Eureka! Top Albums of 2007: Archipelago
by Split Foster,
Archipelago avoid all the clichés that come to mind when you hear the “free-folk improv” label – their rich, muddy pieces unspool over quarter-hours without pretense or indulgent drugginess, somehow evoking playfulness and doom, lightness and density. The songs wander and let the imagination do likewise, always maintaining a balance between the ethereal and the rugged – a chain of tech-savvy swamp mystics in torn-up boots: they’ve got one foot in the pirogue, one on the stompbox. Voices purloined from scratchy radios chatter and then melt, like tape left out in the Gulf Coast sun. Silver clouds of glockenspiel tone waft upward, while earthy textures rub against each other; you’re looking up at a sky thick with sun and storm, while you scrape your cheek against bark, crushing dirt through the gaps between your fingers. Something rotten and promising blooms amid the rambunctious drumming — it’s a sunflower with yellow petals and an acetate 7-inch in the middle. Making icons is usually a practice of rigid traditionalism; Archipelago turn that approach on its head, smearing and spackling and drumming, drumming, drumming, letting you connect the dots; it’s synaesthetic, it’s pop, it’s sorta religious, sorta twisted, and it’s definitely worth a listen.