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Daniel Higgs: Say God

Daniel Higgs: Say God

Label:Thrill Jockey
Release Date:2010
Genre:Spiritual, Experimental
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Daniel Higgs

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By Michael Byrne | Posted 7/7/2010

You care about this because it exists: a two-disc set of solo Daniel Higgs singing New Age Christian spirituals over almost non-existent instrumentation (read: drone). It's a bizarre and trying artifact. If someone offered it to you at the mall with the above description, you wouldn't think twice about listening. Reviews so far that praise Say God downplay the lyrical content, slough it off as gospel because "gospel" happens to be pretty cool right now, and focus on the pure out-there weirdness of its existence. On the other hand, excluding at least one Christian web site, reviewers that focus on the lyrical content--all of the Jesus-ness--don't like it very much, are dismayed by it, or simply discard it.

Say God is a loaded question. Experimental music fans don't generally tend to be devout Christians or, gasp, may even have opinions on the role of religion in the world--so what to do when your idol (possibly) is singing obsessively and earnestly and, here's the kicker, convincingly about g-o-d? Because it is convincing. And maybe that's the attraction for this listener at least. Man, the first time you get it, either with this record, or just listening to--and actually paying attention to--Higgs do his thing in concert, and heathen though you may be, you are put in that place, the grand spiritual giving yourself up and you can't help but be moved.

If you don't get it right away, fear not. Because Higgs is going to repeat it for you again and again and again over the course of songs that reach up all the way to nearly 20 minutes long--incredibly and dangerously minimal, endlessly repeating. The word is mantra and, if you've heard Higgs' voice at least once, you know what it could do as a mantra. You'll want to drop your skull into the dishwasher to get gone the four word refrain "it's Holy Bible time."

But wait: Say God also has two instrumentals slipped into all this devotion. The long banjo piece, "Song For Azariah," is gorgeous and no less simple than anything else on the record. Ditto for "Jewel of the East," which subs in (probably) a bellows harmonium played rather quickly and melodically, leaving a song equally playful and solemn. If unending devotionals are not your thing, these two tracks may not make up for that--but, please, test your attention span, give yourself up for a couple of hours, and if you manage to get it for just a refrain, you may see something entirely new. To quote Higgs, "This song possesses portal powers."

E-mail Michael Byrne

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