Friday, June 23, 2006

Wenger Releases New Recording

When Did They Go?

When did they go far away from me?
When did they go far away, far away from me?
Life and love, ah . . .
Far distant wind I feel

When did they go far away from me?
When did they go far away, far away from me?
Hope and sight, ah . . .
Far distant wind I feel

Matthew Wenger says that pleasure in the process is what gave him the courage to put together his latest recording of folky, multi-layered yet minimal rhythms and harmonies. Yet the pleasure does not remain only in the experience of the artist alone; When Did They Go? offers an interesting and at times mesmerizing experience in sensible listening. That is to say it speaks to the senses by bridging gaps between sound and metaphor, abstract feeling and real life.

Thinking in this vein, the title track When Did They Go? is of particular importance. The song, which Matthew writes in the liner notes was his “first attempt to write a song about the experience of depression,” gives one the feeling of wistful nostalgia, painful regret, yet a trace of something to come. The song evokes movement in and out of time as it moves across the landscape of memory, the ebb and flow of emotion. Matthew’s tenor in the main is clean and uninhibited yet wanders at times, hesitating on the phrasing of “life and love” for instance. This does nothing to diminish the listening experience, rather it enhances the song by manipulating the tonal nuance and thereby increasing the listener’s sensitivity to the subject of the song, the medium through which it is expressed and the artist himself. The essential quality of the work is both brave and persuasive.

The first song, Traveler, a cover of a Fernando Ortega song is another of my favorites. Matthew says he dedicates the song to his sister Shannon, who is currently living in Russia. By compiling these recordings, it seems to me that Matthew is living out for his sisters Shannon and Dawn, who live half way around the globe, the last line of Ortega’s lyric on the slippage of time and place: “I long for my family and friends to remind me of where I have been and where I am going and where I come from.”

Finally I’m thoroughly enamored with the vocals of the Amish-Mennonite Irishwoman whom Matthew recruited for his rendition of Tread Softly by the folk group Grada. Olivia sings straight through with a clarity that does nothing to disguise her meaning. Thought of in the context in which she and Matthew work, Oscar Wilde’s lyric on life both above and “under the snow” is profound.

When Did They Go? is an artful, thought provoking and sensitive foray into the soul of Matthew and the place he inhabits. Lyric’s “excellent musicality” assures us that it will not be the last compilation Matthew puts together. In the future, we will need another recording to tell us Where They Went Next.

Authors note: When Did They Go? is not available for anyone to purchase as far as I know. You’ll either have to come over to our place or Matt and Olivia’s if you want to hear it.


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