The first impressions for this 2014 CD on Looney-Tick Productions suggest that it’s going to be a tiresome instrumental post-rock record, one of the faceless swarm of Explosions in the Sky plagiarists, or watered-down Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The cover art (which is, in itself, quite pleasing) fits, and the track titles (gems like “I Breathe the Pale Soothing Ocean of Nothingness” and “Heaven Is a Pale-Hearted Star”) do nothing to contradict the impression. Yet, it turns out that Ekra is, in fact, a Davide Borghi record (Albireon and the Blue Project). Thus, presumably, A Shelter for Stolen Teddybears was going to be another chapter in Borghi’s unique style of neofolk. However, you may be shocked to learn that the album follows neither outwardly judged path. It’s something much, much worse.
The opener (“The Deep Sophistry of My Memories Haunts Me”) does, in fact, have at least a toe (if not a foot) in both genres. Consisting entirely of long drones and looped violin, it sounds a bit like an idea Thee Silver Mountain Reveries threw off the Pretty Little Lightning Paw EP, at least until Borghi starts whispering the title over and over again. According to the sleeve notes, the whole record has something to do with Borghi’s difficult birth, so presumably it is a very personal statement for him, but unfortunately here and elsewhere it just comes across as sounding a bit silly.
And that’s A Shelter for Stolen Teddybears at its best. At its worst, it’s a ghastly embarrassment of a record. The second track (the aforementioned “I Breathe the Pale Soothing Ocean of Nothingness”) has more of the whispering, but this time it’s over a cacophonous synthesised din that is entirely at odds with anything pale or soothing. Nothingness would have been a blessing; there’s altogether too much something here, but sadly it’s something completely unsatisfying.
It gets worse. “As Lost as a Stolen Teddybear” has a kind of Vangelis-esque synth pad going on under it, which wouldn’t be too bad were it not just some aimless noodling. The real problem is what’s happening on top with Borghi’s vocals. He’s not whispering anymore, at least, but he’s not singing either. We know he can, and it’s unfathomable why he doesn’t do it on this record. The only explanation seems to be that he thought all the faux William Shatner intoning would give the thing the gravitas and emotional weight that he clearly intended it to have, rather than making it toe-curlingly awful to listen to. How lost does a stolen teddybear feel, one wonders?
“Shattered Hearts as Shelter” is a bit better, largely because it’s instrumental. But it’s just not very good, featuring more synth noodling, sort of like one of Dave Brock‘s solo records. Nothing too terrible, nothing really any good … there’s really nothing much at all, really. And Borghi carries on like this for most of the record. The better bits have a kind of sub-Worrytrain circa Fog Dance, My Moth Kingdom feeling about them. The worst bits have more of the god-awful whispered lyrics, and there’s bits of music box thrown in here and there, but on the whole, it’s just a flat mess of a record.
Its saving grace is that only one track clocks in at over three-and-a-half minutes, and the whole thing takes up only just over a half hour. That it still manages to outstay its welcome says everything that needs to be said.
01) The Deep Sophistry of My Memories Haunts Me
02) I Breathe the Pale Soothing Ocean of Nothingness
03) As Lost as a Stolen Teddybear
04) Shattered Hearts as Shelter
05) Until Anoxia Do Us Part – I
06) Until Anoxia Do Us Part – II
07) Lullabies to Empty Incubators
08) Love Through Umbilical Cord
09) Womb of Thousand Dreams
10) A White Walled World for Mr. Blue Skin
11) Heaven Is a Pale-Hearted Star