Stephen Vitiello & Molly Berg – I Drew A Fish Hook, And It Turned Into A Flower

IKKI’s latest dialogue is a conversation between Los Angeles-based photographer Jake Michaels and musicians Stephen Vitiello and Molly Berg. Michaels is a regular contributor to the New York Times, and he’s also involved with ‘The Look’, an ongoing series that blends fashion with street photography. Six years on from their last release, Stephen Vitiello and Molly Berg’s I Drew A Fish Hook, And It Turned Into A Flower is a benevolent and playful listen. The pair met in Richmond, Virginia twelve years ago, and it’s heartening to see that, after all these years, the fire is still burning; the two musicians are on the same wavelength when it comes to musical collaboration. Musically, there’s a lot of space in which to roam. Sleep-easy sounds are fleshed out and their compositions are widened. Expansive textures are given total freedom.

A gorgeous vocal acts like medicine with its lilting sighs. Everything’s safe. On the second piece, ‘Mental Radio’, a single string pierces the foreground, adding some delicacy to the ambient landscape, drawing a hard, black-and-white line across a downtown building, dividing it in two. This opening is as stark as black coffee, but the music is soon made softer by the humming vocal, like a mother’s reassuring song to an unsettled baby. The atmosphere responds, becoming sleepier, but this is a thirteen-minute track, so there’s plenty of room for growth. A drum kicks in and mushrooms into a frenzy. Street-side, it moves from the sleepy morning to the rush hour of the afternoon. Taxi cabs are stuck in the gridlock of Tetris traffic and hordes of pedestrians fill the sidewalks.

Incorporating elements of Jazz within its ambient sound design, the instrumental landscape is easy-going, but occasional slices of rhythm help in pushing the music forward at a time when it appears to be slowing down and on the verge of stalling. Clean electric guitar notes pierce the atmosphere, glinting out of and rising up from an amplifier like the dawning sun. It could also represent a photographic style: Michaels uses crisp, hard lines, and so does the guitar. Alongside a sighing vocal and an enigmatic-yet-humble soundscape, listeners will encounter the carefree sound of someone whistling, a breakthrough moment after a long struggle. In some ways, then, the music may seem like an unrealistic fantasy to those in the midst of climbing the mountain, a composition of pure escapism, touching Heaven, but its idyllic music promises a better day. It says: we can do this, we can get through this and come out on the other side, and so can you. Even if it takes another six years for the day to appear.

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