REVIEW: Cal Folger Day – At The Roots of The Stars (Solo Edition) (2017)

I once met Cal Folger Day at a show in Asheville, NC. She was on tour with The Bonk from Ireland, herself an American living abroad for at least a couple of years as I remember. Another rainy Tuesday, which meant maybe 5 people showed up, much like the Tuesday show I had worked before (XL Fits, Osaka, Japan). I had just witnessed one of the best shows I had ever seen, and with the little tip money I did make that night I bought as much Cal Folger Day merch as I could.

Enter At The Roots of The Stars (Solo Edition); a download card made of thick bevel-cut mat board and printed on with rich pink and black inks. None of this is important to the musical qualities of the album itself, obviously. Consider it an appreciation for the artists who put a level of care into their download cards and, as of now, the only download card I have kept after use.

Cal Folger Day’s use of text-to-speech accompanying ‘vocals’ bring a level of subversiveness to At The Roots of The Stars. The integration of text-to-speech in music has been marred by meme-culture association and general reluctance in classically trained circles to integrate with new sounds or experiment. But Cal Folger Day commands a level of mastery over it. The text-to-speech ‘vocals’ add a dimension of emotional coldness and disdain which is repeatedly overcome by the warmth and humanity of Day’s dynamic singing.

“The text is a short play written in 1919 called ‘At The Roots of The Stars’ by Djuna Barnes. I have such an utterly unshakable confidence in the beauty of the language that the work every day of finding the most nimble, pleasant, natural melody for the words was terribly easy. As if I needed additional motivation, this feeling that I have, of being simply abashed that Djuna Barnes is today a relatively unknown name, lent a strong sense of justification and indeed obligation, less to her ghost than to myself and other readers/listeners,” wrote Cal Folger Day for An Áit Eile, a culture, society and ecology site based in Ireland.

At The Roots of The Stars (Solo Edition) is currently unavailable online. If ever given the chance to stream or get a copy of this album, take it. Until then you can check out Cal Folger Day’s site here or their Bandcamp where other beautiful works of theirs are available.

For fans of: Karen Dalton, Vashti Bunyan, Sibylle Baier

Like Cal Folger Day? Give these a listen: Myles Manley, András Cséfalvay, Concette Abbate

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