Chris Bathgate's recently released album, Dizzy Seas, features a subtle, but breathtaking cameo from singer Tunde Olaniran. This whole album's pretty heavy, but the emotions conveyed just through their vocal delivery, through their intonation, creates what might be the most poignant moment on the record... I never imagined these two artists would ever aurally Venn-diagram their unique voices and talents, but it fits so well....
Listen to the song while you read my letter with Audra Kubat
I hesitate to call this song melancholic, at least in its essence. Instrumentally, tonally, it does feel very wounded. But it isn't like it's collapsing... The opposite, actually....
What I find most interesting about its arrangement is the percussion, the frenetic chitter-chop of those drums, someone is on a snare while another is playing a muted tom, or at least it sounds muffled in this way. The two drums are racing. They feel like they're pulling me.
Chris' lyrical delivery and the opening percussive tap of the first verse lulls me into a position of standing still to do the typical deep contemplations and mind-explorations that this album has urged... But then the chorus, the one word chorus, takes off and the two drums start running together, and I feel like they've got me by the wrist, and are pulling me for those four full measures...
It's not that Chris would ever talk directly about regrets, but I feel so much regret emanating from the ghosts of this song, the relationship portrayed inside of it that is seemingly on life support, if not already expired. When you listen to it again, you can hear the subtlety of "Your 'Hey' is heavy..." And you can hear the person, a lover, saying that. It isn't overt regret. But he's definitely peering into that rearview mirror more than once, wistfully.
But, just as there is a doubling up of drums, there is a partner in vocals who comes, it feels, to Chris' aid, or at least to comfort, or to someone commiserate with a more positive note. The magnificent, multifaceted Tunde Olaniran is the cameo performer here. His soulful, sublime voice flutters beautifully as he puts everything into perspective--questioning, it seems, the use of torturing yourself about the past. Until, finally, that "old anger unravels..." And no matter what, that love, even if it's in exile, is still kept in the singer's bones, close to their heart, ever in their body and in their memory.
But the past, that's what's heavily calling to him: "Hey!"
The past is calling to us all, all the time.
What headspace will we be in, when its call is at its loudest?
Wishing you a pleasant evening, Audra
There are those songs that you write to get through something and there are those that you write to confront. Still others, you write to yourself. Why do we continue to go back? Why does the past have such a hold on us? We are so often assessing ourselves in the rearview mirror. The thickness of the first two verses is staggering. A mind trying to figure itself out. It plays out like a menacing melody on four strings. It's almost tolerable, but the bow on the strings wrenches and twists thoughts.
The single word chorus feels like an exoneration. Like nothing that he says could fill the space in between these heavy stanzas. I suspect this space is critical, for the songwriter and the listener. We need that respite too, for there is not an inch of space to waste in the verses. It is cleverly phrased and strictly edited. Though these lines are beautifully crafted, it takes work from one to truly understand the meaning. It asks of you to summit and go deep, yet allows you to listen passively and just enjoy the husk of the voice and the lull of meditative guitars.
Here Chris teeters on the ledge, but he knows in his heart there is no going back. The 'Hey' can't be light. This new world where love lives in exile can't be simplistic or casual, even as you sigh and wistfully think, maybe it could be different...maybe I could just say hello.
The bridge is fascinating. A second voice (Tunde Olaniran) comes in. I understand it as that voice inside your head. The one that pushes and prods. Sits on your chest until you're breathless and heaving with the question "what if?" Frozen for a moment until the voice turns to reason and reminds you that your true self needs to live and can't be fully happy cadged. I wonder if having this other voice enabled Chris to retreat from the pain this section implicates.
This love, this loss will life inside your fibers. Time marks us and stitches its thread into our beings.
I will leave it here and look forward to the next time!