Daniel Higgs: Magic Alphabet
A solo album of Jew’s harp improvisations sounds like as much fun as a teeth cleaning, but Lungfish’s Daniel Higgs turns a bent piece of metal that’s placed in the mouth and plucked into a 17-track journey in protean rhythm and tone. And it’s more instantly intoxicating than it has any right to be. The Jew’s harp sounds like it has a range as wide as a needle’s point, but Higgs charms its twanging resonance into this vibrating, buttery, hypnotizing voice. Think Sam Elliott speaking some ancient insect language and you’ll get the idea. Why and how it all works—as in, why Higgs’ runic titles make perfect sense: “Skull Song” feels like waves reverberating in the head, “Fountain of Words” bubbles like a dictionary being poured into a pool, and “God’s Shadow” practically makes you want to genuflect—is anybody’s guess. But as an album so utterly outside everything, an artistic precipitate of such singular skill and vision, Magic Alphabet ranks up there with Sir Richard Bishop’s Salvador Kali, the oeuvre of Jaap Blonk, and the Yahowa 13 as not only music that nobody else could do, but that few could conceive.