Coloradan Dave Willey says he worked on Immeasurable Currents "for a million years"; the long effort paid off nicely. These musical settings of poetry by Dave's father, Dale Willey, were recorded at Dave's home, with the "Friends" of the "Dave Willey & Friends" moniker contributing from near and far, including -- among others -- singer Deborah Perry, present on nearly all the tracks, in Colorado; singer/keyboardist Elaine di Falco in Oregon; and the late bassist Hugh Hopper in England. Udi Koomran handled mixing and mastering in Tel Aviv. Surmounting innumerable -- if not immeasurable -- challenges ultimately resulted in a CD that serves the elder Willey's legacy well (he died in 2001, and doubtless would have loved hearing this). Son Dave is best known for his involvement in two groups with shared members, several of whom participate here; he co-leads the entirely instrumental Hamster Theatre, a comparatively light, melodic, and quirky bunch, and plays bass in Thinking Plague, a challenging, less overtly "tuneful" avant-prog band whose music centers around jagged multi-part suites with incisive lyrical content. In the sense that Immeasurable Currents often centers around poetry in free verse, it might be viewed as more like Thinking Plague than the Hamsters or, for that matter, Dave's 1995 debut foray into rodent music, Songs from the Hamster Theatre. But Immeasurable Currents is really something quite different. The natural world -- both beautiful and foreboding -- is a recurring theme, informed by clarity that digs deeper than surface aesthetics. In "Too Much Light," brilliant aspen trees tire the eyes and turn consciousness inward for escape; in "Autumn," the album's namesake "immeasurable currents" randomly spell life or death for wasps; while "Winter" brings "the danger of white smooth corners" to "roads at cliffedge."
The album's 12 tracks include assertive yet artful rockers and darkly subtle songs with deliberate yet sparse piano chords as foundations, imaginatively arranged and touched by alluring, mysterious ambiences. Notwithstanding his friends' stellar contributions, Dave multi-tracked most instruments himself, with his accordion providing welcome warmth. An uncharacteristically sprightly number, "The Conservatives" is a succinct critique set to a Slapp Happy-ish ditty complete with whistling, and would make a nice anti-Tea Party anthem for progressives. Elsewhere, Dave narrates -- in a gravelly mix of Tom Waits and Kevin Ayers -- the tale of the lamentable "Mitch" and the weight he must bear, while the di Falco-penned "Winter," nicely contrasting Perry's grainier and di Falco's smoother vocals, includes a chamber music interlude suggesting that Elaine could easily collaborate with Aranis or Julverne in Belgium. In the end, the album also memorializes Hopper. His instantly identifiable bass joins the drifting accordion, tinkling piano, and ghostly overdubbed vocals of "The Old Woods" like a long-lost friend; "What a Night" enters Robert Wyatt Rock Bottom territory complete with Hopper's signature fuzz bass (Willey himself keeps the fuzz bass alive in "If Two See a Unicorn"); and "Nightfall"'s radiant, dreamy looping, again courtesy of Hopper, provokes thoughts of the bassist -- and of others come and gone -- as the album concludes. ~ Dave Lynch