Monday, December 29, 2008

Featured Artist: J. Tillman

J. Tillman near a Spanish gas station
The Spanish word 'Vacilando' is difficult to translate. Many have tried; some describe it as 'Wanderlust', others say it means to hesitate between different options or fluctuate and others still claim it marks bravado and a show off.

Which of these can best explain J. Tillman's coming LP title, "Vacilando Territory Blues"? I'm not sure. I've known Tillman for more than two years thanks to 3hive. In this time he has continued to create his own unique kind of dusky folk, the sort that can only be born out of pain and the sense of coming to terms with it (though not without a struggle). He has also joined Fleet Foxes, adding his voice (and honed skills as a drummer) to the harmonious group.

You can read a review of Tillman's new album at Obscure Sound (a higly recommended music blog). From what I've heard so far of the album, I can join in on the recommendations of as well. But it still left me in the dark regarding the album's title. I tried to reconcile the different translations and interpertations with the possible meanings and conotations of the title until I've decided to go back to the source - Spanish.

Unfortunaelty, I don't speak Spanish. But for some dim reason, either half forgotten or merely intuitive, my search has led me to Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, one of the founding fathers of modern Spanish Literature and Poetry. Specifically, to a piece of "El Cristo de la calavera - Leyenda toledana" out of his Leyendas. The paragraph I've found spoke of knights approaching a small niche in the wall, with a small image of Jesus placed with a skull at its base on a small table and a dimly lit lantern hanging by a rope among the wavering (vacilando) air current that are forming around the gem studded altar below.

Even here translation is not as simple as you might expect. The reader can imagine the scene with the air shimmering in smoke filled light accompanied by the scented lantern smell, its swings making soft dopler affected sounds. But that can also miss the author perhaps trying to give added meaning and depth to the scene - is the air hesitating? Perhaps this niche resembels an inhibiting and suffocating tomb? Maybe it's the knights that are hesitant?

In the end, I have to admit I have no idea which of the various meanings I can attach here. The last song on the album, titled "Vacilando Territory", would probably help there. Either way, it's just another (small) reason to wait for what promises to be a great opener for 2009.

J. Tillman - Evans and Falls {MP3} (from Cancer and Delirium)
J. Tillman - When I Light Your Darkened Door {MP3} (from Cancer and Delirium)
Also check Tillman's personal website, MySpace and for updates.

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