Thursday, March 22, 2012
Once upon a time, this began with a seemingly-left-field-though-not-as-much-as-you-think introduction to such serious business, the yeah-right apocalyptic stylings of an in-character Charles Nelson Reilly. But if we, & by we I mean me, don't look for an explanation each time there are symbolic volcanoes in vein, seven-headed dragons landing on, cracking the frame of our gas-guzzling rustbucket hearts, what, then?
Sympathy, in the earliest strain of meaning: A (real or supposed) affinity between certain things, by virtue of which they are similarly or correspondingly affected by the same influence, affect or influence one another (esp. in some occult way), or attract or tend towards each other. Obs. exc. Hist. or as merged in other senses. There are two reasons why we don’t talk about something: either it means nothing, or it means everything.
So we let others with that affinity speak, & what the fuck does the above collage have to do with the new Worm Ouroboros album?
The thing: the letter-of-the-law heavy has mostly vanished. The vast, undulating faux-climax riffs found on Winter, Riverbed, pretty much all of the self-titled debut, are fewer, mythic towns keeping desert highway rumor alive. On Come the Thaw, Jessica Way & Lorraine Rath (with new skinsdude & rarities god Aesop Dekker) drive that horizon-defying road at three a.m. when there's nothing but the sound of constellations & an interior dark continually brought to the fore by the flap of an empty wrapper in the open breeze, the call of a stone flung by a rolling tire, the response of a breath. Or is it through treading the blinking neon grit of sleeping suburbia, a back laced with sweat in the uncomfortable black. Only Withered breaks gravel from nearly front to back with an evident power chord, but to say this album isn't heavy is to confess that you never listened. The spirit is colossus.
Take the opener, Ruined Ground. Expanse built upon the bassline, the mimetic beat of thought, and when the frost on your fields/has claimed its prize/after it's gone/I'll wait for you, alternately sweet & oppressive vocal interplay layer before sparse, plucked guitar drops like a rain that threatens to become a storm, dead as quickly as it was born.
Further Out, the weeds discard broken concrete for the field, the band, as so often, playing with dimension, the notes spaced further apart then returning, the recapitulations never obviously in motion, meandering with the hours because something happened. That undercurrent of grey flows throughout, discernible but out of reach like the mirage of a note you swear you heard. The hypnotic, bass-dominant taciturn throb of Release Your Days nevertheless grasps for a solace in the dark found when alone, among a crowd.
When We Are Gold truly pushes the low high, Rath's bass taking lead the way a pulse does when the only other noise is crickets, a passing car, shuffling feet. Doom jazz for heshers? Perhaps, but the finest moment might be the last, the denouement of the will-o-the-wispy Penumbra when the instruments fall away, all that remains being a vocal whose final measure shifts heavenward in a moment of longed-for hope. Hildegard could have sung this.
Through all six sprawling suites, the sense, not of simple, direct loss, but of distance, more emotional than physical, is palpable, the looking glass abstraction that mirrors the aural physicality of the album. Fingers are nimble, as are voices & the gently pointed lyrics, less Browning, more Dickinson, laced with folk sadness & weeping torch song bravado. Our apocalypses, & we all have them, are little. So sit back, take a drag, a sip of bitter, have a listen, & let the end burn slow. Living lives of quiet desperation, all is well, for here's the required elixir of quiet intensity to get us through the next moment, & the next.