Streaking in Tongues’ latest project, Slow Dancing with Bigfoot, is a collaboration with Michigan writer and two-time U.P. (Upper Peninsula) Poet Laurate Marty Achatz. The fifteen track collection marries Achatz’s verse with the aural landscapes that have been the father/son duo’s stock in trade since their first release in 2015. The penchant for evocative titles extends to the individual pieces as well; readers/listeners will notice straight away that they provide a glimpse of the contents with a specificity lacking in similar efforts.
The idea of bringing poetry together with musical accompaniment is nothing new. Authors much more famous than Achatz, including William Burroughs, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, among many others, set prose or verse to musical accompaniment with memorable results. The success of such efforts depends on ever elusive chemistry. The musicians need to share artistic vision that is simpatico with the writers without ever being secondary or subservient.
The opening track “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Bigfoot” couples Achatz’s clear enunciation and delivery with a simple yet effective acoustic guitar melody. Attentive listeners will latch onto the concrete details rife throughout Achatz’s writing. He draws his imagery from our every day lives which helps a poem such as this achieve universal resonance. The relatively conversational slant of his diction is another essential factor in its success. Building the collection around the figure of Bigfoot, with all its attendant cultural connotations, offers us a glimpse into the man behind the work. Achatz is a writer well aware of our modern mythos and how to use it in his work with maximum effect.
Anyone with a dark sense of humor will appreciate the improbably titled “A Pig’s Orgasm Lasts 30 Minutes”. It’s a tale of woe as old as man and, with a handful of significant details alone, Achatz creates a memorable character and his surrounding world. It’s the first of such titles relating a perhaps interesting fact about members of the animal world. A low-watt persistent drone accompanies the acoustic guitar here and the six-string playing takes several brief bluesy and foreboding turns along the way.
Poetry devotees may recognize the influence of Allen Ginsberg on Achatz; myriad influences collide to make a poet who they are but, without question, the Beat Generation and some of their direct progeny exert a hold over Achatz’s work. You hear it strong in the undeniably affectionate and often beautiful “Bigfoot and Jim Harrison Skinny Dip in Morgan Pond on Father’s Day”. The church organ drone heard as background in earlier tracks dominates “Ode to Kurt’s Ashes in McLane Creek” and gives it a delicate funereal air.
The finale “Bigfoot Gives Thanks” concludes Slow Dancing with Bigfoot in a note-perfect way. Streaking in Tongues pairs Achatz’s words with a lighter guitar track than many other tracks; the guitar work throughout this release is elegant and well-recorded. Achatz namechecks another famous writer here, poet and priest Gerald Manley Hopkins, but refrains from using Hopkins as a “character” like the earlier Jim Harrison reference. Streaking in Tongues continues offering some of the most intelligent releases available today with this album and their teaming with Achatz pays off extraordinarily well.