Half Visconte – Was it Fear?

Half Visconte
Was it Fear?

Half Visconte’s first full-length album is a wonder. While more and more musicians are putting choke-holds on their creative output by writing, recording, and producing their albums all by themselves, Half Visconte is reminding us all of the magic that happens when a handful of disparate musicians apply themselves to a common vision. The result of their attempts, Was It Fear?, is an absolutely stunning entry into the modern music underground.
No tricks, no gimmicks here, just fantastic compositions that rely heavily on improvisation, swirling electronic ambiance, and great musicianship. The music is sometimes jarring, sometimes soothing, and always challenging as it swings from angular to atmospheric with ease. It’s a testament to the skill of the band that these songs sound so complete and the improvised sections are so fluid and transcendent. The musicians in question are singer/guitarist Richard Minardi, drummer Dan Sylvester, multi-instrumentalist Ben Taylor, and singer/guitarist Scott Tennent. All members were originally located in Phoenix, AZ before deciding to make it really hard on one another by spreading themselves across three time zones (Sylvester and Taylor in Chicago and Tennent in NYC). They got together to record this album in just three days during July of 2000 at Livinghead Studios in Phoenix.
The songs vary in length, from 00:21 (“I Wear Fast”) to 13:35 (“Name”), and in complexity. There’s the relatively straight-ahead “Racked & Martyred,” to the noisy breakdown of “His Song,” the soaring interplay of “11,” and the so-simple-but-brilliant-I-could-weep “O The Lyin’ Papa.”
These tracks all use real musical dynamics to remain interesting and captivating, and that’s not the loud-fast, slow-quiet stuff that we’ve all heard a million times. These are the dynamics that are created when musicians interact with one another in casting their collective dream onto magnetic tape. It’s a recording of a musical happening. This is also the ground where Half Visconte excels, with extended instrumentals that sometimes ride on the strength of just a few notes or collide and gel under each instruments’ influence on the foray. There are snippets of improvised sections on this album (“His Song,” “I Wear Fast”) that make you desperately want to hear the parts they left off.
Some of the standout tracks include “Money Shot,” “11,” A Walking Tour of Trinidad, CO,” “O The Lyin’ Papa,” and “His Song.” There’s also a beautiful hidden track on this album, “Blue-eyed Baldwin.”
Half Visconte intentionally push themselves and their songs to go farther: beyond the fences, past the tiny orange surveying flags, and deeper into the looking glass. The stuff they brought back is phenomenal.