Fursaxa, Kraus merge supernatural and natural at Highwire gig

The far out Philly folk of Fursaxa will fol­low Brit­ish folk artist Shar­on Kraus at High­wire Gal­lery in Fishtown this Fri­day.


There is no short­age of live en­ter­tain­ment this Fri­day night, with per­form­ances by the Feel­ies, Ju­ni­or Boys, Yeasay­er and Guided By Voices. Un­for­tu­nately, the av­er­age tick­et price for these events ranges from $20 to an ex­or­bit­ant $30, not in­clud­ing the ap­plic­able $12 Tick­et­mas­ter sur­charge.

So, it is pleas­ing to know that Philly’s most valu­able tick­et will sell for only $6, buy­ing a night of eth­er­e­al jams at Frank­ford Av­en­ue’s High­wire Gal­lery.

Per­form­ing will be Phil­adelphia main­stay Fursaxa, the long­time pro­ject of Tara Burke, former mem­ber of the Silt­breeze group UN. A de facto pro­gen­it­or of the last dec­ade’s ad­ven­tur­ous folk move­ment, the mu­sic pi­on­eered taste­ful and un­gaudy prim­it­ive song.

In ad­di­tion to a slew of self-re­leased CD-Rs, Fursaxa has re­cor­ded a string of re­cords made avail­able by the Acid Moth­ers Temple la­bel, Thur­ston Moore’s Ec­stat­ic Peace! la­bel, and most re­cently, ATP Re­cord­ings. She has also per­formed with Acid Moth­ers Temple’s Kawabata Makoto (an avid fan), Bardo Pond and Six Or­gans of Ad­mit­tance.

Her early re­cord­ings were re­cor­ded on four track, un­der­lin­ing and com­ple­ment­ing the simple and es­sen­tial ap­proach to her song­writ­ing. More re­cent works have been ac­com­plished in stu­dio, which only add rich­ness to her ex­ist­ing style, centered on layered vo­cal tracks.

Mono­ton­ous, two-note chord pro­gres­sions (some­times on fixed gui­tar, some­times on or­gan) per­sist through four to eight-minute songs, serving as a mu­sic­al man­tra that is equally re­ward­ing and en­gross­ing.

Burke’s man­ner dir­ectly owes cred­it to the folk rock of 1960s Bri­tain, most not­ably Fair­port Con­ven­tion and Pentangle. The re­strained but melod­ic­ally rich set of craft draws tra­di­tion­al Me­di­ev­al Age struc­ture through mod­ern pop con­ven­tions it­self.  

While some of her lyr­ic­al prose is in­flu­enced by cen­tur­ies old-lit­er­at­ure, much of it is de­rived from en­to­mo­logy, which re­flects the tone of the mu­sic; a deep con­nec­tion to nat­ur­al sounds. Her af­fec­tion for the world of in­sects re­peats in her words and her at­mo­spher­ic loop­ing mim­ics the calls of ci­ca­das and crick­ets. Still, the best of Burke’s vo­cal abil­ity comes out dur­ing non-lyr­ic­al hymns.

If the de­scrip­tion of Fursaxa’s mu­sic en­cour­ages im­ages of a di­vine freak­out, it should.

Live per­form­ances are ac­com­pan­ied by the burn­ings of in­cense. Burke cites spir­itu­al in­flu­ences and “draws en­ergy from crys­tals” for mu­sic­al in­spir­a­tion. Her concept of the nat­ur­al and the su­per­nat­ur­al ap­pears to be in­ter­change­able.

Fursaxa’s most re­cent re­lease, My­cor­rhiz­ae Realm, is an­oth­er wild trip, bolder than that of her past work. She re­cruited  pro­du­cer Greg Weeks, harp­ist Mary Lat­timore and cel­list Helena Es­pvall. The res­ult of that col­lab­or­a­tion comes out lush but typ­ic­ally re­strained. The in­flu­ence of free jazz le­gend Alice Col­trane is all over the re­cord, wrought with cas­cad­ing harp and free­form song design.

The lay­er­ing and double chan­nel­ing of Fursaxa’s sop­rano voice is de­livered smoothly, not re­veal­ing where one cry ends and an­oth­er be­gins. These ghostly vo­cals are ten­a­cious and tire­less, but nev­er grow grat­ing or stale.

We get the same ce­les­ti­al and en­thralling aura weaved every time Burke lays it down, a trope that is guar­an­teed with any of her per­form­ances. Shar­ing the bill is fel­low folk min­im­al­ist and fre­quent col­lab­or­at­or Shar­ron Kraus.

A nat­ive of Ox­ford, Eng­land, Kraus has made a fit­ting home in Fishtown, bring­ing with her au­then­t­ic and in­spired  tra­di­tion­al folk. Wood­winds, strings, and any num­ber of age-old in­stru­ments found at Renais­sance fairs will be heard on her re­cords. Her sparse acous­tic gui­tar and sweet singing voice draws from Bert Jan­sch and oth­er Brit­ish sing­er/song­writers from the ’60s and ’70s.

There is still a hint of ac­know­ledg­ment of con­tri­bu­tion of the U.S., with strains of Bluegrass and Amer­ic­an Prim­it­ive, likely a res­ult of her sur­round­ing con­tem­por­ar­ies.

Like Fursaxa, Kraus has a pro­lif­ic out­put from the past 10 years. Her cata­log boasts a more sin­cere style of Eng­lish folk, not of­ten ven­tur­ing in­to the long form noise rock of Burke. This is not to say that the mu­sic is not dar­ing — it is any­thing but.

Un­as­sum­ing, minor key pieces grow in­to deep, daunt­ing epics. If any­thing, Kraus is heavy, com­ing down as hard as Led Zep­pelin. Songs enter in­to dark, shat­ter­ing be­hemoths that are jar­ring — even scary. Deep, pound­ing pulses from bass drums and lower re­gister strings give way to Kraus’ beau­ti­fully creepy shrieks of urge.

This oth­er­worldly double bill will be roun­ded out with per­form­ances by Bal­timore’s Weyes Blood and Chica­go’s Laugh­ing Eye Weep­ing Eye, both bring­ing their share of weird to the table.

This one is “heads” only.

Who: Fursaxa and Shar­ron Kraus

What: Strange, time­less folk from Philly’s finest

Where: High­wire Gal­lery, 2040 Frank­ford Ave.

When: Fri­day, June 17, 8 p.m.

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