo plays a drunk rumble on his lyrics, it is "Back on Speed" when he lets loose with a spittled madness... "You can't get next to the man," he screams...a scream horse-throated and punctuated by electric blues guitar, by a bleeding soul, and finally, by a chanted chorus. Of note – various Godspeed members play the parts on this recording, with Efrim handling the recording duties.

By tobias c. van Veen

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