[8 August 2012]
Megafortress is the solo project of Brooklyn-based musician Bill Gillim, formerly of funk-tinged rock quartet Tigercity. For this, his self-titled debut album, Gillim created an atmosphere that was centered on his voice: a soaring, high-pitched falsetto that is unmistakably male. The vocals are heavily processed, lightly processed, left alone, or—in the case of the final track—absent, and are combined with synths and sampled instruments into a swirling soup of home-studio ambience.
Gillim’s influences are easy to spot: Oneohtrix Point Never (a fellow Brooklynite), Rhys Chatham, Seefeel. Yet he bears the most striking resemblance to Grammy winner Justin Vernon, a.k.a. Bon Iver. The similarity between their voices borders on distraction in parts, although Vernon can be counted on to experiment more with his vocalizations, whereas Gillim prefers to stick with falsetto and treat the recorded product. On “My Favorite Girl”, the first of just four songs, he warps his voice to the point where it seems to be half-synthesizer. “Green Child” layers his largely untreated vocals into a multi-part near-harmony, surrounded by sampled bells and burbling water. “Consolamentum” is the most clearly spiritual (and, I think, the prettiest) of the group, in which Gillim’s vocal incantations resemble a pipe organ—fitting for the baptismal rite named in the title. “We Love You” closes out the record with a long drone followed by some rather off-putting buzzing noises. Though altogether more refined than the scattered singles that preceded it, Megafortress is a rocky if promising start: a bit heavy on the references and light on variety, but with enough heart to suggest that this project could bear considerable fruit in the future.