by Erik Belgum, performed by Inertia Ensemble

Innova CD, (888) 749-9998, $19

"Carla's life goes by fast; and, at other times, she feels sedated by the speed of everything," not only deftly expresses the consciousness of one character at a critical moment in Erik Belgum's audio drama, but also speaks to the predicament of the listener. What the hell is going on? Billed as "ambient fiction," and alluding to a bloody version of the police blotter, Blodder tells four stories with a variety of narrative techniques, as it cuts back and forth in each setting and occasionally jumps from one story to another. Belgum quickly establishes what's happening with an outline of details -- and then the details change, reinforcing yet undermining themselves over subsequent revisions. This cultivates a sense of detachment about characters and events, even as poor Carla is sported away as a human shield by the robber of a convenience store. Throughout the 100 minutes of running time, the patterns of spoken narration make art out of police beat meat.

A convenience store robbery/shoot-out/doomed getaway, titled "Monologues," drives the action, using a single narrator. There's nothing "ambient" or background about the narrator when he drops out of the third person to assume the voice of Fred Earl Kramer, screaming at patrons of the store during the hold-up, telling them to behave the way they've seen people act in the movies when some maniac whips out a gun. The four segments of "Monologues" set off the other stories, which cover variously less frantic events.

Blodder isn't much like anything else. The directions on the casing state, "File under spoken word," but this is neither the stuff of old poets whose readings have been captured on record, nor of young poets out to capture the market niche of rock stars. The varied textures of the vocal arrangements and the controlled chaos of the ways the stories unfold give Blodder a practical quality that other spoken word CDs lack: you can listen to it again.

Author of Star Fiction (Detour), a book composed of hemispheric sections with a region of commentary, and co-editor of the CD magazine VOYS, it's hardly surprising that Belgum finds little time these days to devote to his musical comedy novel-in-progress, Yes, Siam!

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