Rainbows From Atoms (Dischord, 1993) started a progression towards
a unique, personal style
(Mother Made Me, You Might Ask Me What, Fresh Air Cure).
The two best songs on Pass And Stow (Dischord, 1994)
are typical of what makes Lungfish unique: passion, urgency,
commitment to the cause and musical values:
Computer is anthemic in a way that punk-rock never was, more like
a Gandhi speech than a Johnny Lydon rant, and Evidence is a carefully
assembled ballad whose psychological depth is akin to folk.
Mature songwriting is wed to mature composing.
Daniel Higgs' sociopolitical philophizing is hosted in a groundbreaking,
And this is not to say that the tension has relaxed:
The fierce drama of Highway Sweetheart,
Cleaner Than Your Surroundings and Washing Away
still relies on relentless drumming and riffing and screaming.
Signpost is the highlight of
Sound In Time (Dischord, 1996), a song that floats in the dark, menacing
ether of Lungfish's sound, where a rugged soundscape mirrors a decaying moral
Higgs is beginning to sound like a tormented prophet with
religious overtones (Jonah).
Indivisible (Dischord, 1997) marks a musical departure or at least
a quantum leap forward in that Higgs and his cohorts fall under the spell of
Indian raga, Tibetan mantras and Velvet Underground's psychedelic trance
That hypnotic style was only the beginning.
Artificial Horizon (Dischord, 1998) ranks with the austere compositions
of minimalism, thanks to drummer Mitch Feldstein and bassist Nathan Bell
(who replaced Sean Meadows), besides Asa Osborne's sitar-like drones.
At the same time, Higgs' religious, political and personal themes intersect
and become one.
Pray For The Living, Slip Of Existence and
Love Will Ruin Your Mind are among the most powerful and original
structures yet invented by rock music to deliver meaning.
But the line between genius and idiocy is terribly thin.
Repetition becomes tedious on Unanimous Hour (Dischord, 1999), that
often sounds like the band has nothing to say not like the band has created
a new style.
Suddenly, the magic is gone and what is left is only a cheap trick.
Necrophones (Dischord, 2000) makes amend, adding a little dynamics
and a little texture to monoliths like Shapes In Space.
Love Is Love (Dischord, 2004) is just a vehicle for Higgs' lyrics,
which is a curse, like all music produced by songwriters who think they
are great lyricists when in fact they are only good (not great) singers
for a good (not great) band. The band, in turn, plays as heavy and loud as a
post-hardcore band can play.
The effect is occasionally hypnotic but, most often, simply tedious.
Feral Hymns (Dischord, 2005) continued to focus on those two elements:
Higgs' lyrics and the band's heavy sound.
Daniel Higgs and guitarist Asa Osborne formed the Pupils, a duo.
After relocating to the Bay Area, Daniel Higgs
debuted solo with Magic Alphabet (Northern Liberties, 2004),
a cycle of "songs" for solo jews harp. It was his way to finally vent the
spirituality that could not fully come out on Lungfish releases.
Higgs transformed into a singer-songwriter with the cassette
Plays The Mirror Of The Apocalypse And Other Songs (Open Mouth, 2006),
the prelude to his mature phase.
Higgs' second solo CD, Ancestral Songs (Holy Mountain, 2006), contained
six psalms of transcendental psychedelia for
guitar, banjo, jew's harp, toy piano and voice,
imbued with esoteric religious imagery.
The bulk of the album is in three pieces:
the spectral Living in the Kingdom of Death, that sounds like
Donovan performing a funeral service;
the ten-minute Thy Chosen Bride, initially a duet for banjo (strummed like an Indian instrument) and birds, then sung like in a trance;
and the eleven-minute droning raga Are You of the Body.
The jew's harp returns to haunt his meditations in the
instrumentals Moharsing and Schoenhut, with its hammering rhythm,
and especially Time-Ship of the Demogorgon, sort of a
psychedelic blues reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix
rather than of folk music.
Part of the album was born at the intersection of
simple repetitive hypnotic acoustic guitar riffs and
shaman-like invocations; which would become his favorite template.
Higgs the alien troubadour perfected his fusion of India and Appalachia on
the six instrumental pieces of
Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot (Thrill Jockey, 2007), his guitar ragas
(Cocoon on the Cross) and banjo ragas (Luminous Carcass Ornament, Hems & Seams) merging
Sandy Bull and
and sometimes even
Helios Creed's space-rock
And, as usual, the jew's harp adds further depth and color to the proceedings
Metempsychotic Memories (Holy Mountain, 2007) added
Love Abides, a solemn metaphysical
hymn sung in an almost demonic voice over simple strumming that goes on
for 14 minutes;
and the ten-minute All Cherished Things, sung in a similarly
sneering tone but also with emphatic overtones a` la
As usual, no less impressive are
the instrumentals: Universal Salutation (which is "melodic" by the
standards of his instrumentals) and especially
Leontocephaline Rhapsody (a distorted organ-like elegy that
would sit well on a
Velvet Underground album).
In fact, the lengthy songs go down well only with listeners who appreciate
his poetry; otherwise, they last way too long with too little variation
between one verse and the next one hundred.
The Human Bell (2008) documents a collaboration between
former Lungfish's bassist Nathan Bell and Dave Heumann aimed at crafting
Nathan Bell also released a set of solo-banjo improvisations,
Banjo (West Main Development, 2008),
recorded in a cathedral.
Asa Osborne's solo project Zomes, devoted to trance guitar music,
debuted with the brief vignettes of Zomes (Holy Mountain, 2008), followed by the equally trancey
(but much less engaging) Earth Grid (Thrill Jockey, 2011).
Improvisations (Thrill Jockey, 2012) contains three untitled and cryptic jams that upped the ante towards abstract soundsculpting.
Daniel Higgs complemented his jew's harp solos
(Magic Alphabet) with an album of banjo solos,
Hymnprovisations For Banjo (Ideal, 2008).
Clairaudience Fellowship (Thrill Jockey, 2010) was a collaboration between Daniel Higgs and electronic musician Twig Harper (of Nautical Almanac)
Higgs then tested his audience's patience and sense of humor with
a sprawling cassette of untitled Devotional Songs (2009).
The first "song" is actually a 15-minute neurotic instrumental raga,
that, like all of his instrumentals, steals the show.
It is followed by substandard recordings of songs for
jew's harp, harmonium and humming (#A2),
spartan guitar-only bluesy elegies (#A3 and #B6),
noise experiments (#A4),
over-excited street rants a` la David Peel (#A7
for sitar and tambourine and the gospel-ish #B1 and #B2),
Donovan-esque lullabies (#A9),
and, alas, endless guitar-only meditations (#B4, #B5).
And so Higgs felt like further stretching out on the double-disc
Say God (Thrill Jockey, 2010), ostensibly a collection of "gospel
and some of them simply feel like him staring at the sky and mumbling to
his god, alternating between mundane meditation and sheer trance
(the 12-minute Hoofprints On The Ceiling Of Your Mind,
the 17-minute Root & Bough).
The arrangements are feeble at best, but the combination of instrument and
humanity is probably carefully planned for maximum emotional resonance:
the ten-minute A Message From The Beautiful for harmonium and voice,
the nine-minute Tumble Down for voice and crickets,
the 13-minute Christ Among Us for banjo and voice,
and the seven-minute banjo instrumental Song For Azariah.
In some ways Higgs is the anti-Nick Cave: the opposite of apocalyptic
and over the top.
The music suffers a bit from his repetition-based stream of consciousness
recitation, as illustrated in the 11-minute archetype Say God,
but obviously this is in his mind the main reason for the very existence of music.
Higgs flooded the market with cassettes and CD-ROMs such as
Beyond & Between (La Castanya, 2011),
the banjo-based Ultraterrestrial Harvest Hymns (Moon Glyph, 2011),
the live 08.11.2009 (Kukuruku Recordings, 2012),
the bedroom album
The Measure of Mystery (Gnome Life, 2012),
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