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Album of the Week

Andrew Biggie – Mementos from the Living World

The description for Mementos from a Living World by Andrew Biggie states that this EP has made Anselm Kiefer’s children dance. Investigating this fascinating artist (and bold claim), I discovered a quote by Kiefer that resonated with me, “Art really is something very difficult,” he says. “It is difficult to make, and it is sometimes difficult for the viewer to understand … A part of it should always include having to scratch your head.”

Drawing from several ever-changing and cyclical sources, many have tried to pin down Kiefer’s art with no avail. This rings true for Andrew Biggie.  Outside of producing solo material, he participates in the spoken word Bourbon and Coffee series and the freak-folk band Helen. Biggie’s album appears on the bandcamp page for “Super Rad Great Times,” which doubles as a blog, showcasing music, writing and art books.

Some songs are straightforward. You know what they’re trying to accomplish right off the get go. This is not so with Andrew Biggie’s latest EP. Each song rolls off the ear with a cinematic quality, evoking a new experience with each listen. Composed in about one week, the harmonies of alto saxophone (Kevin Hammond), trumpet (Alex Glenfield), ukelele (Andrew Biggie), and drums (Ian Be) meld together to create an emotional and poignant avant-garde jazz work.

A short poetic prose piece is included underneath the EP. Whether it’s there as a handbook for digesting the music material or not, I found rich meaning from its words that paralleled the tracks. “Pauper Rituals” opens with strong, crisp melancholic notes that fall into a sliding melody. It mimics the monotony of 9-5 work, with the creative impulse knocking at every chance it can get. “Only in holy mathematics, and painters visions of water sounds, that are floating color keep your poem dreaming to yourself, and rot in your proper mania.” We all go through the motions, trying to suppress the urge for the “sake of productivity,” but the creative fire still burns.

Titular track “Mementos from a Living World” pushes the music into a soulful embrace, the ukelele providing a classical acoustic-jazz tinge. The alto-saxophone talks over the gently pulsing melody. Mementos are here to remind us of something, or heed warning. In the Roman Catholic Church, they’re prayers for the living and the dead. What are we supposed to be reminded of? To know? Perhaps that we’re all made of the same stuff, there really is no difference between you and I. The album hints to a familiar spiritual problem – a dichotomy between understanding and living in a united mind, and at the same time collapsing into frustration and distress.

“Godland Apartments” births an even more delicate tune. The tone of the alto saxophone becomes hush, as a militant trumpet and drumbeat soar above, keeping the free-form harmonies in line. “Hush the Child” rings like a mournful mariachi. The final track, “Lay About” contains the only lyrical presence. Biggie’s pleasant, rich voice tells us to “lay about in a coffin…” thinking of “wanderers of love lost.” How often do we shed our old skins, navigating the ways to release old emotions. Despite renewing our “souls” and “minds,” we are still embodied in this endless cycle of change. We are and aren’t our past. No matter what, love can heal all wounds, and in a total surrender to love all suffering dissolves.

Mementos from a Living World is born from an intention to bring more beauty into the world, a “step in the right direction,” as stated in Biggie’s words. Each melody creates an emotional space for someone to easily fall in and experience, contributing to those super-rad-great-times.

Written by Ailsa Forlenza

Written by Ailsa Forlenza