Travel in the Shadows, by San Francisco Bay-Area folk duo Noctambule

Travel in the Shadows


Down the darkened street market carts are creeping
Horse with wary feet, red-faced driver sleeping…
Charing women wait, cafés drop down their shutters
Rats perambulate up and down the gutters

Canadian poet Robert Service wrote these lines in post-WWI Paris, recording the city’s nightlife from its bohemian excess to its seedy underbelly. This poem, “Noctambule”, is the inspiration for the name taken by San Francisco folk musicians Marla Fibish and Bruce Victor, and they use it as the second track on their new album, Travel in the Shadows. “Noctambule” is French for “night-owl”, and these twelve songs and tunes play out the stories of journeys at night time. The first track is an arrangement of Robert Service’s poem “Insomnia”, and Marla and Bruce’s mandolin and guitar intertwine through innovative rhythms and harmonies to draw us into poem:

I think the moon must be to blame
It fills the room with fairy flame
It paints the wall; it seems to pour
A dappled flood upon the floor

Making the Old New Again

Travel in the Shadows draws on poems from Theodore Roethke, Pablo Neruda, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Marla and Bruce also include one folk song, “Madam, I’m a Darlin’”, and two original instrumental pieces. Every tune takes the listener deep into a story. Roethke’s poem “Night Journey” becomes the song “A Suddenness of Trees”, and follows the speaker across the American landscape on the sleeper car of a train. As the mists and shadows race past the rattling windows, framing ravines, gullies and “bridges of iron lace”, the poet writes, “I stay up half the night to see the land I love.” Marla and Bruce capture the mystery of the journey in their instruments and voices, making the old new again.

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