William Ryan Fritch – The Artifishal / Exit 12

A new album from multi-instrumentalist / composer William Ryan Fritch is always noteworthy. And, just like a London bus, two have arrived at the same time. The first is an original score to Artifishal, which is described as ‘an environmental film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them’. Wild salmon are slowly slipping towards extinction, mainly due to fish hatcheries and fish farms. Couple this with timewasting, indecision, negligence, feuding, indifference, our inability to respect nature and our ability to trample over areas that should’ve retained their virginity, and there’s a serious problem.

Fritch’s music is and always has been deeply cinematic. Standing as tall as a stone statue of Poseidon, Artifishalreveals a vulnerable side which is initially shocking to behold. It’s drenched in the waters of a river, making the music slippery, and there’s a risk of losing something that was once secure in the palm of the hand. In this instance, it’s the wildlife, and the overall health of their environment. At the time of writing, in the twilight’s last gleaming of 2019, it’s still possible to change direction, reverse the stuttering of governmental decisions, and produce a positive, fruitful future, but even this possibility is slowly slipping away.

Something is in danger, and the threat of extinction is close; it’s later than you think. Strings meet with wide-open, orchestral movements, and nature dances along with the music. Music is fragile, and so is the natural world. Both share the qualities of beauty and fragility. Precious and forlorn, the music slides between a drooping weakness and a rising surge in resilience: nature has always found a way to fight back, to re-emerge from the artificial debris, and it must do so again. The plethora of instrumentation is indicative of nature, too. It’s wild and abundant and vivid and limitless in design and appearance. Still, ‘Lose the Wild, Lose Ourselves’ is a stark wake-up call. It’s the final track, and it may be the final warning.

25% of all proceeds raised from the sale of Artifishal go to the Native Fish Society, whose aim is to ‘cultivate a groundswell of public support needed to revive abundant wild, native fish’. More information about the Native Fish Society can be found here. The film is available here.

The second release is a film score to Exit 12: Moved By War. The film tells the story of US Marine Roman Baca, a veteran of the Iraq War, having served in Fallujah, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006. Like many of his compatriots, he wasn’t the same when he returned home, and his experiences scarred him with depression, anxiety, and anger issues. He created Exit12 – a dance company based in New York that tells stories of war and the impact on our world through dance and choreography.

At times bombastic and militant, but more often quieter and reflective, the music keeps itself together by way of a healing piano and soft strings. Marching drums come across as funereal, more like a gun salute and less a boastful parade. No, the music knows the real cost and the true horrors of war. Smoky Middle-Eastern tones bring the music to the frontline, but it’s punctuated by the futility of war and a shadow of sadness which follows the soldiers around, going wherever they go. Things can’t be reclaimed and people can’t be brought back, and the echoes of conflict stretch even further back with ‘Vietnam’. The shadows of war followed Baca on his return to New York, and despite the thousands of miles separating the two countries, it was much, much closer. Immediate, in fact, as the mind was still reeling from the traumas of war. Lives are cut short and candles are snuffed out. The pointless asphyxiation of something as precious as life is hammered home in this score, but it also shows that beauty can emerge out of wreckage and devastation.


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