If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Ariadne” by Typhoon (2018, from the album Offerings
Typhoon is an indie rock/orchestral rock/post-pop band from Portland, Oregon. There may be anywhere from eight to eleven members depending upon which source you rely. They’ve been around since 2005, but they really started to gain recognition five years ago. You may remember that I fell in love with their 2013 album White Lighter
. I called that album my third favourite album of the year
, and that was a REALLY good year. They’ve taken some time off since then, and the new album –their fourth– has just been released via Roll Call Records
With no past and no future, there is only suffocating, annihilating present, looping on and on ad infinitum (to me, one plausible definition of hell) and the best you can hope for is that somewhere in the void there exists some small, irreducible certainty—a fragment, a kernel, something—that you may have the good fortune to stumble upon before it’s all over.
The new album is massive. It’s a little lengthy at 70 minutes, and it’s got some enormous sounds. But it’s also massive in the sense of its theme. Frontman Kyle Morton has described the opus this way:
It’s a record from the perspective of a mind losing its memory at precisely the same time the world is willfully forgetting its history. The urgent question becomes: without causality, without structures of meaning, without essential features of rational thought, is there anything that can save us from violence / oblivion?
You know, a boy/girl-meets-girl/boy-everyone-dies-in-botched-attempt- at-neo-pagan-sacrificial-ritual-on-global-scale kind of thing.
There’s a lot of stuff about memory, memory loss, the desire to rebuild memories. And it’s meant to be a story in four parts as the character of the story goes through four stages: (1)Floodplains; (2)Flood; (3)Reckoning; (4)Afterparty. The vinyl is a 2XLP, and I imagine that each stage of the story is its own album side.
For a lot of reasons, I’m reminded of the remarkable Hospice album by The Antlers. Incidentally, I was a little late to the game on Hospice, but I would have named it my absolute #1 album of that year. Like that album, there’s a running story. Like that album, the character of said story is going through some tough stuff. Like that album, I can’t get enough of this. Offerings is half again as long as Hospice‘s 45 minutes, so it requires much more of an investment, but it’s well worth it. It’s a really beautiful album that is certain to end very near the top of my list and a bunch of other lists.
I somehow missed the advance push on this album, but I was intrigued by a quote from the venerable Bob Boilen over at NPR’s All Songs Considered. He sent the following text to the show’s co-host:
Good lord, this Typhoon album is brilliant… haven’t cried listening to a record since Carrie and Lowell
He’s referring to the 2015 album by Sufjan Stevens. This is extraordinarily high praise from a dude who listens to boatloads of records. Frankly, though, I have to call Boilen out. If he didn’t cry whilst listening to Phil Elverum’s (Mt. Eerie) A Crow Looked at Me last year, then he’s a complete monster.
Anyway, this album knocked me out the first time I listened, and this song, from the final part of the story, is one of my favourites.
“Ariadne” by Typhoon
One of the things that I love about this song is the same thing that I love about most Typhoon songs. It has distinct parts while being a small part of a really big picture. There are ebbs and flows within the song. Quiet/loud/quiet. Dark/light. Tempo changes. Changes of instruments. All of that and more. There’s something about Morton’s voice that reminds me a bit of Peter Silberman out of The Antlers. And as I said before, this record has other elements that remind me of Hospice. Plus, I have vivid memories of falling in love with Hospice on a snowy day in January 2011, just as I am falling deeper in love with Offerings on a snowy day in January 2018.
There is also tons of rich imagery in the lyrics. The song plays a big part in the theme of our world falling apart around us while we try to forget:
Images of the primitive awakened from a dream
Console yourself with the morning bells
But you can’t shake the feeling of being tied down to a table
The guests are sharpening their teeth
Everyone is a hostage
How will we ever get free?
We can’t even go a minute without trying to burn an effigy
Go ahead, get comfortable, forget your past lives
You find the devil’s mansion has many rooms inside
There’s no features, there’s no furniture
But you got nothing to hide
Everyone is a terrorist now
Don’t you know the neighbor?
And if there’s any chance of getting out
You gotta make yourself remember
There’s a lot to unpack there, but the things that stand out the most to me are the “we can’t go a minute without trying to burn an effigy” and the “if there’s any chance of getting out, you gotta make yourself remember”.
There’s also a line that seems a little out-of-place with the theme of the song and also with the overall theme of the album, and it’s a difficult bit to swallow:
I wanna love you. I just don’t have the time
There’s also a bit of spoken dialog at the end of the song. I don’t know if it’s created for the album, or if it’s been lifted from some source, or if it’s a field recording, but there’s a line which is the first thing on the album
Of everything you’re about to lose
this will be the most painful
That line is repeated as part of a longer bit at the end of this song:
The spiral is unspooling, the center couldn’t hold
We choked on our inheritance, and hell on earth is cold
I forgive you — brothers, sisters — thread my neck into the noose
It’s my only offering, and I pray that you refuse
Of everything that you’re about to lose
This will be the most painful
Again, there’s a lot to unpack in those 53 words, and I’m not equipped to do it. The listener has to do her own work on that, but it’s really powerful and really beautiful.
This is a stunning, if not perfect record that I urge you all to listen to repeatedly. You can buy it from the Roll Call Records store here.
The band is currently on a tour that will have them cross the North American continent from west to east and back again. Check the tour dates here. See them if you can.