Polly Moller
Silver Wheel (www.silverwheel.com)

"If all else fails, we can whip the horses' eyes, and make them sleep, and cry." - Jim Morrison

cd cover It was quite an ear-opener when, back there in seminary school, Jim Morrison and the Doors revealed to me not only that you cannot petition the Lord with prayer, but that lyrics can thoroughly dominate a musical experience, yet remain deeply dependent upon that music for thematic support. Polly Moller demonstrates a visceral comprehension of this dynamic on Summerland, her second recording. She delivers her allusive blank verse as if from a trance, at times babbling brook-like, at others reluctant and coy, but ever dramatic, to the tribal accompaniment of her flutes and clattering percussion, and the bass of Jordan Avon. Summerland demands the listener's full attention, but richly rewards it.

In "Don Dorcha's Revel," Moller informs us in hypnotic yet insistent tones that everything we know is wrong, things are worse than we can suspect, but that truth can be accommodated if not necessarily impaled on certainty if it does not overly "matter to you at whose party you are seen." The flute warbles dreamily on the verses, and the chorus ("One day becomes seven at his revel") is underlined by pulsing percussion, at times suggesting the work of Jenifer Smith or Laurie Anderson. "Io" is dreamlike yet emphatic, the flute a hollow harmonic dirge, Moller's delivery magisterial, viscous but erupting into vehemence ("I want to wear those garlands") or subsiding into reverie ("we're the last ones in this empty city. May I have this dance?").

The drum machine appropriately drives the breathless "Aurora," supplication to an antique yet returned goddess "who is no longer rosy-fingered Dawn, but a machine unbounded by the laws of flight." As the flute shrieks, Moller mutters imprecations. Have mercy on us. "Deal gently with your people when you next appear." Thomas Dolby's "One of Our Submarines" illustrates the synergy between poetry and music, beginning with a sung, a cappella, almost Celtic, underwater history lesson punctuated by sonar squeaks, before breaking into a galloping, bass-driven reprise. The Celtic influences become more explicit in Diarmit MacDiarmada's wave-swept "Gaoth Barra nd'Tann" and the martial, vindictive "Song of Coinchend Cennfada."

Back there in seminary school, I used to obsess on what all this might mean. These songs, these incantations, might indeed have discernable meaning, but even Polly Moller might not be able to clarify them further, at least not without loss of force. So feel the force, immerse yourself in Summerland and contact the Silver Wheel web site for a copy of the libretto. - Jim Foley

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Audio: ©1999; Polly Moller/Silver Wheel. Used by express permision.

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