‘Travel in the Shadows’ from Noctambule - sparkling innovation and poetic expression(August 06, 2013)
When you first hear some albums you find an unlooked-for and exquisite experience. Noctambule are San Francisco folk musicians Marla Fibish and Bruce Victor and with their album ‘Travel in the Shadows’ they have created an experience of sparkling innovation and poetic expression. French for ‘night-owl’, the twelve songs and tunes on Noctambule take the listener on a faintly spiritual journey through a wandering selection of night time stories and images.
The unexpected edge to ‘Travel in the Shadows’ is the weaving of works oby Theodore Roethke, Pablo Neruda, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Service and Edna St. Vincent Millay through expressive musicianship and sympathetic arrangement into outstanding songs.
From the first, ‘Insomnia’ a evocative arrangement and re-working of Robert Service’s poems ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Moon Song’ from his Ballads of a Bohemian, makes it easy to sink into the essence of sleepless nights through a haunting melody and Marla’s entrancing voice. While ‘Noctambule’, based on another Service poem, recreates a less than sober nightlife-experience and troubled homeward journey through Paris. Inserting a faintly dreamlike version of the traditional folk song ‘Madam I’m A Darlin’ augments the feeling of night time voyages. The applique of poetry and music continues with Pablo Neruda’s sonnet form transposed into ‘Travel in the Shadows’, more of Service’s unconventional meanderings with ‘The Bohemian Dreams’ and the wilderness-stimulated agonising of ‘Lost’, while lovers of Tennyson’s poetry will be seduced by Noctambule’s rendition of ‘The Sisters’.
Bruce Victor has walked diverse roads from practicing psychiatrist to accomplished musician, developing free-ranging yet clinically perfect guitar styles along the way. Marla Fibish is an unwavering force in Irish music, combining innovation and tradition in equal measure. Marla and Bruce cite the uncertainty, trepidation and sometimes fear that can accompany journeys of the night as influences and expressions in the album – throughout ‘Travel in the Shadows’ they take the listener through those emotions and more.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll