Point of Departure
I'm beginning to wonder when Felix Moxter has time to sleep let alone change the well-worn strings on his viola. Not only is he a member of the local mainstay Might As Well but he also lends his sawing skills to various recording projects. Oh, and he is also a member of the quartet Point of Departure, which indeed takes a departure from what is expected of a local band. Gypsy Heart, their follow-up album to Moving Parts, is a modern take on the rustic hoedown, taking folk, jazz, rock, and traditional elements and infusing them with a keen ear for melody and song structure. The result is a unique and gratifying acoustic experience.
The first of the ten tracks that comprise Gypsy Heart is "Tango Mystique" which, surprise, sounds like a mysterious tango! This upbeat instrumental (by the way, all of the tracks are instrumentals so stop asking) features loads of dancing mandolin compliments of Robert Shenfeld (who also plays acoustic guitar and electronic effects), a slightly percussive main melody and a round of solos on the house! Taking a more homespun, traditional approach is "Glad To Be Here" where the viola (played by Moxter who doesn't play acoustic guitar on the album but does play "electronic effects") takes the main melody and shows off some lovely double stops. "Rubberneck" is a smorgasbord for lovers of fingerpick and percussive acoustic guitar techniques, which is preceded ever so slightly by the carefree "Albuquerque", a refreshing and bittersweet melody featuring acoustic guitar and E-Bow (and electronic effects) by Duane Eby. The title track an up-tempo number with a fevered viola bathed in effects surrounded by a sea of mandolin. Backing this constant ebb and flow is Dan Cutaia on bass (but no electronic effects because bass guitar should be enough for anyone). More solos, and more effects to the point that I sometimes had difficulty discerning the instrument, round out this enigmatic piece. "I Wish I Didn't Know What I Know Now" is another winner, kicking right off with a melody of remorse and regret, backed by a weeping viola. If mandolin is your thing, "Five 'Til Six" is just for you, ladling healthy doses of this instrument around an exotic motif that is explored and developed by each musician in turn.
As impressive as the melody, musicianship, and arrangements are, Point of Departure was wise not to skimp on the artwork. Deciding to go against the usual tide of "I just bought PhotoShop", the packaging exudes professionalism, clarity and creativity not always found in local releases. These ten engrossing instrumentals can be found at Borders, Wooden Nickel, Barnes & Noble and CDBaby.com and Amazon.com or you can stop by the Toast & Jam at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, February 1 for the official CD release party and pick up an autographed copy. I've been trying for some time to come up with a good, catchy ending that somehow incorporates the words "rosin" and "bow", but this is a family paper and everything I write comes out naughty. Just show up Friday, will ya? Scouts honor it will be a good, clean show.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2002.