Before his untimely death the October before this album was released, Marty Matz could rightly lay claim to the title of "the last true Beat poet" (Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti being younger associates, but not really members, of the group), despite the fact that he missed out on much of the movement's reflected fame and glory by choosing to live most of his life as an expatriate. But he proves himself, with A Sky of Fractured Feathers, to be one of that literary movement's greatest practitioners, too; and without a doubt he was one of the most intriguing Beat performers. Matz lacked the physically muscular pipes of an Allen Ginsberg or Michael McClure, and he did not display their entertainingly ostentatious styles or penchant for showmanship; nor did he have the commanding presence of Jack Kerouac, yet A Sky of Fractured Feathers is arguably a more successful Beat recording than any of the above men ever accomplished. Matz's grizzled, understated voice charges his performances with the wizened tone that is already tucked into his poems, and by allowing the words to speak for themselves, without overwhelming them with pomp, the overall effect is quite powerful, at once immediate and allegorical. The poems are full of striking imagery, and when coupled with the shimmering, feverish, frequently Indian-inspired music, written and performed (along with Church of Betty bandmate Deep Singh) by Chris Rael, one is sometimes reminded of the more probing aspects of psychedelia. The lovely, nebulous backdrop is imbued with an exploratory quality in perfect lock step with the poet's words. With all due respect to Rael, however, this album is to be cherished primarily due to Matz's complex, searching, and downright beautiful observations on life themselves, as breathtakingly epiphanic as they are timeless.
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