Urban life comes into play on Forgotten Bottom’s latest recording Hostile Architecture. With a moniker that is inspired by the nickname of a small neighborhood in South Philadelphia, musician Myles Donovan (viola/bells/pedals/bowed cymbal) and New Jersey transplant Eric Bandel (bouzouki/guitar/drums/shakers) are a two-piece band that continues their urban conversation on their cassette debut entitled Hostile Architecture. According to Wikipedia, “Hostile Architecture” is an urban design trend in which public spaces are constructed or altered to discourage people from using them in a way not intended by the owner. It is most typically associated with “anti-homeless spikes” – studs embedded in flat surfaces to make sleeping, uncomfortable and impractical.
The Forgotten Bottom’s signature sound of layered dissonance and harmonic overtures includes the voice of the city. Scenes from the city come to life on this album, recorded in a warehouse fire escape, as a bit of sounds from the city life flows through the recording.
Hostile Architecture opens up with “Resurrect Dead On Planet Jupiter” with the instrumentals reverberating in an off-kilter quality. A soft lilting cadence comes from the bouzouki with the viola offering up a dreamy, introspective scope to the track. A bit of International flavor also unfolds from the instrumentals. There is a certain haunting and dreamy center to the song that is played with abandon and feeling.
Next is “Shoot Me Or Give Me A Place To Live” that contains ambient background layers that fill the start of this track. It is a great acoustic number. The airy sounds from the bouzouki fills this song creating a moving and emotional soundscape.
“Touch Nothing Until The Signal” features the lush sounds coming from the viola flowing forth. A lovely and inviting vibe is elicited. Sounds of the acoustic guitar unfolds, adding a mesmerizing layer. Percussions give off a lively, more energized feel to this instrumental number.
Following is “The Dog Has Been Poisoned So It Will Not Bark,” where the acoustic guitar paves this song with traces of the viola weaving in and out. The sound is dramatic with tinges of melancholy. This is a classical song with touches of rock embellishments blending into the ensemble, giving this track a more modernized touch and blending the old with the new. In the background, the sound of rain and sirens helps serenade listeners along in this lush arrangement.
On “Narcan Fairy,” the choppy cadences coming from the drums culminate into chaos and then eventually fade off. Next percussions and the bouzouki add some magical reverie to the song. The viola weaves in and out of this track adding a distinctive symphonic finish. A dreamy cast is felt coming from the strings. The drums add a marching backbeat on the rhythms.
Towards the closer, “All Men, No Windows,” sounds of subway trains coasting by fills the backdrop to this track. The sounds of the trains is backed by steady percussions and the viola. The cadence is altogether busy with the subway noise adding a bit of background ambience as the sounds of the viola underlines this song. The airy cadences soar with atmospheric vigor. The tape ends to a smattering of applause - well deserving of a captivating performance.
Forgotten Bottom demonstrates their grandiose creative proclivities on this tape. These aren't just random notes played out into the night. These are plainly orchestrated arrangements meant to showcase the ebb and flow and harmony and discord of the cityscape. Convoluted harmonies and semblances of melodies collide in a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds. Inspired by their environments, each song name are quotes taken from people living in Philadelphia.
Hostile Architecture doesn’t romanticize the cityscape as much as it shows the stark and bleak outlook that oftentimes fill the urban lifestyle such as gentrification, development and the present opioid crisis. Yet these tracks aren’t just moving, they are a soundtrack to the city that somehow manages to aptly evoke the terrain of city life in Philadelphia in a vivid and emotional manner.
Bold and unique, a great many startling acoustic numbers are on this tape. Highly recommended.
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