Review Summary: the ultimate swan song...
Absence. Why do we listen to music? Why is it such an important part of our lives? I mean, when you get right down to it, all music is, is a collection of noises we think sound good together. Yet people devote their lives to creating it, documenting it...hell, I've written thousands and thousands of words on it in the past month, in spite of all the other, probably more important things that I could've spent that time doing. So why do I do it? Why do we do it? We all have our reasons. To say there is one, definite, concrete reason to listen to music would be foolish. Part of what makes music so appealing is how it can be enjoyed so differently by people. When I listen to Perc's latest album, I'm enjoying it because I'm admiring the subtleties in the production, the forward thinking manner of the music, all that artsy bull***. Someone else could be in the same room, enjoying it just as much as me, but on a completely different level (that beat is totally gnar bro). People of all sorts gravitate towards music; I'm going to the Weeknd show this coming Friday and I already know it'll be home to one of the most diverse gatherings of people one could hope for. Its the one constant our society seems to have reached: we all love music. Not only now, either; some sort of music has existed for almost as long as mankind has, even if it was just simple timpanis and blocks. As humans, we seem to have some sort of deep connection with it, or at least use music as a means to create that sort of connection. What I'm trying to say is that, like, music totally gets at us on this, like, totally spiritual level, man. I just figured writing a whole paragraph about it and referencing anthropology would make it sound a bit more legit. Because as phony as it is, music does have the ability to connect with us in ways images, words etc can't. In some cases, to a much higher degree.
2011 was a strange year for me. It wasn't necessarily a bad year, a lot of great things happened that I would in no way change if I could. It was just strange. The year started on a rather rough note with a series of events which left me feeling very isolated from everyone I thought I knew in the city. I started spending a lot more time alone, mostly because I just didn't really have a choice. When this album leaked in late April, I was just beginning my summer job, a brutal 5-130am shift that equated to 4-3am with travel time considered. The job ran all week, including Friday nights, so I was thrust even further into my state of isolation by the fact that I really only had one day a week to see anyone - including the very people I lived with. Working this job for 4 and a half months took a brutal toll on not only my sanity, but my sleep schedule. When September rolled around and it was time for school, I still found myself unable to fall asleep until 5, 6 in the morning, which would subsequently exhaust me and force me to stay in bed until like 2 every day. And to be honest with you, I'm still struggling with it. Living on this type of schedule sucks because no one else does. At least, no one that I know. When I wake up, people are halfway done their days and on their way to wind down, whereas I'm just getting started. This poses a huge problem, as there's only a few hour window where anyone is actually available, and living 12-5am by yourself every day starts to really get to you. I was spending a lot of time alone, and naturally, this led to lots of thinking. I thought a lot about the past. Now in my fourth year, I thought back to first year when I was almost never alone, never short on plans or people. I thought back to high school, surrounded by people I knew for sure were my friends, and not just people using me to pass the time. I thought about the life I once had, and how much more sense it seemed to make. I yearned for something that I could not, ever, possibly have. And through it all...Absence.
Because that is exactly what this album is about. Or rather, that's exactly what this album's feel is about. Some relevant history: Snowman are from Australia, Absence is their third and last album. The band was never able to reach any level of high profile success, and after their second album, The Horse, The Rat and the Swan, the band drifted apart from each other. The rhythm section moved to Iceland to start a farm and the other half moved to England to pursue other projects. Absence is a true swansong, written under the knowledge that the band would break up as soon as recording was finished. Principal songwriter Joseph McKee wrote the majority of this album alone in his flat in London, surrounded by postcards of his past. According to him, there was something all the postcards had in common, an absence of something, that McKee wanted to convey with this last album. And if you aren't sure what he's talking about, you'll get it after you listen to this record. Absence is that feeling. Never before in my life have I heard an album that has so perfectly conveyed an emotion like this one does. Its not nostalgia, its not misery, its just...absence. That feeling when something that was just isn't anymore. Absence is centered around an allegory of a woman attempting to contact her dead lover, a perfect dramatic representation of that feeling. The first few songs introduce the characters, the aptly titled Seance and ∆ are when the actual communication that takes place and the last few songs revolve around the sentiments of the lover and the ghost she has called upon. The spiritual nature of the album is heightened by the production; everything is wispy and not-quite there, and the vocals are drenched in so much reverb its almost impossible to make out lyrically what's going on. But the atmosphere of these tracks says more and carries the album along better than any words could. The instrumentation is pretty standard fare, keys, guitars, bass, vocals and drums, but the way everyone plays is more ritualistic than musical. The mood is definitely the most important feature of this album, and at no point does it wane or falter. In fact, the tension only increases as the album goes on, culminating on the last three tracks and especially at the end of Absence where the band seems to literally die on microphone before fading out into silence. Its an extremely self-aware affair, an effort about no longer existing by a band who knew they would no longer exist. And although they may have their own personal reasons for feeling this way, feeling this absence, the end result is a feeling that anyone who has ever lost anything can understand, and relate to completely.
If the purpose of music is to be able to establish a connection in a way that no words are able to, then this was the most successful music I heard all of last year. At least, to me. The feeling that runs through this album is a feeling I understand too well, having felt it myself throughout the majority of 2011...even now, in 2012. I'm not gonna be one of those people that says this album was made for me, but god damn, is the timing ever perfect. So grab the album, listen to it...then move on. That ghost might not be able to touch you, but it can still hurt you.