In an unpredictable recording career that has bent and warped just like her distinctive operatic vocals, we’ve heard an array of impulsive musical approaches from the American born singer songwriter. From raw acid soaked psychedelic rock, warping Germanic ballads to musical interpretations of the poems of Emily Dickenson and more recently traditional Spanish-sunshine songs on her previous 2012 release with The Victor Herrero Band, ‘Perlas’ (Review here) .
Given Foster’s American origin, an academic take on that album of ‘Spanish music’ calls to question the ‘authenticity’ of the music, although you have to admire the musician’s integration into Spanish culture. However, the whole ‘authenticity’ argument seems to fall apart when you listen to the music and open your eyes and ears to this modern age of Internet free information-access and budget airlines. It seems that our cultural background is only limited to our ability to access the almost unlimited information that’s available to us. The appreciation of Music has a multitude of paths. While an academic approach might get you to places that you otherwise wouldn’t reach, I can’t help but feel that it blocks out most other routes and when it gets down to it, the appreciation of music is essentially a spontaneous guttural reaction that manifests its self as emotion and when taking this into account, academia + music can seem like a contrived, negative and perverted approach. Almost like a filtering system preventing you from being emotionally affected. With this in mind we come to the conclusion that the only true expression of our mish-mashed culture comes from the inspired love of a thing. Which, to be fair is where all ‘traditions’ start.
However this time round, it seems that her inspiration has come full circle and we are taken on a musical kaleidoscope tour of her American heritage. This includes, inner city dwelling blues in ‘Child of God’, sweeping panoramas in ‘Panorama Wide’, which contains a prairie roaming musical break that suggests a distinct South American touch and Native American flute on ‘O Stars’. While America is present, there are also songs about her own journey, such as the inescapable emotion of true love in ‘The Wave of Love’ that utilises some gorgeous violin rendering.
If you ever find your self in some far-flung random location at night, look up to the sky and you will usually see some familiar friends shining down on you.
It seems that the many adventures that we are taken on in ‘Blood Rushing’ the stars are with us, from the stars in the front cover artwork to the songs ‘Sacred is the Star’ and ‘O Stars’.
The cover of ‘Blood Rushing’ painted by Josephine Foster seems like a hallucinogenic rearrangement of the American flag, simultaneously celebrating and criticizing the country. It utilizes the good old red white and blue colours, with parting white clouds giving way to a red river waterfall with stars shining though the deep blue universe beyond. The stars however, while obviously representing the States are in an uneven arrangement that doesn’t seem to project the regimented ownership of borderlines. In fact, they seem happy peering though at us, like Van Gogh’s stars in ‘Cafe Terrace at Night’ and perhaps these guys represent the free-roaming cowboy attitude that flows though the folk-rock anthems on the album. While the red river spilling into an ocean of blood could denote the butchering of Native Americans that was involved in founding the country and the continued pointless butchering in other wars further afield.
One thing I’ve learnt in my thirty years on this globe is that nothing is black and white. Take that red river on the cover art and the album title ‘Blood Rushing’ for example. As I just supposed, this could be a river of blood spilling into an ocean of blood representing the spilt blood of all the unnecessary American wars, but if you read the lyrics to the song of the same title we learn that, blood is rushing, in the veins of someone blushing. The song itself seems to be about reinventing oneself, which if you’ve been following Foster’s musical career you’ll be well aware that she’s never stopped. Also, if you analyze the lyrics in ‘O Stars’
O stars O stars they shine they shine
like the big dipper over-flowing wine
They suggest that its not blood, but wine flowing from the stars representing their ever-giving power, there are multiple sides to everything and its left open for us to run off with whatever we think works.
Whilst filming with Josephine in Spain just before recording this album she mentioned she was planning on going back home to record after a seven-year hiatus from her country. I said, “Going back to your roots” and she responded “before they completely dry up”. After listening to ‘Blood Rushing’ it’s apparent her roots have drunk well and beautiful revelations of her attitude to the country have blossomed in these songs in the form of a whole trippy encyclopaedia of mish-mashed emotions.
I’ve been eagerly following Josephine Fosters’s musical career since 2003. I remember the first time my ears where injected with such glorious vocal tones whilst on tour listening to Devendra Banhart’s compilation ‘The Golden Apples of the Sun’ sitting in a van hearing this other worldly voice come out of the half busted stereo of our broken-down van. I got hold of the first album I could get my hands on, which was ‘All the Leaves are Gone’ where she’s heard being backed up by ‘The Supposed’. Whilst enjoying the unpredictable twist and turns of her glowing output over the years I’ve been secretly waiting for a return to the riotous rock and roll psychedelia of that album and ‘Blood Rushing’ goes some way to fulfil this fantasy, all I need now is the full band to go on tour with a gigantic lighting rig and a bottle of fine whisky. ‘Geyser’ is the most raucous tune and has a fantastic crazed Beefheart madness to it, plus some genius lyrics
Fertile, I’m so fertile
I’d concieve of anything
Which in context with the music seems like it’s referring to an explosion of ideas flowing out with uncontrollable chaos.
‘Underwater Daughter’, a song title that rolls off the tongue with satisfaction has a blissful dreamy quality to it. Personally I feel that it’s an ode to motherhood and plays with the natural feeling a parent has to regard their offspring as almost holy sires. Simultaneously, an offspring’s natural conclusion is that their parents are kings and queens and after all when you think about it, from a child’s perspective, they are the Kings and Queens of their reality. Further more, if you are going to responsibly enter a child into this world you should regard them as treasures. However I feel the notion of motherhood goes beyond the parent/child dynamic and playfully suggests with the idea of who mothered life on earth. Evolution teaches us that all life originated from the ocean, so we have to conclude that the ocean is our mother.
There are some real lung busting screamers on this one too, such as ‘Child of God’ which is about the ridicules, over crowed and polluted urban situation we have found our self’s in. Singing along to these blues can exercise demons of uselessness, religious shackles and poor social living standards. I particularly enjoy the lyrics:
Don’t it feel silly
don’t it feel odd
bein’ just a bitty Child of God
Which seems to be a statement of the troubled predicament of humans trying to understand the world through organized religion.
A fair number of these songs contain spine tingling backing vocals often utilized in a call and response manor sung by Hether Trost and Paz Lenchantin. Hether Trost, being the other half of A Hawk and a Hacksaw who naturally applies her expert approach to the violin, plucking and bowing her way though the songs accentuating the emotion with finesse. She can also be heard playing a bouncing Jaw Harp on ‘Waterfall’, which is a song about dreaming of a goal and longing for it. While Paz Lenchantin of the Entrance Band, ZWAN and sometime PAPA M collaborator, twins up the violin action and executes some stunning Indian flute on ‘O Stars’ as well as getting her bass grooves out.
It must also be noted that as well as some excellent Spanish guitar that we’ve come to expect from Victor Herrero, the album features some smooth electric guitar handling where he pulls out all kinds of wonderful sounds such as aquatic bubbling in ‘Underwater Daughter’ and some inexplicably satisfying slide movements in ‘Child of God’. All this is backed up by some pounding New Mexican skin drums by Ben Trimble of Fly Golden Eagle.
All things considered ‘Blood Rushing’ makes for some pretty additive folk-rock-pop melodies with top-notch musical performances all round. Led by one of the freshest front woman of our time.
Review by: Harry Wheeler
“Blood Rushing” is released on 17 Sep 2012 via Fire Records