Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Musicians: Dan Goldman, Guitar and Vocals: Daniela Gesundheit, Vocals,With The St. Kitts String Quartet
String Arrangement Owen Pallett
Defining or describing Canadian Dan Goldman’s second
album will take some doing. How to start? Well, lyrically and
melodically, his plaintiff words, acoustic guitar, and gentle vocals
spin out a dream-like realm on the shore of his Luxury Pond.
It’s where the ethereal folk songwriting of a Donovan Leitch meets
the classical compositional approach of a Joseph Haydn by way of Over
The Rhine. In particular, to call the musicians who perform with him
“supporting players” would seriously understate the contributions
of, for starters, the contrapuntal St.Kitts String Quartet. From the
opening baroque passages in “Lower Me Down” and throughout the
journey, Bethany Bergman (violin 1), Jenny Thomson (violin 2), Karen
Moffatt (viola), and John Marshman (cello), as arranged by Owen
Pallett, are as integral to the sonic vista as Goldman himself.
Additional colorings came from background vocalist Daniela Gesundheit
(aka Snowblink), Joe Phillips on upright bass, and Marc Duggan on
assorted percussion. In addition, Ryan Driver’s analog
synthesizer gives many of the songs almost Beatlesque qualities.
As if coming from a poet
sitting on a beach letting his subconscious wander, Goldman’s songs
blend abstract wordplay with meditative intimate personal
reflections. If there’s one unifying trope, it’s water imagery.
For example, in Dear Shark, Goldman finds connections between
the sea creature and himself, both having a “body that is your
brain.” Water sounds introduce Caving In where a frozen lake
serves as a metaphor for the distance between two people, a divide
Goldman is fearful of crossing. In Prelude to, the singer
compares himself to a fish swimming in clear waters with a beautiful
musical bridge featuring Gesundheit’s soprano and presumably Mark
Duggan on xylophone. Clay is about an artistic girl who “made
clay portraits of me” by that frozen lake. For lack of a better
term, Waters Clear and Rivers are symphonic psychedelia
where the poet remembers a world he used to know.
Not everything is so aquatic, but most of the words are equally elliptical, illusory, and subtle stream of consciousness. In Boulders, the poet has had a “heavy year” but has come above ground to bathe in the colors of nature. The lyrics of the Bones are about poison being in those bones and in you, which might sound like dark thoughts not representative of this album’s themes. But such observations are belied by Goldman’s concluding refrain of “everything is all right.” Likewise, bending, quivering strings color I Don't Believe You, a line the singer keeps telling himself as if he’s not certain at all he believes his own words. He tells us Truest Nature cannot be concealed, even in a world of his surrealistic and religious images that give way to “your holy nature.”
According to their
publicity, Luxury Pond is described as a duo of Goldman and
Gesundheit. On stage, apparently the latter not only provides backup
vocals but uses various items for percussive effects. I can’t
attest to their live performances, but this release is Dan Goldman as
squarely the man in the middle. Artful, intricately crafted settings
by all the other musicians provide distinctive and often surprising
moods and textures. It’s difficult to imagine any of the parts
being removed without unraveling this often delicate and nuanced
So how do you define Luxury Pond? You don’t. It’s an album to appreciate with minimal preconceptions so you too can float and immerse yourself in the imagination of Dan Goldman. It’s not casual listening but rather an opportunity to hear musical genres melt together like remote streams coming together in that metaphorical pond.