June 28, 2005

Flare "circa"

Before the world was charmed and stunned by Antony & The Johnsons, some of us had our hearts captured by another angelic-voiced boy from New York City. LD Beghtol first drew the world's attention as a guest vocalist on The Magnetic Fields' magnum opus 69 Love Songs, but he's also been busy with other musical projects: Flare, The Moth Wranglers (a collaboration with California-based Chris Xefos), The Three Terrors (a live experience featuring Stephin Merritt and Dudley Klute) and his newest project LD and the New Criticism. That list doesn't cover his writing and his graphic design, either.

In 2000, Flare released Circa a six-song mini album, but it sadly fell out of print. A pity, too, because it was an excellent record that deserved to be heard. Over its six songs, Circa highlighted all of Beghtol's strong points: gorgeous singing, witty (and deeply emotional) lyrics and interesting musical accompaniment. An excellent example of this is "Circa" It's a slow, sad piano number, tempered with haunting violin (courtesy of Ida Pearl) and banjo, morose singing and one of the wittiest lyrics you'll hear: "Ever the charming host/You poured me tepid chardonay/And bored me with your play-by-play of the scene/Circa 1984." The song then takes a turn for the rustic, with the string-and-banjo arrangement bringing the tempo up to an upbeat rhythm. Beghtol sings with a detatched voice that instantly breaks your heart and slays your emotions.

The chamber-pop of "Circa" is carried through the rest of the record; whether it's the brief "Triumph of the Pig People" or the heartbreakig "Item: June 16th," Beghtol doesn't wish to leave the listener's eyes dry. Circa is music for a mid-afternoon weep, but within its sadness, there's a glimmer of hope. "Darkest before dawn," they say, and though heartbreaking, "Save Me Save Me" and "Measure of a Man" hold true to the "Tis better to have loved and lost" concept. Sure, you've just been destroyed by someone you loved, but darling, who hasn't?

The best song on Circa, though, isn't one of Beghtol's originals. "Anywhere (Like The Moon)" is a cover of an obscure song written by fellow Three Terror and Magnetic Fields guest vocalist Dudley Klute. In the hands of Beghtol, the song becomes a lullaby for the forlorn; it's cold, it's desperate and it's utterly heartbreaking. Tempered with a simple arrangement of piano, violin and cello (as well as a militaristic snare drum towards the end of the song), the simple lyrics capture your emotions and will break your heart. At the time, Beghtol had never sounded finer, and listening to the song five years later, it has yet to lose either its potentcy or it poignancy.

This reissue of Circa also collects a few songs from the time. The cover of Lisa Germano's "Lovesick" is even more haunting and disturbed than the original--and that's saying a LOT; Beghtol sounds downright evil, and the use of whispering voices and turbulent accompaniment makes "Lovesick" a painful listen. The other three tracks--songs from various compilations--are quite nice. Their inclusion makes Circa feel like a complete album, and it helps to compensate the record's disappearance . Flare's relative obscurity is puzzling, if not a little troubling--Beghtol is too talented to toil away unknown--but for those who know the beauty of Beghtol's music and the power of his voice, he remains a beautiful pearl.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.motherwest.com/mw_new/artists/flare/home.html
Label Website: http://www.motherwest.com

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