Joseph Shabason / Nicholas Krgovich - At Scaramouche Music Album Reviews

Joseph Shabason / Nicholas Krgovich - At Scaramouche Music Album Reviews
On their second collaborative album, the Toronto saxophonist and Vancouver singer find common ground in the beauty of mundane moments and minuscule gestures.

Joseph Shabason and Nicholas Krgovich are ideal musical counterweights. On their second collaborative album—following 2020’s excellent trio record with guitarist Chris Harris—the Toronto saxophonist and Vancouver singer balance each other’s occasionally opposing impulses. Both artists are fascinated by the beauty of mundane moments and minuscule gestures, but Krgovich brings a Zen-like tidiness to his lyrics, while Shabason playfully messes with ambient music, art-rock, and adult contemporary. By significantly expanding the cast of contributors, At Scaramouche dances past the quiet contemplation of their debut, rediscovering the collective joys of being with other people. Yet even when their squiggly grooves lift off the ground, Krgovich’s plain-spoken koans keep his feet planted.

Though it was recorded before the pandemic, Shabason, Krgovich, and Harris’s Philadelphia unwittingly anticipated the periods of isolation that lay ahead. After demoing the songs remotely, they worked up the music in a series of brief studio sessions where Krgovich wrote his lyrics on the spot. His songs about practicing the Japanese tradition of year-end deep cleans or embracing the boredom of being stuck in traffic made those experiences sound like epiphanies, but they also sounded deeply lonely. It took the Talk Talk-esque “I Don’t See The Moon,” where the three musicians’ voices harmonized into one, for SKH to make good on the album’s themes of togetherness.

In comparison, At Scaramouche sounds like a lively, social affair. On the burbling groove of “In the Middle of the Day,” Krgovich’s whisper-soft voice is joined by the luminous Dorothea Paas and Chris A. Cummings, accentuating lyrics that patiently stretch across instrumental bars. They cited Japanese new age as a key influence on the largely beatless Philadelphia, while this album is propelled by the lithe rhythms and electronic programming of Kieran Adams, a drummer for U.S. Girls and The Weather Station, among countless others. Guitarist Thom Gill and bassist Bram Gielen—two of the Toronto musicians invited by Owen Pallett to play on the Mountain Goats’ 2019 album In League With Dragons—tip the busier songs, fleshed out with tasteful flourishes of trumpet, lap steel, and vibraphone, into full-band territory.

Shabason may still be best known for his work with Destroyer on 2011’s Kaputt, where he surprised many listeners—including himself—by making the sax sound cool again. Since that influential album, the Hogtown horn player has become increasingly experimental in his many solo projects and collaborations. At Scaramouche includes audacious musical decisions such as the electronic wind instruments of “What Comes Back,” venturing into an uncanny valley like the MIDI trumpets of Destroyer’s Your Blues. On the album’s second side, “Soli II” and “Templeton Park” both feature overstuffed arrangements that softly sway as they melt in the sun. It’s possible to imagine the album’s sequencing as a chronological narrative: The players seem to slow down as day becomes night, eventually collapsing into a mess of limbs and instruments.

While the music of At Scaramouche is more densely packed than Philadelphia, Krgovich’s lyrical preoccupations remain small in scope as he visits the former location of a childhood McDonald’s or returns to the dog park day after day. Like Phil Elverum wringing meaning from a screening of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Krgovich makes references to Grimace or Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show sound personal and poetic. Only occasionally, when he name-drops the album’s guitar player or sings about Destroyer .wav files, do the inside jokes become alienating. On the two songs that star his poodle Shelley (“Templeton Park” and the wonky motorik pop highlight “I Am So Happy With My Little Dog”), he shares a feeling of gratitude for the “little muppet” that helps get him out of his head. Krgovich might want a break from his inner monologues, but with songs like this to accompany them, they become universal meditations.
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Joseph Shabason / Nicholas Krgovich - At Scaramouche Music Album Reviews Joseph Shabason / Nicholas Krgovich - At Scaramouche Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 17, 2022 Rating: 5


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