Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Josephine Foster - Blood Rushing

Two of the most riveting albums of the last couple years that I didn’t write about, in part because I didn’t feel historically/culturally equipped to, were Anda Jaleo and Perlas, two collections of Spanish folk music that Josephine Foster recorded with the Victor Herrero Band.

Foster’s latest album Blood Rushing definitely bears traces of that experience – Herrero plays guitar on it, for one, but the overall sound is less geographically specific, more engaged with folk music in general as an approach to music. Her voice is just as distinctive, unforgettable in how it soars and twists. It can be soft and delicate, but also jarring in its heights -- and even close to operatic. That’s on purpose, an act of drama and purposeful artificiality.

Blood Rushing walks a line between traditional folk music and eccentric pop. It sometimes seems to have its own fantasy/mythological world, yet also seems obsessed with the tangible, earth and skin. Musically it gets bare, too, sometimes with just her voice, some skin drums and a roving violin. It feels in touch with the elements. The lyrics, too, have dirt and the body at the forefront, along with related feelings of yearning, comfort and dreaming.

The first song finds her dreaming of a waterfall. Elsewhere she looks to other bodies of water (“Geyser”, “Underwater Daughter”), but also to the stars (“O Stars”, “Sacred Is the Star”) or to internal processes, be it feeling “a wave of love” or feeling more scientific bodily systems in action. For example, the flow of blood within our bodies is at the center of the title track, one of the best songs here. She goes from listening to the sound of blood to a feeling of rebirth: “We’ll begin to begin again.”

That song’s neighbor “Child of God” is more pessimistic, but doesn’t sound like it. It seems to be about human beings’ place in cities, and carries the realization that we’re all cogs in a machine.

There’s freedom here in thinking, about ourselves and the greater cycles and systems we dwell in. The final song title “Words Come Loose” represents for me the way she thinks broadly and journeys in many directions. Yet the song might be the most dour, reminding us there is sadness in these songs even when they feel light and airy.

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