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Waterworks | Dragonfly (no label)
Doran Stambaugh announces in an authorative whisper: "We start / as nymphs / in love / swimming our way / through the watery days" over an acoustic guitar figure, the slow ebb of Paul Bessenbacher's keys brooding beneath the surface and then mimicking the lyric's hovering dragonfly with tentative, darting runs. Such meticulous attention to detail and assured restraint raises Dragonfly, the album, way above the norm - this is a truly stunning record. From that subdued introductory song, Ondonata, onwards, Stambaugh's reluctance to 'let go' at first seems astylistic gamble, a potentially fatigue-inducing device. But his phrasing and control become essential ingredients in Waterworks' jazz-inflected soundscape, weaving in and around the rhythmic patterns layed down by drummer Jason Toth and bassist James Scott whose interplay appears telepathic in its construction. Although very much a collection of songs, often bleeding into one another, there are many standouts among the genuinely faultless selection. From the tragic demise of Therese Marie in Halfway ("Her blood beat the snowflakes to the ground"), eliciting Stambaugh's most impassioned performance, via the insistent twisted blues of Hard Look ("I'm a cold cup of coffee in the corner of the room / Going bitter by the minute / I need a warm-up soon"), to the skeletal lyrics of Memoirs in my Pen, ( "To all the years / We won't spend together here / Cheers / To the echoes we might hear in 20 years / Cheers / I'd like to raise my glass to the making of a remarkable past") delivered in a deliciously resigned tone - part irony, part regret, part respect - Dragonfly, too, is nothing less than remarkable.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001