Artist: A Stick and a Stone
Label: Anima Recordings
Release Date: 15/01/2021
Country: United States
Written by James Sweetlove
A Stick and a Stone is a one-person project from Oregon that plays a wide collection of genres and styles. Their music is an ever-changing blend of styles, however on this particular album they mix folk, ambient, experimental, classical, dark ambient and spoken word poetry among numerous other influences. The person behind the project is Elliott Miskovicz, who on this album is responsible for vocals, composition, pump organ, piano, marimba, kalimba, classical guitar, wood flute, percussive branches, bass drum, found sound excavation, as well as home recording and production. They are joined by Billy Ray Boyer (viola), Stelleaux Peach (violin and cello), Myles Donovan (viola, lever harp and crystal glass), Sei Harris (cello), Darian Scatton (pedal harp and harp recording) and David Fylstra (mixing, tape manipulation, percussion and percussion recording). All mastering was done by Kris Force. On top of this already impressive collection, a wide array of guest artists also contributed to the music on the album, if you would like more details on this please consult the album’s Bandcamp page.
The artist had this to say about the album, “Versatile is an album of experimental love songs to the lands and communities which restore us through turmoils again and again. Recorded in remote forested hideouts, its lyricism explores the versatility of queer love with songs for friends and freedom fighters, woodlands and waterways, trans ancestors and survivors… Written during Miskovicz’s passage to living off-grid in the woods after a lifetime in the Philadelphia area, these 11 songs follow the journey of the sacrifices we make in the name of solace. Due to multiple health conditions which became increasingly exacerbated by urban environments, it became imminently necessary to relocate to quieter landscapes. Although rural life was not always easy, his songwriting there evolved from a tool for coping with chaos into an expression of reverence for the ecosystems surrounding him.”
This is a truly captivating album, which not only creates a fully immersive atmosphere but experiments with sounds and instruments in a way that really makes the project unique. While there are heavy folk influences, folk only makes up a portion of the release’s true essence. The ambient textures woven into the fabric of the music are an integral part of the depth that is presented on the release. There is palpable emotional energy to the music that comes through in not just the instrumentals, but also in the vocals. On that topic we need to discuss the vocals on the release because I absolutely love them. Elliott’s voice is a thing of beauty, the amount of passion that comes through in every line is truly impressive and without it the album would be lacking a lot of its heart. While the majority of the album is clean and crisp, at times they really push their vocals to have a rawness and edge to them and I absolutely love these moments. Track 6 Timelapse is a great example of this and a real must-listen.
The instrumental work on the album is fantastically composed. While all the individual elements are extremely well played, it’s the minimalistic and atmospheric composition of these elements that makes the album so immersive. The combination of this and the ambient/dark ambient elements give the album almost a spiritual quality, one that stirs things in the listener that remain dormant when listening to other music. This quality transcends all boundaries and even if you as the listener cannot relate to all of the themes on the album, there are universally felt human emotions and themes expressed in the music that you cannot help but relate to. Dotted in amongst all of this are experimental segments and elements that almost catch you off guard at times but still work extremely well with the rest of the album. Track 5 Meridians is a great example of this, including a drawn out, faded, pained screech that I was not expecting to be there at all.
The use of such a wide array of instruments helps to keep things interesting for the entire duration of the album. This ever-changing composition results in each track being like opening a present, going into it you don’t know what it contains but you’re excited to find out. The overall essence of each track varies and while some have much more folk-based roots, others are a little more classical in nature. In relation to energy and essence, I think that all of it ties back to the core themes and concepts behind the album. The theme of relationships, both between individuals and between humanity and nature is felt through the music. The passion and emotion in both the instrumentals and vocals help to convey these themes, further re-enforcing the poetic lyrics that the album features.
Overall, I absolutely loved Versatile and have no negative feedback whatsoever. From start to finish I was captivated and immersed in atmosphere and emotion. This album is a thing of true beauty and is a result of not just raw talent, but fantastic song writing and composing ability. Even if you’re not a fan of folk music I truly suggest you go out on a limb here and give this album a chance. So take some time to listen to the pre-released tracks and get your pre-order in today.
Listen to and order the album below: