REVIEW: ‘Lexington Avington Bravington’ by Hello Hugo

a0920882050_16
The opening phrases to Lexington Avington Bravington, from Hello Hugo, are bracing and engaging. There’s a brief flurry of voices (remember parties? It seems so long ago), a steady gallup of percussion (the click and din of sticks on metal) and then a build of swirling guitar tones. The atmosphere is crisp, the vantage is wide, the layered sounds carry a promise that needn’t really be delivered. These days, promise is enough. All hope is precious; all beats are danceable.

Weird thing, Bandcamp sent me this note today: “Hello Hugo just released Lexington Avington Bravington.” The Asheville based experimental instrumental collective (Nick Prather, Rosser Douglas, Reid Weigner and Justin Holt) is now a decade into its tenure, but this six-song collection came out in 2013. At the time, it was the band’s second release. This is no new offering. And yet it’s a collection for now; the album we need to rock in unsteady times.

Lexington Avington Bravington by Hello Hugo

“Death By Current Event Overanalysis” was written most a decade prior to the arrival of COVID-19 on the shores of our collective consciousness. But the truth of the title — who among us isn’t suffering from anxious newsfeeds? — is eloquently relayed through feedback, static, tart pops of percussion, a flourish of cymbals that sends shockwaves through the system. Beats lag, synths hum, the sonic scape is one of devolving machinery and the uptick in nature’s vernal buzz, suddenly decipherable in the death of traffic noise.

“Sponges Never Have Bad Days,” too, tells a story in its artfully envisioned title. The band eschews lyrics, instead drawing texture and meaning from atonal meanderings and the points where instruments and grooves lock in, tight and determined. This track is neither spongey nor oceanic. It verges on industrial, pushing into spaces of caffeinated tempos and lithe, rhythmic guitar motifs. It pops and drives, organizes thoughts, barks marching orders, takes care of business.

Following track “Noise” is, perhaps ironically, more watery: A lapping pulse, a fluidly rolling melody, a dark shimmer conjuring a night swim.

Final track “Double Animal” — the album’s sixth song — brings the collection full circle with a brief vocal intro. The sample isn’t quite audible, and neither does it suggest a party vibe. This is solo listening material, a venture into the mind’s backrooms and unlit paths. But there’s joy in that exploration, from resonate high notes to the corralling of guitars and percussion, pressing ever forward.

It says keep on. It says be bold. It says accept the offered invitation. It says trust in dreams, in visions, in every inkling of inspiration.

Is Lexington Avington Bravington a gift from the past to a future/present that so needs a soundtrack in which to rest our weary nervous systems? Perhaps. Music is of the ephemeral, the ineffable, the nonlinear flow of time where we all find ourselves, however unwillingly, at this moment. So let’s listen to this as the “new release” Bandcamp claims it to be. Let’s accept that gift from the strangeness of reality. Let’s dance, in this moment, like sponges who never have bad days.

Prophet and Loss — music and poetry collaboration video

I don’t know what to say about these dark and violent times. I know I want to lean toward the light. This is that: a collaboration with the brilliant singer-songwriter Vickie Burick on our shared birthday weekend, filmed The Grey Eagle by Jesse Hamm.

(This is an encore of our May performance at the Asheville Area Arts Council as part of the “Beyond Knowing” exhibition and panel discussion, curated by David Sheldon.)

“Stargazing” by Alli Marshall // “We All Fall Down” by Vickie Burick // “Prophet and Loss” by Alli Marshall

‘Lilith’ show on Saturday, Aug. 24

FLYER IN A DARK CHAMBER: Meditations on Lilith is a collaboration between performance poet Alli Marshall, musician Liz Lang (Auracene); dancers Sharon Cooper and Coco Palmer Dolce, Butoh artist Jenni Cockrell, and with imagery from artist Alli Good. Soundscapes, words and movement lead viewers through a series of vignettes delving into the many faces of Lilith, from the original woman who refused to be subjected by a man in the Garden of Eden to the miracles of the Black Madonnas of the Christian faith to the recent clemency of Cyntoia Brown who was accused of killing a sex trafficker.

The show will be performed on Saturday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, 120 College St., Asheville.

$10 for BMCM+AC members and students with ID / $15 non-members.
Tickets at brownpapertickets.com.

Lilith save the date

 

The Eye of Hathor (video)

A performance from this year’s Asheville Percussion Festival. Soundscape by Bonnie Whiting, movement by Brandi Mizilca, words by me. It’s a poem about creative work and women’s work and the intersection of the two: the point at which an artist steps through fear to meet a challenge. (At least that’s what I think it’s about — but it’s totally open to interpretation.)

Video and audio by Joshua Messick, live soundboard audio mix by Steve Beatty and Edward Link at Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, video editing by Asheville Rhythm.