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Rick Suchow: Bass

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Review: Mary Pastorius: From Then Until Almost Now
(Maeric Music)

The debut Mary Pastorius CD, From Then Until Almost Now, is the work of a girl with a story to tell and the talent to tell it, as Mary audiopaints her world for the rest of us to peer into. Those who are drawn to the Pastorius name by way of her famous father, expecting some kind of jazz-tinged foray, should be prepared for a shock but assured that the Pastorius creativity gene is alive and well.

A compilation of sorts, and ten years in the making, From Then Until Almost Now is a dark, stark reflection of Mary's personal journey. Electronica and ambient fueled grooves splattered with metallic guitars, industrial synths, and innovative bass provide sonic pallets for Mary's melodic vocals that challenge us and translate her vision -- both inward and outward. The album is emotionally raw and personally deep in its artistic ambition. Considering the time span that these songs were written and recorded (more than half are dated prior to 2000), what we observe here is one person's inner process over time, as Mary seems to come to terms with her past and present and joltingly opens up the vaults for public inspection.

Clearly interpretation is left for the listener, as only the text of lyrics-- all written by Mary-- are provided in the CD booklet, with no additional liner notes. Various themes resurface throughout: loneliness, desire, fear, mistrust. Mary sings of dreams and angels, but also of blackened hearts and burning flesh. She deals with feelings of seperation from the world, as in the opening song "Backwards World" where she sings of a "faraway girl/wrapped in a vision reminding/rewinding through a backwards world/trapped by a freedom that's blinding/and binding future to past". In "Everywhere" she explores her feelings of God: "I was a lonely girl/trapped inside a cage you couldn't see/lost in a netherworld/didn't know the answers were inside of me", and writes "I was afraid for so long I didn't even see you/but now I know you're in the air/here and there/and everywhere".

Mary's lyrics conjure up imagery and emotion with amazing clarity. At times disturbing ("fall moon burns me with a chill that feels like you/swirling in October wind that stinks of witches brew/the air is thick with you/I'm trying hard not to inhale/choking on debris of you and me") and other times fragile ("where are you hiding, who could you be/how will I know you when you come for me"), let there be no doubt: Mary Pastorius is a lyricist to be taken seriously.

As it turns out, Mary's husband Eric Young is also her musical partner as well, and proves to be a perfect compliment to Mary's lyrical and melodic sense. Eric constructs tracks of angular and often dense soundscapes over original beats that breathe, pulsate and quite simply kick ass. Distortion effects and samples jangle in and out as sine wavy synths dart around, and both Mary and Eric use dissonance to great effect. In "October", one of several standout tracks on the album, ominous strings approach like a dark dream from which Mary's distant vocals emerge. Often on the older material her voice is drenched and buried in walls of reverb and effects, but is mixed clearer in the more recent material, perhaps a reflection of Mary's growing confidence.

Obviously no review of any Pastorius endeavor can omit a discussion of the bass performance. Quite appropriately, David Pastorius provides much of it as he steps up with highly skilled fretted work, while Stewart Coleman contributes fretless to two tunes. In the context of a Mary Pastorius album, the Jaco-esque tone that pervades is more like a DNA stamp, so to speak.

The album appropriately closes (before the added bonus mixes) with the beautifully haunting "Lullabye", sung by both Mary and Eric over nothing more than David's solo bass; "fall to sleep and dream of me/i'd taste so much sweeter in a dream/close your eyes and be with me".

To these ears, From Then Until Almost Now sounds like it's meant to be cranked and shaking the walls of dance clubs, and I highly recommend it. It's a debut album that Mary Pastorius should be proud of, and one hopes that she won't wait too long to follow up with new material. Certainly Jaco would be proud of his little girl.

-Rick Suchow, August 2007

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