CD Review

Falling Janus - "My Shallow Thin Shallow"

By Marcus Pan

My Shallow Thin ShallowQuite an impressive collection of artists have collaborated in what is Falling Janus' first full length recording, My Shallow Thin Shallow. Started and headed up by Harry Koniditsiotis, Falling Janus is a musical outfit that walks somewhere between ambient noise and orchestral sounds. I mean it when I say a "collection of artists" in this case. There's six listed as main musicians - Harry himself along with Mark Taranto, Jack Cahampagne, Scott Fryoux, Joe Bridevaux and Brad Schayot. Additionally there's another list of nine more! Fifteen people provided the music for My Shallow Thin Shallow - not including engineers and mixing personnel. That's a lot of musicians. The album also took some time to create - over a year and a half in recording alone. A lot of time and energy went into My Shallow Thin Shallow. FJ has a bit of touring time under their belt as well. They've been seen with Nine Inch Nails, Sunshine Blind and others. Previous to this first LP, there were three EP releases since the group's creation in 1992.

My Shallow Thin Shallow is swirly and noisy. Feedback is in high use here. I find it hard to hear the fifteen artists that are supposed to have contributed to this creation - it is, for the most part, electronic feedback-laden noise. The vocals, when there are any, are monotonous and never change tone. While they are human sounding, they are robotic in the sense that they never change pitch or find form - regurgitated rather than sung. Maybe this was a wanted effect, but it damages the feel and mood of many of the tracks.

The tracking conventions that Harry used on My Shallow Thin Shallow are a bit different. There are five tracks on the CD, divided into as many as three separate songs each. The first is Strings which contain the parts Harbinger, Descend and You're Not Coming Home. Harbinger starts out pleasant enough, with strumming bass and strings, as you would expect considering the name of the track in which it's a part of. Harry's vocals come in with their unwavering drone. The song crescendos after his first stanza, with a pounding drum beat and floating guitar. This doesn't change - the chords, strumming, pounding drums and strumming bass line remains throughout Harbinger bringing the song to a droning monotony by the time of its end about eight minutes into the first CD track. Following this, Descend begins immediately after Harbinger fades out. This is a fast, pummeling track with moving beats and an exquisitely performed string ensemble. Harry's voice takes on a bit more of a human nature here - bereft of vibrato but providing at least a somewhat pitch-changing chant. They will occasionally clash with the string ensemble however - like hitting a bad note in the middle of an otherwise well-played piano concerto.

Track II is called Hollow Than Hollow, and starts with Allison, a grating, noisy piece that I tend to skip over. Harry blares the lyrics to this one in an annoying metallic whine. It ends abruptly and at about 5 ½ minutes into track II May Violets Spring From Your Flesh begins. This one I like - it has a melancholy feel to it. The bass is simple and moving and the electronic swirling sounds behind it are much less annoying than its predecessor. The vocals that come in later still have the bad-note tendency that you heard in Descend. The bass never changes and the swirling ambient noise in the background grows until the song begins to drag.

Non Linear is track III on the album. In Longing a multi-guitared score moves you to a more pleasant place than where you've been in earlier parts of this album. The lyrics of Longing are very poetic and tinged with sadness. "I see it's this way and backwards but which one is wrong, Please just wait for me another time." Very pretty - but when heard they come out in a whining drawl in that same, albeit more suppressed, monotonous vocal style that through the first two tracks of My Shallow Thin Shallow you've become all too familiar with. The song lasts just over 4 ½ minutes.

The last two tracks on the CD, IV and V of course, don't have separate songs within them. Track IV is Silence and is just that. Nothing. A 32 second break in the CD. I found this downright silly of them. Track V, My Shallow Thin Shallow, begins with what sounds like an old-time radio broadcast - banjo and all. Then it drones into an ambient, feedback-driven barrage of noise. It goes into a fast-paced rhythm for a while, but still the melody, if indeed there is one, is just more noise. After some crashes and a bit of expressed anger in the noise, a voice starts to chant at you - in Latin from what I can tell. For the last nine minutes or so of the CD, it just hums at you. It sounds like they slapped a microphone on the back of a refrigerator.

My Shallow Thin Shallow is a CD to which, as I said, there are fifteen musicians contributing. It seems to me that this might have been a case of "too many chefs." While I've heard feedback and ambient noise used very effectively to enhance the mood or sound of a band's music, I can't say I liked My Falling Janus' usage of such as THE music. When a good rhythm or musical score is created, such as in Harbinger or Longing, this will then be dragged out to a point where it becomes a monotonous and droning nuisance. Falling Janus calls it "art rock." I don't.

Contact Information:
Mail: Nevermore Productions, P.O.Box 55371, Metairie, LA., 70055
Web: http://members.aol.com/falljanus/fallingjanus.html
E-Mail: fallingjanus@compuserve.com