Damon & Naomi
Ba-Da-Bing Records, 2015
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
So, those of you who remember (and savor) that short but oh-so-lovely, time when the world was moved by Galaxie 500 – then the “spin-off” band, Luna, which, somehow, wasn’t quite as awesome as Galaxie 500 was, may remember Damon & Naomi, two of the other members of Galaxie (other than, like, Dean Wareheim, for example). Well, color me impressed (not being sarcastic). Their new album, just out, on Ba-Da-Bing records, entitled, Fortune, is a nice, 20-plus-year-after-Galaxie, effort by two talented, intelligent, musically gifted people. What Fortune is, according to Naomi, is an aural film, of sorts. And by that, I don’t mean a soundtrack, but a singular idea, exploding with sounds, colors, emotions and, dare I say it? – Sentimentality, of a sort, anyway.
Listening to the work of Damon & Naomi, for instance, previous stuff of theirs, like More Sad Hits, they don’t come across as trying to recapture the glory days of Galaxie 500. Rather, instead of the dreamy electronically-stimulated reverb and behind the mesmerizing singing, Damon & Naomi play their moody, serene music with acoustic guitars, not relying, so much on studio polishing, but getting more down-to-earth sounds recorded and simultaneously, adding some enervating textural atmospheric layers.
As for the “film” aspect, well, Naomi did create a short film piece, by the same name; a sort of long(er) music video, that I read someplace, was like a “visual poem set to the metronome of a textural score”. The music and, more importantly, I think, the short film piece, was a catharsis of sorts for Naomi to deal with the feelings, conflicting though they may be, of her father having recently died. To boot, Naomi Yang’s father was a professional photographer, an artist himself and after he passed away, Naomi was left with an archive of her father’s photographs, the work he had been so passionate about in his life. So, the influence of all that her father left behind as well as those conflicting feelings I mentioned, feelings about a somewhat flawed parenting she endured, growing up, are part of what makes up this great project. Naomi refers to the film piece as a “silent” picture, although, bereft of dialogue and sound effects, etc. the film, itself is necessarily bound up with the music of Fortune, the album.
Let’s not push Damon all the way to the back burner now, as he puts in a lot of great work on the album; the two complement each other quite well and it all works out wonderfully in the end.
The opening song, “The Seeker”, is a mellow, soothing balm that sets the tone of the album quite well. Track number two, “Amnesia” is a pretty song as well as one that has poignant lyrics: “I want to be over/To touch and be gone/Forget this amnesia”, as an example. Its two minute length is a nice way of saying what needs to be said and getting on with things. On “It’s Over”, it’s Naomi’s turn to sing (Damon sings vocals on the first two cuts). “It’s Over” is a haunting, but dreamy song about the end of those sad, confusing relationships.
The music, in general, is a beautiful and enchanting, ethereal love garden, full of purposely placed lyrics, over a wonderful musical background, steeped in acoustic guitar, a sound that rings out, plus a subtle electronic piano (or synthesizer with an electronic piano setting). This is definitely something I could listen to over and over again. I remember the Galaxie 500 album, This is Our Music, on which Naomi sang vocals on a few beautiful tracks. Well, she’s got that same beauty in her voice here, on Fortune. The album finishes off with a song called “Time Won’t Own Me”. I suppose it’s a good closer; something to make the listener think about it long after it’s over. The idea that we, that is, anyone, doesn’t necessarily have to be a slave to the clock and let appointment books or reminder notes run our lives (even if we sometimes have to deal with those things). When you meditate on it, while in this serene moment, you can realize that the universe is such a macrocosm, while, all of our individual lives and the attendant troubles and trials in them are comparatively meaningless, even if they can consume our thoughts, to our own detriment.
I want to definitely say that this is something worth listening to and adding to your musical collection. The beauty lies mostly in the melancholy, toned down etherality. -KM.