To say the opening moments of Joel Fausto & Illusion Orchestra‘s new album are jarring would be an understatement. With a title like Inside the Throat of a Giant Insect, how could it not be? I played a game while listening to the album’s introductory track “The Bug” and took note of as many different sounds as I could. Shrieking woodwinds (or was that trumpet?). Clanging bells. A vicious flurry of crawling beetles. Shrill telephone ringing. Quiet murmuring. The creepy rustling of heavy machinery. Guttural growls. I could go on and on. These were just the sounds I encountered in the first five minutes. Impressive, no? The twenty-minute track meanders through moments with elements of more traditional jazz percussion, foreboding ambiance, and lastly, my favorite musical vignette on the album, a five-minute-long climax to the end of the track featuring soothing saxophone and swelling strings.
Formed in Portugal in 2008, Joel Fausto & Illusion Orchestra is a strange and mysterious concoction of dark jazz and experimental ambient. Coming in at a seemingly easily digestible 40 minutes, the five tracks on Inside the Throat of a Giant Insect are anything but. Unified by a surrealistic expression about metamorphosis and crossing into another reality, these tracks are of the most unfamiliar and otherworldly I’ve ever heard. The second track, “The Purple,” is calmer and less unsettling than the monstrosity “The Bug,” and is followed by an even more muted track “The Portal.” The piano doodling on “The Purple” reminded me of The Bad Plus, and the perfect storybook arc consisting of introduction, rising action, climax, and falling action on “The Portal” was oddly satisfying.
It would be heresy to not mention the Twin Peaks-style old film noir vibe this album gives off. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Twin Peaks in one of my reviews, but the comparison in this case is too fitting. In a similar fashion to the way Angelo Badalamenti’s score for Twin Peaks sedates you at times and puts you on the edge of your seat at others, Inside the Throat of a Giant Insect never lets you settle down and get comfortable. One specific instance of this is when shocking vocals kick off penultimate track “The Hole” and left a truly unpleasant taste in my mouth following the brief respite that “The Portal” allowed.
While Inside the Throat of a Giant Insect is thoughtfully constructed and sounds well executed on the production front, I have misgivings about recommending it to others. The thing I struggle with most about this album is that I find it difficult to imagine a proper time and place for it. If you cherish melody in your music, this album is decidedly not for you. On the one hand, I can envision Inside the Throat of a Giant Insect being an ideal soundtrack for your next game of Catan at the board game night you are hosting to
impress confuse your friends. On the other hand, these five songs are so peculiar and jerky that I can just as easily see them as being more of an exasperating distraction than anything else. My conclusion is that Inside the Throat of a Giant Insect is thinking music—it just might do the trick to get your creative juices flowing.
Joel Fausto & Illusion Orchestra liken themselves to acts such as Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Angelo Badalamenti, and The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. I agree that these are accurate related artists. Still, due to the album’s utter lack of accessibility, I am reluctant to recommend Inside the Throat of a Giant Insect to anyone but those few who seek out the darkest and most sinister ambient jazz records. Nevertheless, Joel Fausto & Illusion Orchestra’s new release ventures into the furthest corners of the map of what music can sound like, and, for that, the band should be commended.