Waterfowl Dance – ‘An Elaborate Choreography Of Failure’

Capturing a life-changing emotional experience and its ensuing introspection, An Elaborate Choreography Of Failure comes via Waterfowl Dance, a solo project formed in Eugene, OR. A wide range of instrumentation, including orchestral elements, guide songs that swell structurally — reflective of the human experience’s many trials and tribulations. In particular, the release captures the artist’s personal experience, where they fell in love with a friend, had a sexual encounter, and then lost the friendship upon finding that the love was unrequited. The production and songwriting convey the resulting emotions with captivating precision.

The album opens with an elegant procession of strings, tugging at the heart with the solemn intrigue of “Boy do I have a story for you…” — and then into the more expansive “Your beauty is a wretch in my stomach,” signaled immediately by a brighter brass-forward clarity that excels into twangy guitar adornments. The vocals emerge thereafter, strutting a dynamic engrossment throughout, from initially subdued reflections into an ardent raucousness to conclude.

Certain lyrical sentiments — “her breeze as she passes is a whirlwind around me,” — capture the sheer emotional power of a beloved, with their mere presence invigorating the senses. There’s an artful, visceral quality to the portrayals of feeling insignificant when confronted with unrequited love: “I am a balloon deflating until barely a pimple in the abscess of God’s eye.” The emotive “Your beauty is a wretch in my stomach” enthralls in its melodic and personal outpouring, furthered by the subsequent track “Visceral nostalgia,” lyrically “revealing part of a beating heart,” amidst strings and bass murmurs. The second half’s heavy-rocking vigor is especially captivating.

The various interludes, from classical-minded strings on the opener to the nocturnal guitars within “Blue screening,” play effectively within an album full of extended efforts that prove enjoyably indulgent in their knack for structural evolution and poetic lyrical prowess. Among these more epic examples is “Don’t fuck yer friends” and its second part, reflecting on the cyclical nature of relationship with “remember when,” reflections and impassioned vocal descriptions. The second part is brilliant, conjuring shades of Black Midi in its aggressive angst, and then shifting into a twinkling chamber-folk whimsy; the project’s dynamic aesthetical grasp is especially evident here.

The hour-long runtime of An Elaborate Choreography Of Failure is abundant with an eclectic range of sounds, from contemplation to invigorating realizations. “ARE broken hearts for assholes?” is another success full of tonal variety, from the initial exotic clanging and fence-teetering introspection to swells of unsettling distortion admitting at one point “so sayonara my best friend / I’ll bathe here in my guiltiness,” in continuing themes of loss, here proving especially riveting within the atmospheric spaciousness of sporadic guitars and unsettling pulses.

Opening with a repetition of the album’s opening line — “receding in stillness is my unborn child’s potential,” — the album’s finale presents a clamoring, enjoyable dose of honesty, proclaiming: “All that’s left are belated lessons and this stupid, embarrassing record.” Even the track title — “A failure on most accounts” — resonates with a poignancy on the state of humanity today, where pressures and tumult often inspire feelings of personal failure — exacerbated by relationships that prove unrequited. Waterfowl Dance thoroughly compels across the emotionally gripping An Elaborate Choreography Of Failure.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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