Joe Frawley, Left Cincinnati

It’s like this: your mind is a movie screen, and Joe Frawley is the projector.

In his sound-collage work, Left Cincinnati, Frawley creates a jump-cut-filled story–or scattered parts of a story, shuffled and re-ordered–centering around a young woman/women. On his web site, Frawley discusses how he uses sound bites to create the sense of a narrative without imposing an actual story on the listener. The details of the thing, we fill in by ourselves based solely on what we hear. And we hear not just snippets of monologue, but isolated sounds–breaths, sighs, half-words, moans. In using several different voices and sources Frawley gives us leeway to either create a single woman in our heads as the focal point, or see her, in her various voices, as a shifting, universal everywoman.

Left Cincinnati is a flickering, kinetoscopic tour, taken at a brisk walk, through a gallery of other people’s memories, images flashed on walls with barely enough time for you to look, but with enough time to make their impression. Muscially, the disc is purposefully sparse. Frawley leads with an echo-heavy upright piano sound, standing in for the disc’s overarching sense of melancholy. By and large, the music here is quiet and gently played, which lets it fold seamlessly into Frawley’s larger intent to place those memories in our heads.

I have often said that what makes a good movie is if you can go back and watch it with the sound down, just to look at what’s being done visually, and you still consider it as good. I keep going back to Left Cincinnati to have another minds-eye look at the visuals Frawley has stacked up. I consistently find something new. I admire how he has constructed the piece, how it flows and engages in a shifting number of ways. There’s an inherent beauty to its quirkiness that’s hard to describe. The emotional impact, however, is undeniable.

Even if you’re not into experimental work–and I’m not a huge fan of it–Joe Frawley’s Left Cincinatti is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.

Available at Joe Frawley Music.

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