July 12, 2010 1 Comment
Listen to “Comfort Series #2″ while you read!
A common revelation to many an outsider, Eric Crespo found music as his savior while he was in middle school. Inspired by the bands his friend’s older brother played in, the young Crespo would begin to write songs on a borrowed electric guitar and stay out late to attend shows in Chapel Hill. While many of us can recollect isolation and the classic coming of age stories of middle school, the impressionable 8th grader found a new power in underground rock music. “Seeing people play who were nerds but filling up a room with people by making up their own weird music seemed really fantastic to me,” he relates with adolescent nostalgia.
On Halloween of 2001, Crespo left his home in Burlington, North Carolina and arrived in Portland, Oregon, searching for new beginnings. Once settled, he began to focus on music making and became the songwriter and lead visionary of the ever morphing deconstructed rock project, Ghost to Falco. Initially envisioned as a solo project, Crespo has invited various musicians to join him and bring his stark, haunting compositions full circle. His first releases under Ghost to Falco came out in 2004, followed by a split 7 inch with The Curtains put out by Collective Jyrk and a full length dished out by the now defunct label, Colletta Blue.
Currently, Ghost to Falco is on tour in Italy, a land Crespo has walked before with the help of admirable friends and followers. His mission is to promote his latest masterpiece, Exotic Believers, an epic collection of eerie compositions featuring cameos by Portland’s finest musicians. The album came out earlier this year on Cape and Chalice/Infinite Front and has entered the running for Best Album Of 2010 in my mind. His music lends itself to cult-classicism and hints at something greater than himself, a vehicle that drives fast into the impact of the listener.
In fact, Exotic Believers wastes no time grabbing the listener hard by the ears with an intense, rambling psalm found in opening track, “Black Holes”. A relentless, distorted pulse drives on while Crespo rants and raves about the deconstruction of modern man with venomous lines such as “Will you be the mover of your hand, or a human you can’t stand, or a concept you can’t name”. It doesn’t take long to realize Crespo’s lyrical content in Exotic Believers doesn’t exactly reflect sunshine and unicorns. However, as an artist, he says music allows him to conquer inner demons. “I find myself gravitating towards lyrical themes and ideas that are kind of weighty or dealing with times when I felt a sort of transcendence where I could look at the big picture,” he explains. “I feel fairly psychologically healthy but if I didn’t have my “artistic release” who knows what I would be like.”
The music recorded on Exotic Believers is equally emotive. Second track, “Rising” is entirely instrumental and follows the chaotic seether of “Black Holes” with a sullen string intro (featuring members of the celebrated Portland Cello Project) accompanied by an ominous church bell ringing out a desperate fate. It serves as the perfect lead-up to the albums first masterpiece, “Comfort Series #2″. About the track’s lyrical content Crespo recollects, “I got pretty obsessed with the idea of modern forms of comfort and how the human search for comfort has jeopardized our very existence.” Entering the epic song with Crespo’s wavering tone, the song builds up with a mourning melodica and then crashes down with a heavy subterranean rock ensemble laced with anamorphic guitars and the shriek of strings. The high is short lived and falls back to a glum minimalist guitar before going into a nearly klezmer inflected chant. The song is incredibly well orchestrated, a talent Crespo has cultivated with a rotating entourage of collaborators. “There was no sheet music,” Crespo explains about the writing process. While Ghost to Falco is sometimes a group effort, the players respect Crespo’s vision and help him to achieve the sounds he hears inside his head. “I’m incredibly grateful to all the people who lent such marvelous performances for this album.”
“Secrets Of The Free” is sure to be an indie underground classic – as it is probably the most “pop” oriented song on the album – with it’s fixed rock structure and infectious vocal melody. It is followed by a monotonous exhale of a harmonica on “Into The Missions/Quiet At Home” leading up to the most haunting lyrical performance on the album. Crespo triples his vocals on this a capella collage that equally channels drunken soldiers wasted on the barracks with the peyote induced wisdom of a shaman. The second half of the album contains songs like “Greater Good” and “Alive” which rely on heavy dynamics while maintaining a minimalist sincerity.
Watch a solo rendition of “Secrets Of The Free” filmed at Valentines back in 2007:
Crespo was invited to record Exotic Believers in a storage space for oriental rugs at the corner of NW Davis and 10th in Portland, OR. “It always felt like Exotic Believers would be the last big project that came out of there,” he says. While there was no heat and little insulation inside the space, the record managed to make it out sounding warm, professional and spacious. At times it was a makeshift affair where much of the instrumentation was recorded by one studio mic and Crespo’s vocals partially captured in the bathroom. The album reflects a moment in time as the space is no longer available as a studio. “Now there’s a parking garage below it,” Crespo laments. “I don’t know what’s become of the space where we used to record.”
Touring provides Crespo with a marriage of his favorite things: playing live and traveling. The magic of Ghost to Falco shows exist best without expectation; a mission to engage the audience, rather than entertain. Only one thing is certain, Crespo will be there. Solo or with a backing band allows for new forms of the same song to emerge depending on the flavor of the night. Though music is a fluid art form, existing without rules and barriers, it is hard for artists – and listeners to let go of the versions they cherish at home. Crespo relates this to an existentialist dilemma. “I was thinking about how all the little moments in your days add up to a lifetime. People dream about things that will happen one day, but meanwhile their life is happening and yesterday is how that day will be forever,” he explains. “There is no changing it. And more specifically to the nature of recording, even if a song evolves over time the way it was recorded is the general way it will be remembered. Forever.”
…and remembered it should be. The nine song record rises and falls into itself with effortless beauty and relief. It is the type of record that hints at a deeper meaning in rock music and should be regarded as an indie masterpiece, held up with the likes of Will Oldham, Phil Elverum and Scout Niblett. Yet, Crespo himself is unsure about the meaning behind the title of Exotic Believers. He says he needs time to reflect on the album’s title and the compelling songs that make up it’s inner core. Still, he has his theories behind his work. “I have a feeling it’s pointing to people who can wholeheartedly believe in something with all of their being,” he states via e-mail from across the Atlantic. “I envy people like that.”
Learn more about Ghost to Falco at www.ghosttofalco.com.