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Chris and Carla - Fly High Brave Dreamers

  by John Clarkson

published: 24 / 3 / 2007

Chris and Carla - Fly High Brave Dreamers
Label: Glitterhouse Records
Format: CD


Evocative, hopeful new album from Walkabouts singers Chris Eckman and Carla Torgerson's side project, its first in eight years

After their bleak last album ‘Acelytene’, the only way that Chris Eckman and Carla Torgerson, the co-singers with the Walkabouts, could have possibly gone was upwards with their latest record, ‘Fly High Brave Dreamers’. The brutal, magnificent ‘Acelytene’ was a scathing attack by the Seattle-based group on the Bush administration and its foreign policy. It painted a Breugelian-style portrait of the world having gone to moral and economic hell, with Eckman’s lyrics depicting Third World slave labour and transit camps, environmental chaos and pollution, and 60’s idealism having long been turned sour and rotten by Western capitalist excess and greed. As it scorched towards a conclusion, it looked 20, 25 years into the future and imagined the apocalypse and what it would be like for the few who survived. The music on ‘Acelytene’ was a grinding barrage of distorted guitars and tribal drum beats, while that on ‘Fly High Brave Dreamers’, the first release of the Walkabouts singers’ Chris and Carla side project in eight years, in contrast combines electro folk numbers and symphonic pop songs. Thematically it is different too. While ‘Acelytene’ stared unflinchingly into the abyss, ‘Fly High Brave Dreamers’ finds Eckman and Torgerson looking for hope. ‘Fly High Brave Dreamers’ opens with the luscious and gorgeous 'At the Twilight's Last Gleaming'. Epic in sound, it merges a lushly sweeping electronic strings and flute score, each composed on mellotrons, with a chiming glockenspiel, fluttery guitars and slow, steady beats of drum. The latter come from Luka Salehar, one of a series of Eastern European musicians who appear on the album and with whom Eckman has worked with on solo projects since moving to Ljubljana after marrying a Slovenian woman a few years ago. "We found love on the loading bay" Torgerson lilts, finding redemption and solace in a surprise romance. "Worth as much as last year's snow/Won't succumb to let it go/We carry everything/We carry everything/It's snowing though its spring/The twilight/The twilight's/Last gleamin'". Snow also has a part to play in the eerie, echoing electro-acoustics of ‘Ice Station Zebra’ in which Torgerson’s protagonist, an Arctic research scientist, takes solitary comfort and peace in nature by flying alone over the beautiful, but blank icy tundra of the North Pole (“Let it rip/Let it tear/Let us fly above nowhere/Where the stretch of land/Leaves us humble”). On the deceptively breezy country folk of the existential 'Long Slow River', a number sung by Eckman and one of five songs to feature former Midnight Choir vocalist Al Delenor on piano and Willard Grant Conspiracy and Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 guitarist Jason Victor, Eckman and Torgerson show that, as with ‘Acelytene’, they have lost none of their capacity for darkness or to shock. It central character, a man on the run, despatches with a figure from the past who has caught up with him by shooting him before running away again, and in doing so finds a strange kind of personal freedom.("The one thing I’m sure of/You become what you kill/Waited my turn/But the wait is done/There’s only one way to move/And I know it’s to run/Every time I career and spin/This long slow river/Pulls me in again”). On the fiery ‘Love Sleeps Late’, another symphonic number involving mellotron strings and this time a scratching e-bow solo from Delenor, Torgerson takes a belligerent delight in living on the edge and no longer playing by the rules (“Love sleeps late/And death wakes up/When we play it by the book/But I’m gonna steal for daylight/And I’m gonna kill for thunder/I’m gonna bleed the joy/From every mistake”). The hymnal title track is meanwhile a glorious rallying cry to dreamers everywhere, with Eckman and Torgerson singing in unison with a choir, which includes Eckman’s wife Anda, the mantra of “Fly High/Brave dreamers/Dream brave for us tonight” over and over. Eckman’s vision of the world is still bleak. He still sees it as being in a hell of a mess. ‘Fly High Brave Dreamers’ is, however, about looking amongst the rubble and wreckage, even on the morally ambiguous ‘Long Slow River’, for the good things, whether it be in love, freedom of choice, or above all in imagination and dreams, to find the hope and the strength to carry on. Less dramatic, less loud, more subtle than ‘Acetylene’, but treating its audience with a similar intelligence, ‘Fly High Brave Dreamers’ is no less forceful a record. A natural continuation at one level of the themes of ‘Acetylene’, exhilarating rather than damning at another, it makes challenging and evocative listening.

Track Listing:-
1 At the Twilight's Last Gleaming
2 Things We Should Have Known
3 Ice Station Zebra
4 Taking Leave of Our Senses
5 Long Slow River
6 Love Sleeps Late
7 Rising Backwards
8 Raise Them Hands
9 Whatever it Takes
10 Fly High Brave Dreamers
11 Salad days

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