Theo Bleckmann: I Dwell In Possibility (2010)
The title of this record also defines vocalist Theo Bleckmann's artistic philosophy. Bleckmann is probably the only human being to ever properly interpret the music of Kate Bush and the compositions of Charles Ives, and his range as an artist doesn't stop there. Bleckmann's Winter & Winter albums, along with successful side projects, have earned him critical acclaim and a pile of awardsincluding the prestigious JAZZ ECHO award from the Deutsche Phono-Akademie in Germany. All of the positive press could give cause for Bleckmann to rest on his laurels, but the singer continues forging ahead, trying something new at every opportunity.
I Dwell In Possibilitya solo album in the truest sense of the termcomes at the crossroads where art songs and stripped-down experimentalism meet. Bleckmann was inspired by Arte Povera"the Italian art movement of the '60s that created installations with the simplest and 'poorest' materials"and the superb acoustics at Switzerland's Beinwil Monastery (where the album was recorded) help bring each piece into sharp focus.
Bleckmann opens the album with three consecutive tried-and-true songs rather than freer vocal excursions, and each offers wonders and surprises. Bleckmann sets Emily Dickinson's words to his own music on the title track, and his singing is sweet as can be. His minimalistic minstrel-like musing, with some metallic percussion added, sets the album in motion, and his vocal control and sense of pitch is beyond reproach. His melodica work provides a sea chantey-like sound at the top of "I Hear A Rhapsody," but the song sounds more like a lament when the vocals enter. The accompaniment on "Lord It Is Mine" gives Bleckmann's voice some solid ground upon which to walk, and he brilliantly comes across like an Art Garfunkel for the artsy crowd.
Folk-based material is completely turned on its head when Bleckmann gets his hands on it, bringing a dark and earthy character to Joni Mitchell's "The Fiddle And The Drum." While Bleckmann's overdubbed choir creates a powerful sound on this piece, his lone voice rings out pure and true on James Taylor's "That Lonesome Road." Bleckmann's voice bears some resemblance to Brian Kennedythe heavenly voice that bolstered Van Morrison's vocals on his late-'90s recordingsmaking the track an album highlight.
Other covers here include a terrific take on "Comes Love," slightly marred by the croaking accompaniment of the Indonesian Frog Buzzer, and Meredith Monk's "Wa-lie-oh," but some of the most daring pieces come from Bleckmann himself. Bleckmann's vocal range is on full display during his "Duet For One," as he creates some upward vocal swoops and jumps all over the map to create a vocal bass line within the gaps of his higher-pitched statements. While instrumental accompaniment occasionally threatens to overshadow the vocals on "Kleines Norwegisches Wintergedicht," it's all part of Bleckmann's grand artistic vision. An oxymoron of sorts is at play here, with Bleckmann yearning to create high art with the simplest of tools; but it's a real treat to follow him as he toils away, creating some wondrous musical morsels and working at redefining the voice's possibilities.
Track Listing: I Dwell In Possibility; I Hear A Rhapsody; Lord Is It Mine; Duet For One; Static Still; Wa-lie-oh; That Lonesome Road; So La So Mi; Ma'at; If Only; Earth And Sky; The Fiddle And The Drum; Kleines Norwegisches Wintergedicht; Comes Love.
Personnel: Theo Bleckmann: voice, autoharp, chime balls, chimes, finger cymbals, flutes, glass harp, hand-held fan, Indonesian frog bugger, iPhone, lyre, melodica, miniature zither, nut shell shakers, rotary pan flute, shruti box, tongue drum, toy amp, toy boxes, toy megaphones, vibratone, water bottle.