Saturday, September 07, 2013

Blood Oaths of the New Blues

Awhile back I interviewed James Jackson Toth from Wooden Wand, some 3 years now I suppose, when the Death Seat album came out. I was in a sort of journalistic Swans cycle, having talked with James Blackshaw regarding his album All is Falling, it may or may not have been before or after I spoke with Michael Gira regarding the release of My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. Point being Gira as producer was a key in all the interviews, and further point being I was so turned around at the time that I couldn’t tell you where my notes are from the conversations or if I took any in the first place.

From what I remember of the conversation with Toth, and from what I know from his music, it really doesn’t matter where the notes are, or really what we talked about. I didn’t get a chance to publish the review or interview, and either one wouldn't really suit what he’s doing anyway. We get so used to consuming commercial crap, and as journalists, or whatever writing is these days, we get so used to following set formulas for presenting it, that the real meaning and humanity is thrown into the gutter.  Just take a look at this snarky bit of back-handed complimentary garbage that Pitchfork thinks is a fitting response to someone's creativity, the reviewer, Grayson Currin, even busts out the tired old "shaman" shtick: Bullshit Pitchfork Review.

This man is a musician in the classic sense, as Gira puts it, “you should be grateful. His songs are beautiful, indisputably, both musically and lyrically, and they’ll give you joy if you listen to them. In my view, he’s a great American songwriter in full bloom.”  With the way things are these days, you might have forgotten that America could make those anymore they’re so rare.

Great songwriters provide you with places to go, and color where you’re at. I remember a strange night in the hotel bar of the Millennium across the street from the Rhine Research Center. I’d been sitting with John Kruth, Director of the Rhine, and Russell Targ, the father of Remote Viewing, talking about politics and cats. When they headed out to dinner, I was left alone, realizing that the wonderful world of psychical research that I’d been swimming in for a few days was not as glossy now that I was sitting there alone with a drink in my hand.

As I looked around at all the strangers, I realized I was a weird, hack writer who could at best turn the experience into an anecdote, and at worst, and more honestly, was quite desperately alone in the crowd.  It was then that James Toth sang to me:
“A hotel bar in the sky, where even your honesties are full of white lies...side by side with strangers who barely blink, they reek of loneliness and umbrella drinks…” 
I wasn’t sure if I was next to strangers, or was that stranger, but in either case at that moment, as a raucous wedding party ran rampant in the upstairs ballroom, I deeply connected with “...a soul without friendship may as well die.” 

That bar has seen me sit with a few psychic spies, and every time that song plays out perfectly no matter what the occasion.  The ability to capture the strangeness of that sort of all American situation in an unrelated song is, in my opinion, the mark of a damn good songwriter.

With an outward ease, Toth's music sneaks in subtleties that reveal his mastery goes freak deep into an intentionally hypnotic atmosphere that seems so natural you might pass it over without a second thought. His voice lulls you with the same deceptive simplicity, but he's got a command of tone that puts him right in the room with you, where he could probably take your watch and wallet without much trouble.

The promo copy that Young God sent me has been burnt out, so I bought a new copy of Death Seat in order to burn it out again. His latest release, Blood Oaths of the New Blues, is no less resonant. He’s got a song on here that may be one of the most beautiful, subtle odes to that blackened English angel Jhonn Balance that anyone could possibly write. I do admit to shedding a tear when Balance passed away, and a coil on my stove exploded when Peter Christopherson left on his journey, some strange cthonic connections there, so anyone who can send those much missed lights a bit of love is alright with me.  I’ve had that song on repeat as I write this to remind me I’m writing about a real person who gives a shit about other real people.

To be honest, since I just bought the new album tonight, I can’t really comment on its lasting effect on my life. In my short time listening, however, it’s already soothing me back into reality after a very odd week, which included a meditative stint sleeping on a floor frequented by scorpions in the North Georgia woods, and meeting Elberton, Georgia's Chief of Police after locking my keys in the car during a visit to the Georgia Guidestones, where I also met two vacationing psychic mediums from Indianapolis who told me I had misused my power in a past life and had father issues that I needed to work on.  Again, if a songwriter can speak to that in some way, they’re damn good.


David Metcalfe is an independent researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, and The Daily Grail. He writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology,, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl. His writing has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.

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