Earthen Sea – Ghost Poems

Posted: 10 April 2022 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kranky – 15th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Well, this is nice. No, it’s not sarcasm or some kind of snide semi-criticism wrapped in a vague compliment. Jacob Long’s third Earthen Sea outing for Kranky, Ghost Poems, was composed and created in New York during the first wave of lockdowns, and conjures a sense of calm , of tranquillity, and captures a sense of the hush that descended over life during this time. For many, there as an underlying rush of panic, of anxiety, as we struggled to comprehend what the hell was going on. The rolling news was little short of terrifying, and from my own vantage over the pond, New York looked like a dystopian movie. People weren’t only dying, but there were queues around the block just to get people into hospitals.

And yes, while all of this madness was going on, all other aspects of life were on hold. This was true of every town and city around the globe, but New York, the city that doesn’t sleep, was held still by a giant pause button. The very idea of New York without bumper-to-bumper traffic, packed sidewalks and parks rammed with joggers and dog walkers seems inconceivable. And yet, it happened.

Ghost Poems soundtracks empty streets, slow air currents and a general absence of everything – people, activity, life. As the title suggests, this is a collection of works which are haunted by the echoes of life, of activity, or movement, and listening it reminds me of my ventures outside in those early days and weeks of lockdown here in (old) York, England, a city usually populous withy workers and tourists, reduced to a ghost town. Social distancing was no issue on leaving the house: you could walk for half an hour is see maybe three other people. It was eerie. It was weird. It felt apocalyptic, like I was one of the last people on earth.

Slow, vaporous synths ebb and flow like a slow tide, dragging back and forth against a sparse, heartbeat pule of a beat on ‘Shiny Nowhere’, and it sets the sparse tone perfectly, and ‘Felt Absence’, with its slow backward-swelling remind into deletion encapsulates the mood perfectly. It’s not about what there is, but what there isn’t: that absence, that lack. It doesn’t feel right; even the air quality is different, and listening through an open window, there is birdsong, there is stillness… and so little else.

Elemental themes run through Ghost Poems: ‘Snowy Water’; ‘Rough Air’, and similarly, the sky is at the heart of the vistas which present themselves: ‘Ochre Sky’; ‘Deep Sky’; ‘Slate Horizon’. Looking out, and looking up, there was a strange stillness, an emptiness, above as below. Where did the time go? Two years have evaporated into this expanse of sky, and life has returned. Talk of ‘the great pause’ and ‘new normal’ have drifted away on the breeze. For all the fear of the pandemic, there was a certain optimism that something fresh and new may rise from the silence, from the space; perhaps a new green dawn, perhaps a kinder capitalism, a world without endless traffic, where the work/life balance may lean more towards life. All of these contemplations are spun into the soft, gentle airiness of Ghost Poems, an album suffused with calm, with a quiet optimism. This may have already been lost, buried in the clamour of the return, but Earthen Sea has captured that moment when there was a reserved sense of hope.

Listening to Ghost Poems compels one to sat back, and breathe in, slowly, deeply, to fully expand the lungs, and then exhale, again, slowly. Perhaps there is still hope after all.

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