MEGA FORTRESS Be­liever (Drift­less Records)

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

In his one-man project known as Mega fortress, mu­si­cian (but pri­mar­ily pi­anist) Bill Gil­lim stud­ies themes of faith, feel­ing lost, and lone­li­ness. He does so not with heavy­handed lyrics and grand over­tures but by evok­ing th­ese kinds of emo­tions through min­i­mal­ist sound col­lages, through words that sug­gest more than they ac­tu­ally say, and through singing that seems in iso­la­tion from the rest of the world. “Fear,” for ex­am­ple, flut­ters about with an ab­stract flock of sax­o­phone sam­ples and Gil­lim’s nearim­pos­si­ble falsetto, let­ting the song softly set as the fear he evokes slowly gives way to a med­i­ta­tive scat­ter­ing of in­stru­ments that car­ries us away over the fi­nal few min­utes. The mu­si­cian ap­pears to cir­cle back to this theme of fear two songs later, open­ing “Be­liever” with gen­tle wa­ter sounds be­fore singing, in an un­af­fected voice, “I was afraid/Now I’m not afraid/I won’t be afraid with all th­ese white faces.” I’ve heard the song many times, and I’m still not sure whether he’s talk­ing about race re­la­tions, ghosts, or some­thing else en­tirely. The al­bum’s sec­ond half shifts into more-ab­stract mu­sic as Gil­lim leans on his sam­ples rather than on his vo­cals, but it re­mains thought­fully con­structed. This is an ex­tremely pa­tient work, but never frus­trat­ingly so. Gil­lim chooses each ges­ture with the care of a kabuki per­former, and nearly all of them un­furl at a pace akin t o slow, deep breath­ing. — Robert Ker

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