Daniel A.I.U. Higgs "Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot"
For Daniel Higgs, bearded frontman of Dischord veterans Lungfish, ?music? is an acrostic standing for ?Mighty Undulations Synchronize Into Cosmoses?. Yes, this man and his most recent solo album, ?Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot?, are idiosyncratic to say the very least. The record is accompanied by a book containing Higgs? visual art which, if the three reproductions on the press sheet are anything to go by, combines geometrical forms, mythological allusions and the tongue-in-cheek humour of the surrealist movement.
I obviously can?t comment on the art, but the six tracks on ?Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot? are a very welcome offering for anyone interested in experimental guitar music. Higgs uses banjo, acoustic and electric guitar (plus the occasional piano and harp) to create meditative, intimate tracks without any vocals. Dirty drones and an understated tape recording lend this album the very roughness that was missing from Takeshi Nishimoto?s recent album. Nishimoto may be the superior technician, but Higgs provides the edges that get you hooked. That?s why Brad Rose?s The North Sea is another useful point of reference.
Personally, I don?t care for private mythologies, and I?m unimpressed by the fact that the yggdrasil supposedly is ?the great tree of Norse myth that connects all worlds of cosmology?. I don?t hear any Norse trees on this album, no connection between heaven and earth, no transubstantiations of any kind. All I hear is Higgs? excellent guitar work, drenched in waves of feedback or ? as in the overambitiously titled ?Creation Moan? ? torn into pieces by the best fuzz effects that I?ve heard this year.
Elsewhere, Higgs is still original and idiosyncratic enough to be interesting, but he?s sometimes in danger of getting lost, particularly in the two longer tracks, ?Cocoon on the Cross? and ?Hems and Seams?. The latter is an exercise in spaced-out mouth harp drone, which sounds exciting all right, but as a composition fails to absorb the listener?s attention (unlike fellow exotic drone composers Area C). Still, anyone interested in the artists mentioned above should find this unexpected but welcome addition to the Thrill Jockey catalogue worth checking out. 7/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (24 July, 2007)