I remember the first time I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Being in the Kokiri Forest, everything seemed normal, seemed like a regular game. And then it happened.
You entered the Great Deku Tree’s mouth and was in another world. A far more ancient, frightening, and strange place. I felt on edge, and yet I was discovering something new.
The same thing can apply to Giant Eyes and Infant steps. Take away the music from the Great Deku Tree–and you’re just inside a tree–all the emotions and sensations previously mentioned wouldn’t have existed. Except instead of entering the mouth of the Great Deku Tree–it’s parenthood.
With the beginning of this album with Interruptus there’s an incredible tangible foreboding sense of doom. As though the black shapes you see when you have sleep paralysis are suddenly in your room. It’s unknown, intangible, and entirely frightening. And then it stops. And as a listener just because it stops doesn’t mean the fear is over. It just means that the black shape is gone, but it doesn’t mean it won’t come back.
With Dada the panning arpeggios makes it feels like the loss of control. And as anybody, who breathes air can tell you, there’s nothing worse than the lack of control. Then the orchestral synths rise up into an existential angst, while still the arpeggiated synth whirls around your headphones. Until they don’t. Then all you’re left with is the thudding a drum, like your heart beating deep in your chest, and the animal like growl of a synth. Which creates such a foreboding and tense atmosphere.
TFW it’s 400 am and you’ve been up 3 times already sounds like pain. And I don’t mean it sounds painful to listen to. The synths sizzle, as though you’re lying on a frying pan. The guitars are either playing the kind of music that you’d hear in a western after someone is wondering through the desert all day, or is so distorted, so fast, and distant it feels like every nerve is on fire. And as someone who has worked 20-30 hour days, there’s no worst feeling then not having sleep. Where every cell is screaming out in pain, on why you are still awake. This song captures that feeling perfectly.
MRW I drop the passie in the dark. Has the same feeling TFW it’s 400am, the beginning glitches feel like a mistake. Feel like something has gone wrong. The distant guitar has an almost lullaby like quality to it, yet the ambient noise hisses in the background. There isn’t going to be any sleep here.
Giant Eyes and Infant Steps is the less chaotic, and less painful song. It’s a song that isn’t out of control, that isn’t fearful of the unknown, and the sinister hiss in the beginning has transformed from a lion to a bobcat. Still a threat but no longer the great danger that it was. In fact it’s almost under control.
Finally the album ends with She says Dada. The sound that was so chaotic before, and yet is still chaotic forms into a melody. That melody which is soothing, the synths no longer are threatening in fact they whimper away. The chaos isn’t something to be feared because it’s forming into something tangible, something coherent something that is to be understood. And the last part of the song there are only the half audible words, followed by the soothing sound of a pad.
The chaos that seemed to overwhelm and frighten, is now understandable, you’re now able to put words to that shapeless darkness, you’re able to call it out by name and now it doesn’t seem all that bad.
David Lynch on his first movie Eraserhead was said to spend years on just sound design. To capture all the anxieties and frustrations of being a parent, and this was a guy who has an incredible ability to frame a shot. Who is probably one of the greatest visual filmmakers, and the fact sound was such an important tool to use to illustrate parenthood is why this album is such a good album.
The fact that I can write about such complex emotions on songs that have no lyrics, no traditional song structure, is a testament to the craft that Whettman Chelmets has committed himself to. As somebody who isn’t a parent I immediately understand all the emotions that are going on, because as obtuse, abrasive and foreign the album may seem to be–the emotions expressed on it are universal.
For creating such a great landscape I give this album a recc