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Fiver - Fiver With the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition Music Album Reviews

Fiver - Fiver With the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition Music Album Reviews
Simone Schmidt and company navigate interior and exterior life with country-inflected improvisations that stretch out like a long summer afternoon.

The contemporary musician’s to-do list only gets longer and more obtuse in the name of Engagement and Content: write funny tweets, gaze into the TikTok abyss, maintain a carousel of fresh photographs, sprinkle it all with carefully maintained parasocial politeness. Simone Schmidt has never really played the game. And why would they, really? Outside of projects like One Hundred Dollars, the Highest Order, and Fiver, their work has also included a long commitment to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty; over the past year, they’ve dedicated time to Toronto’s Encampment Support Network, a mutual-aid organization addressing the failures of city officials in treating unhoused residents with much empathy or urgency.

Fiver With the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition returns to a project Schmidt established nearly a decade ago and expands it with an eponymous ensemble that’s smaller than its substantial name would suggest. The group squares the free-for-all sensibility that animates improvised music with the commitment necessary for a searching interior journey. Together, Schmidt and the band render their spontaneity into songs that embrace the discomfort and delight of feeling out of step with society.

The album stretches out like a long summer afternoon, flitting between airy splashes of light and protracted shadows. Opener “Yeah But Uhh Hey” drifts forth on light cymbal splashes and brushed percussion, with Schmidt making a casual introduction in their cool, smoky warble. Schmidt’s bandmates, whose recent credits include stints supporting Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s comeback, abstain from flashy solos. Instead, the group reach their most sublime moments with ear-catching details.

“June Like a Bug” unfolds over plodding drums, its fluttering saxophones balanced against piano parts that glint like a watch face catching the sun. Schmidt sings as though they’re pushing their entire being against the heavy weight of summer; it’s a slow, cathartic release. As if by sleight of hand, Schmidt leads the group into “Jr. Wreck,” a mild admonition that acknowledges how the world is sometimes stacked against you: “There’s no paper notion/That won’t fold or tear when it’s pushed into life.”

Building off loose guitar twang, pianist Nick Dourado’s light touch presses the songs toward gospel. On “Jr. Wreck,” “Sick Gladiola,” and “Death Is Only a Dream,” choral vocals recall both heavenly choirs and their soft-focus earthly counterparts in pop groups of the 1940s and ’50s. As Schmidt and company skate toward these edges, their music feels carried by an all-encompassing spirituality. “Death Is Only a Dream” becomes divine as Schmidt surrounds their grief with their awe of the universe. As Schmidt smudges the boundaries between waking life and dreaming, earth and cosmos, they find another duality in the pain of an excruciating loss, singing, “So with no end I too am blessed/My love for you, infinity.”

Schmidt also makes pointed observations on equity and loneliness. In “Leaning Hard (On My Peripheral Vision),” they draw on language from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to acknowledge their shared distaste for white moderates who rely on complacency to enforce a “negative peace” instead of meaningful justice. With “Sick Gladiola,” Schmidt unfurls the disappointment of dried-up California dreams in a tender barroom twirl. A neglected houseplant in the check-out lane—“Rootless and blooming for nothing, not even itself”—becomes a fine metaphor for feeling pitiful.

Schmidt’s latest work with Fiver emphasizes their multiple identities: musician, citizen, and community caretaker. “For Your Sake,” the album’s closing track, epitomizes Schmidt’s unwavering dedication to a person’s right just to be. “I would be there for your sake/For your sake in mine is doubled,” they sing. Schmidt sees everyday reality with clear eyes, while still acknowledging the wonder and beauty inherent to it. To borrow from Pete Seeger, who celebrated the power of regular folk for the better part of a century: Take it easy, but take it.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Fiver - Fiver With the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition Music Album Reviews Fiver - Fiver With the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, May 17, 2021 Rating: 5

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