In last week’s entry about Middle Brother, I made a false declaration by saying that timing is everything. This isn’t to say that timing isn’t critical, but timing is not everything. “Timing is everything” is a cliche. “Everything” is an end-all be-all.
I bring this up not to make myself look better, but because I caught myself wanting to write the following cliche about Ash Black Bufflo’s Andasol: Context is everything. Well, if timing is everything, then context cannot be everything. Context is not timing.
Context is crucial. It is crucial to understanding Andasol. If you listen to this album having absolutely no frame of reference as to why it was written and recorded, you are going to be lost. It will sound like a New Age album that bought some bad drugs from a seedy character in a Darren Aronofsky film. The gentle notes strummed on strings or hit on keys are overlaid with the pops of the imperfections of a record, crunching snow, odd spoken word interludes and even blood-curdling screams that are pure nightmare fodder. It sounds like the score of a journey into the dark recesses of someone’s psyche.
This is perfect, because that is exactly what Ash Black Bufflo was tasked with for the documentary, Marwencol. A full array of strings, woodwinds, drums, piano, guitar, falsetto voices, crickets, and shrieks of the damned fill act as a soundtrack to the story told in the film. The story is of Mark Hogancamp, a man from New York who is savagely beaten outside of a bar and runs out of money to pay for physical and mental therapy. As a coping mechanism, he creates his own world with 18-inch dolls set in the Belgian town of Marwencol. Each doll correlates to someone in his life and he creates a sweeping narrative for his alternate universe.
This effort at pulling up the pieces of his life is scored beautifully in Andasol. But it took knowing what this project tied to for me to foster full understanding. Once again, context is extremely important. I imagine every strange journey an artist takes in creating art we don’t understand has a back story that would offer the viewer or listener guidance into the medium. I was fortunate enough to be given a road map for Ash Black Bufflo’s Andasol.
I still maintain the album sounds like meditation music on a bad acid trip, but do yourself a favor and see the documentary, Marwencol. Then pick up Andasol and relive Mark Hogancamp’s psychological journey.
Or try listening to it on its own and go on your own journey through the imagination. You are free to choose your own path. But don’t say I didn’t try and give you a map.