Monday, June 12, 2017

Track by Track: Letters with Audra Kubat about Chris Bathgate's Dizzy Seas

Dizzy Seas

photo by Adam Weber
Last month, Chris Bathgate released Dizzy Seas. Rather than give an overarching review, where everything is fleetingly addressed, or maybe just glossed over, we, that being singer/songwriter Audra Kubat and I, are writing epistolary reviews of EACH track... one by one. We dive into one piece and explore it extensively, mining everything we can, in terms of theme, vibe, message, and overall musicality...

This song, the fourth on Dizzy Seas, is called "Beg"

Hello once again, Audra

Summer is just about upon us... Does a season such as this impact you in any way, be it sentimentally, or perhaps creatively?

Obviously, the surplus of sunshine is understandably invigorating for me... I feel like I'm more productive than the more secluded, colder months. That has to do with the outside...Which, we should note, had a considerable impact on Chris' creation of this record. In fact, while he was writing these songs, he'd told me earlier, that he spent a good portion of a calendar year almost entirely out-of-doors, in terms of his day to day existence, sleeping, meals, work, etc...

And while the first three tracks were so much more atmospheric and ambient, this song is sort of the rock song, or the straight up blues song, at least in terms of structure/tone/timbre, and in its minimalist riffs. I feel like the oomph of those guitars and the clasp of the percussion COULD be cathartic, but the lyrics are disarmingly aggravated, at least somewhat.... This is, I think, the song that made me consider Chris was taking one of those deep stares into the mirror... I feel like its his suffering through his own dark night of the proverbial soul.

"Why's it always have to be heavy?" This is almost a self-satirical lyric for Chris Bathgate, singing about himself, on one of his own records. I remember the first time I interviewed him, for the 2011 album "Salt Year," I approached the hour leading up to our discussion with a very austere, fastidious, careful and extra-contemplative manner... Because his lyrics have always had a "heavy"-ness to them. I felt I was approaching a weary soul. ---But of course, he quickly lowered my guard with how laid back, affable and generous he can be with his conversational manner.

But this is Chris really challenging himself, I think. "Breathing of the night" makes me feel his tossing and turning in a tent, thinking too hard, or being too hard on himself... Then he asks for a sign, some kind of sign... And how he quivers in its sights.

Is he begging for illumination? Into himself? Is he anxious about what he'll find?

Eager for your thoughts... Especially since I didn't get too much into the texture of the instruments here, but just got caught up in his lyrics.

I'll listening again..., but what did this song say to you? ...Make you feel?

til next time,


I read back my letter and realize that I may have made it sound more grim than it actually sounds or feels... I'm very taken with the variation of a traditional blues riff that he's doing at the opening. And I didn't have time to get into what's repeated here, theme-wise, --that being, those wordless vocalizations. Six "Oh's" are melodically descended in the refrains. It may be one of the most powerful moments of the song!!



Here we go again. As I type this the heat of the morning comes in to steal my strength. Yes, it is one of those mornings. A cold shower and lots of water.

This song seems an attempt to be lighthearted. There is simplicity to the repeating riff and even the opening lyrics, 'Are you going to make me beg?' (kind of a traditional blues line, yes?). It does seem though, and you suggest this too, that Chris is talking to himself in this song. When one asks for a sign, it is usually a request that is cast out into the night’s air, left to wander. One hopes that this will work to unearth a response, yet one seems to know that that thing can only come from a self-reflection. When that sign does come (and maybe it's from within), it kind of shakes him. I wonder if that is why this song is structured like a rock ‘n’ roll song (shaken, rattled, and rolled)?

Your suggestion that Chris is tossing and turning in his tent trying to work these feelings out is strong: the night breathing, the moon moving from one part of the sky to another, and then finally requesting a sign. And when that sign comes, it overwhelms.

Why does it have to be so heavy? Again, I agree, maybe he is asking himself this. I am wondering: is the lightness of the music there to counter the viscous nature of the lyrics? These lyrics seem very plain, yet they carry a weight that is clear and you really feel that in the delivery of the lines, as if it is literally tricky to get them to come out of the mouth. The way he pushed each word at the end of each line in the chorus...there is a slow swoop up. He makes you feel that weight in this vocal and it works so well in part because the lyrics are simple and not messy. It gives us time to slip into the query with him and sit in that uncomfortable space as we to use this opportunity to question and ask for our own sign. I wondered if this is anywhere near the intention of this song…

What is so perfect about songs is that it doesn't really matter if the artist's intentions are felt as much as it matters that the one discovering the song can be allowed to step in and decided what it means for them.

The rock vibe of this song is just enough for me to tap my feet and sway my body, and even though I may not have known that until I got to this track, I was ready for that. I was ready to just let the music get me out of my head and let the groove do what grooves do.

I look forward to my next chance to listen and tell (a hope my play on, 'kiss and tell' is clear, if not I am making that happen in these here parentheses...ha ha).


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