A crash of piano like thunder.

Days like these.

The head shop down the street has shirts that read, “Lake Superior Makes Me Wet”. Outside shitkicker trucks grind their transmissions into dust while blasting ‘Bodies hit the Floor’ or window-rattling hip hop. With small bibles tucked into breast pockets, old men suck on their teeth, and shake their canes at stray dogs. It begins to rain. A crash of piano like thunder, a clarinet that blurs and bounces from plaster walls. The smoke curls in the air.

I have four large windows windows that look onto Ashland’s Main Street, an honest to God Main Street: the small movie theater, the furniture store, the sticky menu café, the liquor store with advertisements of proud hunters knocking back Miller Lite while they bury their knees in the necks of glassy-eyed deer. Saturday afternoons I watch teenagers, flush in the coarse bash of youth and bored out of their skulls, circle the block like sharks, as if they stop moving for a second they’ll slowly suffocate and die. All greasy haired and chew spackled lapels as they bum cigarettes from each other and commiserate,

–Motherfuckers keep taking my shit. I fuckin’ say to ‘em, I say, ‘I’ll bring it when they bring it.’ Dumbass white trash motherfuckers.

I bought a pipe in a fit of nostalgia a few weeks back when I moved into town. I missed the smell of the smoke, the feeling of it nestled between my teeth when I was a child and would clandestinely steal a few drags on my Father’s pipe. Smoking it now seems like the right thing to do on this windy overcast day, thinking too much, listening to Burkhard Stangl and Kai Fagaschinski’s Musik-Ein Porträt in Sehnsucht. It’s an album that seems like a salve, an assuagement to the shock of being somewhere that’s concurrently so small and so goddamn large. There’s an ooze of history dripping from the cracks of every building here, as dense and heavy as the iron ore resting at the bottom of Lake Superior. You can see it woven into everyone‘s hair, filling every shot glass, in the bottom of every shoe. My nostalgia seems to be both bolstered and relieved, listening to the delicate piano cling clang like a 2 AM Tilbury at the end of “Last Night I had Visions.” I sit transfixed to the Feldman-esque lope of “Sexy M.F.” with Stangl’s guitar pinging off into space, accenting Fagaschinski’s tart breathy burrs. The meander of this music seems at home here. At home in the slow afternoons contemplating the ache that comes with the smell of shoe polish and wood smoke.

I had missed the deft sensitivity that marks Stangl and Fagaschinski’s playing when I had first listened to this (what, a year or two ago?); I hadn’t noticed at the time how each player only seems to fully come into focus through the aspect of the other. They both have some remarkable duos under the belt where this characteristic is apparent, but never to such an extent as found here– it’s as if each player was working as a filter or lens for the other. Returning to the album now, I notice it also has an incredible coherence. Each track is a subtle progression to the next. Even when the modes change– from slow drones to gentle vibraphone ruminations to gentle melodic guitar/clarinet cells, the thread is never lost. And the narrative is never severe. In fact it seems to bloom and envelope by virtue of its subtlety. These are seven tracks that seem to glide by on their own volition. But like so many good things. they are not afraid to be punctuated by the outside world, like in “Weißt Du noch unser Lied?” where motors rev, birds chirp, and 70s hard rock cassette deck soloing comes through an open car window while a guitar strums over it all.

Musik-Ein Porträt in Sehnsucht hadn’t made as much sense before living here. It wasn’t the right time or place. The seemingly effortless playing appeared too easy, too ambivalent to the world I chose to live in. Here in the wind, in a small town that seems adorned by it’s own memory it all makes a kind of sense, as if it urges you to let things happen by their own accord. As the afternoon turns to dusk, it becomes that much more powerful, stuck on repeat in my living room, pitching itself against boredom and sloth, hanging in the orange light of the dusk. In this time that seems to stretch and guide ones hand to ruminative bullshit, where one feels stuck in thinking of the here as though it were somewhere else, this album seems to embellish the play of time, and perform gentle accompaniment to the slow burn of days like these.

Erstwhile Records http://www.erstwhilerecords.com

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2 Responses to “A crash of piano like thunder.”

  1. Beautiful

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