The Varieties of Musical Experience
Welcome to the Beastiary, in other words, an illustrated treatise on beasts and creatures, with a moral aspect. The debut release, The Good, from Boston-based songstrix, Zoe Knight, and cohort – the foul, fierce and fiery, and “more than” good, Mythical Beasts – Monster players from the local scene – offer up exactly that: a dazzling, illustrious aerostration, a compendium of musical titans, and a message eternally appropriate for the ever unchanging change of our time. This is a fellowship forged in devotion and discipline to the arts of the goddess, Meret or Saraswati. Pull up a chair, take a heavy draw on the pipe, and let me relate to you an epic tale.
A two-tailed, duodecahedron-headed Hydra of a double album, with 6 original songs each, from the fountain of Zoe Knight’s prodigious outpouring, The Good takes you on an Orphean netherworld journey to the streets, the tavern, the dens, Beowulf’s lair, the royal palace, the bedchamber, and beyond. The rewards are great for the fearless and inimitable listener, who does not pale from the task of forging into the dark night of the Soul and The Funk.
From the first strides of the first two much-past radio-friendly booted tunes, THE GOOD and MY HEART BEATS FOR YOU (most of the tunes hourglass-in at a liberal 5-9 minutes), you realize you are in the deep midnight bluesy end of the swamp, and will need to gird your ears for the carriage-ride across. The most striking feature, right away, is that Zoe is an artist who luxuriates in the music, and in every color of every note of her myriad vocal palette. Everything here evolves at its own pace, in its own Dreamtime. The melodies linger, the forms transfigure, the jams stretch (but still are just a menu for the live show), the individual notes are drawn out like draughts from a love elixir of distant memories – so long you can roll them around in your cortex and on your tongue before the final ingestion. The band lavishes over every shade, riff, and groove. The music is built for musicians and allows them to PLAY, to explore, to do battle, to settle in. Likewise, the apprentice can steep in the pot, at the back of the sorcerer’s smoky tower with a refreshing pint, and drink deep for a long winter’s night; or frolic with timeless abandoned ecstasy on the dance floor. By the middle of the first album, with tunes aptly named I CAN’T HELP IT and LONG WINTER, you know you are in for the path not taken, the extended view, and send for your slippers, the most comfortable silk and velvet robes, and the top shelf brandy, to sip by the fire, reclining on plush magic carpets. It is here that you are given the invitation LOVE COME LOVE ME, the requisite and indispensable shuffle that arrives in the nick of time to provide that narrow escape from certain death; and guide you safely through the labyrinth.
And for bravery you are rewarded with this revelation:
If the modern fare of auto-detuned horrification is the cheap internet porn of the day, this Music is transcendent love-making, in the flesh, in the grotto of the baths of Aphrodite.
And now Zoe’s charms and enchantments are at full gale, from the serpentine, strong bottom range drawn from Coltrane’s Mystical Horn, to the most ascendant ethereal whisperings of Seraphic Fire. Then, in the midst of the intoxication, and not before then, comes the Mastery, descending from the vaulted starlit skies and torchlit caverns, the drawing down of the Moon: sounds you’ve never heard before and will only hear from Zoe Knight – an outlier vocalist and artist dripping dew – Rorate Caeli – from the expansive firmament that caresses your ears like sonic lambskin for your own personal delights.
Once you find your bearings though, and awaken somewhat from the stupor, it dawns on you that, befuddled, you have fallen headlong into the Dragon’s hoard, or perhaps tumbled embarrassed into the Queen’s throne room, bejeweled with glinting Minor Pentatonix, gilded with the Golden 8ths of Swing. The first album ends in the inner sanctum of the divine mystery with ELEMENTAL, the Groove/Manta: Air my Breath, and Fire my Spirit, Earth my Body, Water my Blood. It features one of the many stand-out solos, this one on Flute.
The second album continues our Heroine’s Journey from the nadir of the Underworld, back to the Light of day. It begins with Truth revealed in EQUALITY FOR ALL, a reggae rocker with all the trappings of “bombs” dropping from the drums; then continues like an archetypal Love Affair, Tristan and Isolde. With the sparks of love flying in getting to know you BETTER, the instigation to MAKE YOUR MOVE, and the relishing in SWEETNESS, HONEY, the pass through is made from the hall to the sleep chambers. In the morning rays, we’re roused from a gentle drowse with the scintillating ballad, COME HERE MY DARLING LOVER– the crown jewel you hadn’t realized until now was missing from the adventure. The drapes of the long strange trip are drawn to a close with the satisfying epilogue THAT’S OKAY; all is revealed, all is forgiven: I love you anyway.
What moral do we draw from this fairy tale and phantasmagoria? In a dual universe of Good and Evil, it is the Alchemist’s and the Pilgrim’s work to always, ALWAYS choose The Good. Zoe Knight and Mythical Beasts have served this Boar’s Head up on a silver platter. Now go and get yourself some.
EAB June 2020, Boston, MA.