With lightning speed
ripping through infinity
I hear your clacking hooves
Your cursed truth
charging ivory horn
chasing your prophecy
Your heaving mist
attacks the air
Your feral mane
tremors in grace
I see your red demon eyes
ignite for the horizon
This was inspired by David Bowie’s ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore from his latest album Blackstar. Rest in power Mr. Bowie.
I have been trying not to feel for awhile now, especially when I got the news about my younger brother’s death. What is the use of feeling anything, when there is not anything that can explain why, and even if there was an explanation, it still will not prove to be comforting?
I have experienced this sort of loss before — the known inconceivable… I think now, I have become so use to not going to places where it hurts the most, I have been consciously mindful of stopping myself. Locking something too painful to deal with in a place where, maybe, I will never have to visit? This has made me even more bizarre and un-relatable…
I could not attend Jason’s burial. The only way I was connected to saying a final goodbye was by keeping in touch with my other siblings. It was incredibly disjointing — a complete disconnect, that continues to haunt me — even as I try my best to ignore it. In a way of bringing some semblance of letting go, I have been slowly writing… But, here, — in the process of writing, as its effectiveness as an aid, a form for closure — this form of a ritual I have continuously chosen for dealing with most things which disturbs me, even here, there is not any comfort, and it does not explain anything.
When the program for the burial arrived, I could not look at it. I knew if I stared for too long; looking for some understanding of why I will never see or hear Jason again, it will be a crippling devastation. A devastation where I was and am unsure of my return. I’ll have to contend with this unexplainable knowledge in this unsatisfying state, that he is dead and never coming back, and everything we experienced together is left in this space, this void where nothing moves, nothing grows, nothing reconnects…
I look at this program and its encapsulation of my little brother’s existence. I look at it with the same distance I have for everything that I can’t explain, and exhausted by the energy needed to get close enough.
These are the words I wrote for Jason:
Jason never asked permission for anything. Many times this arrogance was unnerving, and the question of, Who are you to have such an audacity?, would arise. I asked it throughout our childhood. I honestly believe, if he was ever asked this question, he’d simply reply with all smirks, “Well, I am Jason Errol Aalan McLeod.” I may have been the closest to experienced Jason’s budding arrogance, as I still remember when were kids, and he sold, unaware to me, my bike.
Even though Jason is two years younger, the dynamic of looking out and caretaking of a little sibling was reversed, he took care of me. He took care, wholeheartedly, in his support of my then unknowing aspirations and endeavours of becoming an artist. He was present for all of my first singing group’s rehearsals. Jason possibly is the first person whom saw and accepted my dabblings as potential, as he acted as the singing group’s business consultant and manager. At fifteen, he believed in me, when I did not recognize it.
Jason’s death is a tremendous weight on my heart, because even in our distance and the possibility of renewal of where we left off, there is now no longer a connection. An overwhelming void, which I cannot begin to understand and reconcile is where and what is… What comes close to any comfort about this realization, that I will never again see Jason’s mischievous, cocky smirk, is that he gave us an incredible gift of two amazing lives whom are Jayson Junior, and Israel. He also gave us thoughts which will continue to provoke our very existence. When he was nineteen, he taught, “You have to live your life not by others’ standards… When you choose on your terms, at least it is on you.” Love you Jason.
I think the hardest of all, and why I have chosen not to feel anything, is that this would open an infinitum grief hole. An infinitum grief hole in which I have no control.
What comes immediately to mind when I look at the below photo is, I have lost both of them. I remember when it was taken. It was Jason’s birthday. He and our mother were to spend the day together; just the two of them. He was so annoyed I was brought along. When the photos were developed, he tried to scratch my face out of them. If you look closely you can see the scratches. We were very young, so we lived for each other’s annoyance.
This next photo is of us, Jason and I, on our first day of a new school year. In spite of the many sibling disputes we naturally had, there were these moments:
Eyes On the Elbows’ debut album Decay is far from a state of festering decomposition, since on every track you see colors dancing in a sometimes fury escape of wild emotions, to a slow disappearance of a strange moss that is plantae. Maybe the idea is that, within decay there is growth, movement, since decay itself is organic matter. In which case, Decay, the album, achieves this process of transcendence, as it uses many popular niches of previous soundscapes, zeitgeists, what have you, and reinvents them. Well of course, the band itself is not even a band, but a very diverse community of musicians coming together by exact chance for jam sessions. This experience is possibly very reminiscent of the collective Broken Social Scene, the exception being, Eyes On the Elbows sound is taking, involving, not only the decay of indie music, but music that was once popular, that are now worn and cast aside into the ether.
Decay begins with Broken Country. A creeping guitar, nostalgic in its purposeful delivery, time travels to when punk and post-punk was a thing, and bands like the Gang of Four were rebelling against the superstructure. Broken Country enlightens and links this commonality of the social and political ills of society to as far back as when “civilization” began. This seems evident with the well placed medieval, grand opera, vocals mixed alongside tribal drumming. We return to the 20th century with the introduction of jazz saxophone, which not only marks a new and different musical direction for Broken Country, but as well demonstrates how much that has been learnt, “discovered,” but yet socially things are exactly the same. The presence of the accelerant nature of contemporary technology further amplifies how drastically behind social progress is against technological advancements.
This imbalance is sharply recognizable in Decay’s second track, Raise Your Heads, as the song’s usage of contemporary tools manically implodes, explodes, and finally collapses. Raise Your Head’s hinting of the musical genre Jungle and its derivative, Drum and Bass, demystifies, rejects, and welcomes the idea of the drum-machine. The ghosts of the past are rediscovered and are digitally dressed up in the song’s refraining chant: Raise your heads above your phones. The song passionately expresses extreme, dangerous anxiety, which is pretty much how we avoidingly exist. The suggestion in Einstein’s famous quote is immensely felt: I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots. His fearful posit exposed something far greater than idiocy, but more indicative of the growth of complex irrationality.
We are brought back to the breath on Subterfuge, as the song invites everything that is ignored. The breath existing in this sound waits, allows for gills to respire, for photosynthesis to be discovered. The patience held in every motion, alive in each phrase as subtlety flutters, are the whys we want to communicate with each other. In the simplistic vocal phonetic of Subterfuge’s initial tum tum tah, it describes the wonders of internal beauty, small galaxies under-discovered. Larger than the confusing guile of what is presented, these small galaxies in tum tum tah are given realization, to acquaint themselves, dream even expansively further than a passage of the allowed kind of acceptance that is “journey.”
Subterfuge’s sudden ending destroys the found cohesion of the breath. The introduction of the thickly synced riff of the horns with the heavy bass on Thirteen (when I Was) nomadically drags an uncertain travel. Uncertainties that are richly layered, hypnotically romantic enough for intrigue. The bass’s wide-reaching risk of a recurring evocation reveals an existing foreboding in its distorted melodies. There is nothing safe about this wandering. It is perspicuously suspect, even in the voicing of the horns’ fleeing mirth; there still is devastation.
California Chill is comforting, especially with its wanting to relieve that hunger for reciprocity. Lampooning its glee, the song plays upon the bright shimmers of appearances, while there is a sickening buried deep within. Its rhapsody is almost a Shakespearean soliloquy, a scene of falsehoods displayed as cinematic fashion that is a mirage, a “vision.” The lethargic dream like guitar riffs déjà vus an action to wake up, but its repetitive executions is a defeatist attack against a consistent sleepwalking, a chemically altered state. California Chill expresses an addictive want for a panacea, as it liquidly glaze effortless ease.
The parody does not end with California Chill, it continues in the less sophisticated track Ptandr’usk. Ptandr’usk’s lack of sophistication has everything to do with the song’s deliberate efforts at expressing buffoonery. What better way to do this, but by listening in on a conversation between two teenage boys speaking in German about their exploits at a party. The seriousness of their account is the butt of the joke, as the song’s instrumentation indulges and teases this dialog, while simultaneously snickering on the side. The use of droning techno give rise to this experience, as the environment slips from being in a video arcade to a club, where the walls are a living pulse; where all inhibitions are abandoned, and one cannot help but lose themselves in a wild dance.
Responsive to Ptandr’usk’s buffoonery, So What Do You Want returns to Decay’s unchanging narrative: the search for clarity. It moans a very human condition; the experience of loss resonates from the onset of its introduction. The barrenness of its instrumentation spotlights a core of soulful longing, which the bass and drums drives forward. Their rhythm and blues riff patterns maintains a grounding for the vocals and other instruments to delve into and investigate. So What Do You Want begs for answers in its tonality, and its lyricism portrays this predicament.
Decayends its kaleidoscopic undertaking with the instrumental track Not The Best of the Evenings. The track attempts to thread a closure for all the avenues, alleys, vestiges existing in the album. Even though Not The Best of the Evenings’ jazz fusion style is an intellectual endeavor for closure, it does not pretentiously reconcile Decay’s conundrum. It however brings about more ceaseless questions, but it appears that there is a level of placidity with this acknowledgement, which is completely satisfying.
I may be confused about the term, The Human Condition, and its relationship to unnecessary suffering. Since, I have been experiencing great difficulty absorbing the commonplace response of “you need the bad times to understand and appreciate the good times”. It is not my objective to naively jump into utopian fantasies of consistent happiness, since that would be an unrealistic, foolish extreme, but I do strongly believe that there needs to be a separation, distinction, between what is experienced as, The Human Condition versus unnecessary suffering.
In my opinion, The Human Condition is an inevitable one. Even if hypothetically, one is existing in an utopian society, you will still experience the fear of death, the fear and loss of your ability to do things that you once could, the lamenting loss of others, the individualistic complexities of your identity being thrown into the milieu of other individualistic complexities, and your very small being amongst the oblivious grandeur – mysterious wonders of the universe/environment/nature… So regardless of a utopian society, regardless of our want to control the universe/environment/nature and the technologies created for our neverending confrontation of this reality, the small comfortable conveniences created will never absolve The Human Condition. There will always be discomfort, bad times to inevitably endure.
The very thought that man made conditions (unnecessary suffering – which can be solved far easier than the conditions presented by universe/environment/nature) is a suffering that is to be equated, respected and regarded in the same degree, this brings me to a standstill of infuriating disgust. And when I say man made conditions, I am not referring to our complexities, I am referring to the blatant display/processes of shit. Shit as in the insidiously obvious inequalities of treating ourselves and others. Shit as in the insidiously obvious infantile systems set-up to destroy ourselves by our own hands.
It is unnecessary suffering when 80 people are as rich as half the world population (collectively). It is unnecessary suffering when there are laws that are in place to condone the lawful execution of people who are women, girls, children, black, brown, queer, lesbian bisexual, transgender, old, differently abled etc. Etc, because I am quite sure there will be some new way of separating oneself from another because:superiority.
When confronted with this thought of “you need the bad times to understand and appreciate the good times” because, The Human Condition, I think about my own current condition. I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner. I had not had a meal in a day (unnecessary suffering). So I gladly accepted my friend’s invitation of dinner at his place because I was hungry (human condition). After dinner, we parted ways, and I reflected on the evening. I did not remember the taste of the meal, which I am sure was sumptuous; my friend expresses a lot of love in his cooking. I could not taste this love that he artfully created because I was hungry, and all I felt was the gripe of my insides needing food. So it did not matter what the food was or tasted like. It did not matter if it was nutritiously good for me, and as it was, the healthiness of the meal was lost because of how it was devoured. I had to wonder then, how exactly was this “good time” appreciated enough to make me better?
This whole concept is explicable rubberish when discussing unnecessary suffering. May be when the world, the entire world is not hungry anymore, and if The Human Condition survives the impending wrath of the universe/environment/nature, may be those survivors would look to this time in history and understand it as backward stupidity, and appreciate that they did not exist in these capricious dark ages.