The two mid-length free-form pieces that make up Fermata are pure gold for fans of acoustic drone. Both were recorded surreptitiously in a fermentation tank in the Dixie Brewery on Tulane Avenue in New Orleans one Saturday in June 2005.
The first half of “Discovery of Mother Voidness” is as claustrophobic as an episode of Das Boot, despite being punctuated by bright plucking and an irregular percussion that sounds, impossibly, like scampering footsteps and crashing chains. By the 20 minute mark the chiming, metallic harmonics have become something altogether more ecstatic. “Description of the Between” begins with Eastern twangs before all tension drips and dissolves into a deep calm. The album was made with two microphones and a two track recorder, acoustic guitars, harmonium, tamboura-zither box, dobro, cymbal, Tibetan bells, and wordless vocals. Everything we hear is a product of the acoustic properties of the fermentation tank. No reverb, delay, EQ, or other effects were used.
Reading about the musicians gaining secret access to the premises, climbing into the tank, experiencing firsthand the amazing resonance, echo and reverb (with breath echoing, speech rendered impossible and a dropped guitar capo causing deafening reverberations) it is impossible not to wonder what has been lost to our ears. Nevertheless, the quality of Fermata reminds me why I’d take one fine brisk, sparkling Belgian beer over a lifetime supply of Bud.