Saturday, January 14, 2012

Music for cold weather, day four

Where lies sorrow lies holy ground there
but where lies heartbreak, neither god, nor Jesus, nor angels dare.

-Me, just now, playing on Oscar Wilde

LN - Novel (2003)

This band is called LN and this album is called Novel. Neither of these names divulge much information, and outside of the vague cover art which slightly resembles early Red House Painters or shoegaze, there is still a lot of ambiguity as to what lay inside if you were to come across it on a non-existent display shelf somewhere. So if I were to describe what it sounds like I'd say a mix of slowcore and shoegazy dream pop, however, the heart and soul of a work of art, are not so easy to describe in a few paragraphs or reduced to genres.

I should also mention that this is the most obscure record I've ever posted. There are no songs on youtube, no discographies anywhere, no other blogs writing about it, and naturally none of his music is available for purchase or download anywhere. If you don't believe me go ahead and look for yourself. Now, a big reason for this extreme level of obscurity for such a wonderful album is that LN doesn't really have an audience. Gary Murray is considered to be a Christian musician and his work as LN is under a Christian label. The Christian music community is more often than not a very insular and segregated one. I would also have to assume that his music has been ignored because the Christian community doesn't jive too well with themes of drug addiction and debauched fornication (“This motel room smells of sex and the angels/That danced on your tongue the minute you took the pills”) set to music that sounds like it was made on heroin, during the kind of depressive episode that stems, not because the person you've been dating for a month broke up with you, but when you've obsessively and secretly loved someone for years and years and you finally get the courage to tell them your feelings and you find out they're fucking some metal head, the kind that often ends with a neighbor finding your bloated body in a bloody bathtub.

Here is something Murray himself wrote about his music:

"Remember that house in the old neighborhood, the one that was slowly falling apart brick by brick? We swore the damn thing was breathing, that there was a face behind every window, torn nails and rust colored stains on every shutter, broken words and violent poetry etched into every burned-in shadow, that the walls were whispering to themselves. There was always a real stillness in the air, and we felt as if we were intruding on sacred ground; there were stories there, stories buried underneath the pale dirt in the backyard near the rusting swing set, stories burned into the wallpaper in sickly yellow stains, stories reflected in every single shard of glass left on the front porch. Of course, we never approached that house any closer than we had to, keeping our steps light and straying as far as the cracked sidewalk would allow. We never knew why; perhaps it was out of respect, or fear, or some vague, indefinable sense of something both quietly sad and unassumingly ominous.

We left the quiet streets and strangely discontented air of our childhood grounds, losing ourselves in the veins and arteries of this land’s secret anatomy. Some of us left for various cities, hiding amid the darkened archways and high-rise towers left rusting in the broken skyline with its buildings gone missing like teeth; some of us left for wide-open spaces, wandering alone on empty beaches and fallow fields. But the ghosts from that old house still came to visit us, instilling us with the same odd feelings of delicate unease as before, manifesting themselves as broken memories swooping down from every street light that went dark as we passed, or riding on the hoods of our cars as we careened wildly down interstate highways.

As we grew older, the ghosts began to fade away, until all that was left of their once ardent protestations (Against what? We never did suss that out) was a gentle, yet oddly discomfiting, sense of nostalgia. The once-constant feeling of fragile dread finally gave way to a small sense of loss, like we accidentally threw away something that was only really important in our youth. Some of us found loves, got married, settled into a life of quiet repetition and easy contentment; some of us found jobs in our own comfortable nooks, hidden away from the rest of the world behind glaring screens; some of us wandered ahead, looking for some vague framework that we could call home. And yet, every once in awhile, we would look outside office windows, peer through darkened doorways and into empty closets, looking for something that none of us could define, and we’d sigh when we realized that there was nothing there.

The nostalgia finally gave way to a hushed and inexpressible sadness, which could only be described as the feeling of someone tenderly but persistently pressing against your chest. We learned to live with that feeling, and soon we grew very fond of it, and none of us really knew what we’d do if it left us. It gave us strength; for some of us, it became a close and cherished companion.

No one really knew who heard the songs first; perhaps one of us heard the delicate guitar lingering in some smoke-filled club, perhaps another heard the warm and comforting baritone voice calling from across a busy street. I would like to believe that we all had a hand in crafting these songs, cobbling together our own memories of old homes sinking into disrepair, creeping into abandoned factories lying on the outskirts of once-bustling industrial cities, running freely through those golden fields that seemed to stretch on forever beyond the horizon, wetting our feet in still lakes on the ends of rotting docks; nevertheless, whether we heard the soft crackle of vinyl in the background, or the gentle wash of guitar, or those strangled notes that recalled an older rural America that we never knew, we recognized these songs as our own.

It was the soundtrack for that strange and beautiful childhood we tried to hard to forget, when every coincidence was fate and when our surroundings bordered on the magical. It was the music we heard whenever we passed that old vacant house, and we realized that the walls actually were singing to each other, repeating our stories before we ever really knew them to be ours. It was the sound of contradictions and paradoxes, of happiness and regret, of gain and loss. More importantly, we could finally define those strange feelings we felt, the ones that teetered between regret and sadness and inexplicable nostalgia. And at that moment, when we first heard these songs swirling through crackling speakers, when we heard them resonate against the walls of a room that was never really meant for music, we realized that we never really lost anything at all - we just weren’t looking in the right places.

Rating: 9.5/10

DOWNLOAD (file also features some very very hard to find bonus tracks from some of Murray's other albums)

Edit: there is one other review I've found for Novel and it can be found here. Far more in depth than my own, which relies largely on metaphor and imagery, so check it out if you're still not sold.

1 comment:

  1. Any way you could re-upload this? It's been deleted and I would really love to hear it.