Voids employs the vocal talents of Bill Callahan, Emily Cross, Adam Torres, and Julia Holter across twelve genre-fluid, yet impressively cohesive tracks that span baroque dream-pop, filmic ambient, raga-like drones, avant-country, and even spiritual jazz, all imbued with poetic heft and seared by the West Texas sun. It was beneath this same sun that Lapham lost both of his parents, mourned a withering relationship, and shouldered the fallout of the pandemic, turning his life into the rusted-out scraps he then used to build Voids from the ground up. There is no better narrator for Lapham’s story than fellow Texas resident Bill Callahan, whose iconic delivery perfectly personifies the core themes of Voids. By the time Callahan appears, he does so over a saw-blade drone that sounds like machinery echoing off the corrugated steel walls of a nearby workshop, which then breaks open into a loose yet pained confluence of violin and upright bass that recalls Joe Henderson’s 1974 spiritual jazz album The Elements. On “Dreamless” the album crystallizes into its most straight-ahead moment as Lapham trains his compositional lens on a brilliant piece of pop songwriting. Featured vocalist Adam Torres soars over John Mark’s punctual arrangement of stomping drums and rapturous string-work to anthemic, and gently psychedelic consequence. Voids concludes with the pleasant clatter of “Circles” wherein Lapham throws all his ingredients into a pot of celebratory catharsis. Drum sets collide with one another gleefully, and harmonized textures scatter and roll about the floor like a dropped bucket of ornate marbles. Lapham’s collage-work, which up to this point has been smartly restrained, comes unglued as he transmutes grief into relief within a moment-of-death montage of aural imagery. Across Voids, that same awareness of tragedy and loneliness is made palatable by the album’s exciting and varied topography, which stands insubordinately against Lapham’s real-life surroundings. The settlers who established West Texas towns like the one he calls home must have done so with a sense of hope despite the hostility of their surroundings, however inevitable the withering. Similar spirits speak through John Mark Lapham’s work, and he welcomes them as fascinating old friends. “That more than anything inspired a lot of what I try to express through Old Fire, faded memories, former glories, places lost in time,” he discloses. “Whatever I was trying to express with Old Fire wasn't finished with the first album, like a story that was only half-read. It seemed like that was only the beginning, and there was a lot more ground to cover.” If there is ground still uncovered for Old Fire after Voids, it's sure to be lush in spite of or perhaps because of the dusty soil beneath it.
For Fans of: Bill Callahan, Adam Torres, Cross Record, Julia Holter, Low, Damien Jurado.
The album’s Texas-based producer John Mark Lapham was a member of Secretly Canadian band The Earlies.