Fountainsun duo brings mystic tones to the Trumpet Blossom

Daniel Higgs
Daniel Higgs performs at the (now-closed) Wherehouse in Iowa City in 2011. — photo by Adrianne Behning


Trumpet Blossom Cafe — Saturday, July 4 at 8 p.m.

What better way to celebrate independence from British rule than hanging around a vegan restaurant at an all-ages show listening to the heart-opening mantra song cycles of Daniel Higgs and Fumie Ishii? Expect a blissed-out night of expertly executed beautiful weirdness for both of your ears and all three of your eyes from Fountainsun this Saturday, July 4 at the Trumpet Blossom Cafe. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Higgs is best known for his decades-long career as half of Lungfish, the experimental heavy “continuous quasi-musical pulse” project. Lungfish summoned a devoted brigade of earnest psycho-naut enthusiasts attracted to the pattern-driven punk sounds as a medium for spiritual, far-out knowledge (which he seems to be perpetually dropping through music and visual art). Higgs and Lungfish have maintained steady relevance in the outer galaxies of DIY music, continuing to sell albums and win devotees.

His interim solo career, which yielded books of poems and drawings, as well as entire albums of ambling banjo and jaw harp improvisation, showed us that things might be headed in a folksier direction. As his music has mellowed and the fans have greyed, Higgs has ripened in his commanding cult-daddy presence, and the weight of his voice and free love apocalypse message has increased.

Enter Fountainsun, the ongoing collaboration with artistic, travel and life partner Fumie Ishii. Ishii (herself a seasoned visual artist, journalist, photographer, far-out social experimenter and musician) adds a wise, centered and joyful energy to counter Higgs’ Christ-like doomsayer presence, and together they weave what can only be described as beautiful music.

Ishii sings, plays an oddball drum/percussion kit, several handheld percussion instruments and guitar, while Higgs rips the banjo and adds percussion to his long form poetic rants. They trade vocal melodies, follow each other’s riffs, sing in unison and in harmony, and ease off to give each other center stage when necessary. This dynamic results in songs that come in a roving variety of pulses, tempos and intensities. For anyone interested in how musical collaboration happens, seeing Fountainsun is a case study in methodology and generosity of spirit. The results seem to communicate from both players, but also from the entity that they create together.

The duo’s soft and largely acoustic music is a departure from the angular, loud, punky sounds of Lungfish, but the repetitive, circular, thematic quality will be instantly recognizable. And while the sounds have mellowed, the lyrical dispatching is as raw and prescient as ever. Ishii’s imaginative influence and her understated percussion and guitar wizardry add much to balance Higgs’ heavier musical and lyrical vibes, and the end result is that Fountainsun represents a true artistic and personal collaboration — a message delivered from the balance between two very engaging people. It’s uplifting to encounter and enjoyable to hear and see.

Full disclosure: Liv Carrow recently hosted Fountainsun at her house for a Summer Solstice party.

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