Saturday, July 29, 2006

Jane Bom-Bane and Nick Pynn, Rotator

Jane Bom-Bane & Nick Pynn
(Roundhill, 2002)

I hated Jane Bom-Bane in David Thomas's Mirror Man, a splendidly strange musical production first staged in London in 1998. With the evening's mood largely, and rightly, in thrall to the mind of eccentric romantic Thomas, Bom-Bane's own idiosyncrasies seemed self-indulgent and twee. But a line in my moral code -- always give an eccentric a second chance -- led me to pick up Rotator, and I'm glad I did. Here Bom-Bane (vocals, harmonium, guitar) and collaborator Nick Pynn (guitar, violins, dulcimer, mandocello, bass pedals, theremin, harmonium), along with Tom Arnold on percussion, run rampant through a self-made hall of musical mirrors.

Inspired by the palindromic nature of the year 2002, Bom-Bane and Pynn present a collection of playful, striking compositions. "Palindromic Love," with Bom-Bane getting all Dolly Collins on the harmonium, reads the same in reverse order, word by word. "So Many DynamoS" has reversal in its title as well as its musical construction: each of its two parts is played twice and then "reflected." The charmingly catchy Latin-lover song "Boy," the first song Jane wrote as a "grown-up," is followed by the stately "yoB," in which the chorus of "Boy" ("...and be that bad boy's muchacha") is sung backward, phonetically: "Hash hash dwum ziob dab at theebna...." The lengthy, June Tabor-like "Kindle my songs if my own words should fail" turns, when it reaches the title line, and the lines are sung in reverse order.

"Rotator" is palindromic by the letter ("Net level, ten/Set o'notes/Snip, snips/Set o'rotes"). "Riddle of the Mode" is based on a modal palindrome that's way too complex for this mere scribe to explain, but it's certainly a pretty Renaissance dance tune with enigmatic, feminine-rhyming lyrics.

"Saippauakivikauppias - The Finnish Soapstone Seller" is a largely narrative, Kalevala-based epic about the longest palindromic word Bom-Bane and Pym could find. Rotator is musical and witty at the same time -- never a mere party game, always a work of art.

Pamela Murray Winters
Rambles, 10 May 2003

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