There’s a theory that our deep connection to music is a function of the developing frontal lobe, and that when it stops developing around the age of 25 we begin to become rather jaded in our listening. This explains why most older people tend to gravitate toward the music they loved around high school or college age. All of the science isn’t in on this, but maybe it explains why I so often catch myself saying about new bands: “Eh, this is good, but so-and-so did it better 20 years ago.”
For the record, every time I catch myself saying that I realize “I hate that guy.” No one wants to be that guy.
That’s not to say that I don’t stumble across something every now and then that completely levels me and becomes assimilated into my emotional storehouse of musical favorites. It’s just that when that happens these days, it’s a bit more profound and unexpected… because, well, OLD.
Anyway, record reviews per se aren’t really a thing I do here at Dangerous Minds. My job description is more like “let me tell you about this cool fucking thing.”
Well, today’s cool fucking thing is a double album by a new band called They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy. The album, titled Far From the Silvery Light is the best new thing to come across my turntable in the past couple of years, and although we’re only halfway through 2016, I’m going out on a limb and declaring it my “album of the year.” I can’t gush hard enough about this avant-folk-operatic exercise in utter despair.
The experimental duo are based out of Dallas, Texas. Sarah Ruth Alexander plays hammered dulcimer, harmonium, recorder, bells, and effects and sings like the unholy stepchild of Jarboe and Yma Sumac. Gregg Prickett plays electric and acoustic guitar, upright bass, cedar flute, and shakers. Though I’m inclined to say I hear a bit of John Fahey in his style, what Prickett does is totally his own mesmerizingly textural thing… not like The Shaggs’ own thing, though there maybe be a shared spirit of abandoning the “rules” of pop music form. Ruth’s operatic moans and wails evoke a bleak desolate landscape, not unlike the album’s cover art, in the same way that the aforementioned Sumac’s evoked exotic pagan isles.
The band cites artists as diverse as Meredith Monk, Cocteau Twins, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Leo Brouwer as influences, and if any of those are your bag, then They Say The Wind Made Them Crazy ought to floor you like it did me.
The band’s artist statement reveals the workings of their songwriting process:
“We wanted to give the myriad ghosts of the plains, past and far future, a voice in the present so the subject matter of the album deals with bloodshed, strife, the love and the loss of the southern and high plains,” the duo explain. “Our goal is to channel the ghosts of our ancestors and our descendants and even our own ghosts through a kind of sonic trepanation every time we perform. Therefore, the production of the album had to reflect our method of performance so all pieces contain varying degrees of improvisation or are pure improvisation; even the few set pieces were composed by improvising and overdubs were used only when deemed absolutely necessary on a few tracks.“
There’s not a lot available online to share on this duo aside from a handful of live performances. With the band’s permission, I’ve uploaded two tracks from Far From the Silvery Light, “Holy Longing” and “Obsidian in Aorta”—the tracks are playing over the top of some video shot at the recent Transformus festival in North Carolina.