Everyone thinking of buying a Fursaxa album should be aware that Tara Burke has the ability to put listeners into a trance-like state. Her voice is somewhere between a tenor and an alto, and when she ventures in the lower ranges, she might as well be a hypnotist. Burke got my attention years ago because there weren't many women making weird, experimental, psychedelic music. There still aren't many, but Burke continues to put out excellent album after excellent album. "Madrigals in Duos" was recorded over two years ago but has finally been properly released by the Time Lag imprint. After one listen, I'm even more convinced that Tara Burke is a mystic.
There are dozens of familiar sounds all over this record. From her trademark farfisa to that opiate voice, this is the territory I have grown accustomed to when playing a new Fursaxa record. This music is often formless, drifting in and out of structure like one fades in and out of consciousness during lazy summer afternoons. It's this last aspect of "Madrigals in Duos," though, that most resonates with me. It's weird to think of this as any sort of "feel good" music, but during these first weeks of summer, this is my perfect accompaniment to days spent lounging in my pajamas, doing little but writing emails and watching TV. There's something under the surface here that lends itself to the transition into the full ascent of the hottest season, a time when I am generally more productive.
"Surrender, L.A." is the perfect track to take on a mid-day excursion to the park. I like to go and just lie in the grass, despite the fact it makes my skin itch like crazy. The rain stick employed in conjunction with Burke's droning voice gives this a distinct meditative quality. I can feel the grass tickling my skin as the sun warms my face. I could put this track on repeat for hours and just sleep the afternoon away. She follows this up with the catchy "I See You," which will slowly bring you from slumber to alertness. What I really love about this track is how much the guitar tone reminds me of Dennis Callaci's (of Refrigerator and the mighty Shrimper label) old solo project, Paste. It has a detuned clanginess to it that is wonderful. It sounds like someone playing an acoustic guitar through a tin can. As it moves into multiple tracks of vocals, Burke's somber voice washes over me like a smooth, warm shower. I am now awake, ready to move forward through the rest of my day lazily.
During the few weeks in which I am transitioning from the mindset I have during the school term to the mindset I have during the summer, there are many bouts of frustration. Today, in fact, I was overwhelmed with all the work I feel I have piling up with this zine. "Mon Valet" uses distorted guitars and disorienting vocals to aurally depict these emotions to perfection. While Burke moans unintelligibly, I feel like she's throwing her arms in the air and screaming, "Forget it! I am through!" It's a good song and moves nicely into the seven minute closer, "Ursa Minor."
Even though she uses a great deal of instrumentation here, it's the farfisa that has the most lasting effect. "Tuvalu" is one of the best songs I've heard from Burke and features nothing more than the organ and her voice. It is the beginning of the day; it is the admission that you realize very little will happen today, but you're okay with that. It is also the confession that you are happier when you have someone to share your lethargy. I find this track remarkably endearing. It is like something you hear a child singing quietly when he/she believes no one else is listening. "Singing songs I wish I knew, follow me to Tuvalu," Burke murmurs as she embodies that innocence. This song is magnificent and is worth the price of admission alone.
"Madrigals in Duos" is probably not for everyone, and I find more comfort in it than inspiration. But that's okay - I don't need to be inspired by everything I hear. On many occasions, especially during this time of year, I just want to be surrounded by things that aren't urgent and are comfortable in the way that a faded t-shirt is comfortable. Fursaxa does a fantastic job of creating such a mood. This is best served with a cold beverage while sprawled in the soft, damp grass. 7/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)