Monday, July 3, 2017

"This Dizzying World" - Letters with Audra Kubat about Chris Bathgate

Letters shared between myself and singer/songwriter Audra Kubat, digging through a single song: the title track from Chris Bathgate's Dizzy Seas ~ which came out on Quite Scientific Records in May. 

Hello again, dear friend…
“Dizzy Seas” – Title Track…

It starts so quiet; so soft. That first guitar phrase lilting there, innocent. Then a lower-end riff, distorted and agitated, crashes in like thunder. We’re in a furtive blues dirge… Chris, here, may be hitting his peak of inward-gazing self-contemplation. I believe that there is a sense of meditation to this song.

The guitars have such a suddenness to them, like a brisk drawing of dusty curtains to close out the daylight (or block out the neon-blaze of a busy city at night, either way…), and the singer searching to find a corner of his mind where he can just contemplate questions with his eyes closed.

While I’ve said enough about how grimace-y those guitars sound, I really want to get toward the chorus. This is a prime chance to compliment the auxiliary instrumentation of singer/violinist Samantha Cooper. It may be my favorite moment, just in terms of auditory pleasure, when Chris hits that chorus: “Even My Love…” and the violin sways and wafts its tender melody around his voice like lace or ribbons. It’s when the clouds break and a warm orange light spills in… It’s when the eyes can open. It’s when the singer feels…not peace, but an adjustment. Here he is, in a self-imposed darkness, (which sounds more Emo than it really feels when you listen), but more than just his weary eyes and eyelids adjust to this darkness… His love, even his love, adjusts…

In this song, we’re on a boat, we’re on the dizzy seas. It’s potentially the most dramatic or urgent or crucial moment of the album’s lyrical arc. Up, down, dark, light, stable, dizzy, focused, distracted, awake, asleep… In his meditative throes, he seems to be detached from the absolutes of being required to render verdicts on himself, in terms of emotional baggage, ghosts in his mind, regrets from his past, doubt… The song becomes all about “his love…” If that meditation invites a circumstance of suspending certainty, than it becomes, I feel, about realizing that the only certainty we’ll have is the love that we can give…, to anyone, to friends, to lovers.

Not that I want to psychoanalyze him, but I wonder if Chris’ biggest regret was happened upon during a ruthless audit of his acceptance, his management, and his utilization OF….love, of compassion, of romance, of any kind of love. I feel like the singer of a song like this wakes up the next day with his energies refocused…

But, in one closing note, I love how those guitars at the end, delicately cascading, can almost sound like tinny steel drums… It charms me to no end. “Even My Love!”




Chris' songs aren't straight forward. The story is there, but it takes some work to turn the pages. There is so much happening that is not reflected in the lyrics, but through the lyrics you can discern those things waiting between the lines. 'Til the questions starts to speak: Do I sail a dizzy sea?' From this lyric, I am thinking about life lived in a world that is unstable. 'Do the waves roil over me?' Does this world shake me up, disturb or agitated my sedentary mind? These are questions that suggest the search. I also have this feeling that Chris is talking directly to us. That this is his statement on the meaning of life.

He makes me think about this, and then there is that chorus: 'Even my love'. For me this is a declaration that even the love that one has inside or around them is not enough to bring clarity or understanding of the world out there, this dizzying world. The repeating of this line really highlights the intention. It seems a place where all other ideas have been expended, and the last hope was that love could save, yet it is still not able to still the room, bring peace, or answers.

Lines that start with 'if, where, how' add to the idea that this song is on the hunt. The open snare hits that linger, then snap closed, align with the questions, the searching. That feeling of being suspended for a few moments as you get lost in a thought, and then that shift, as something outside you pulls you back.

I, too, love the gentle guitars that entice us to enter, only to deposit us into depths of a mind that is spinning. The gritty electric guitar that hits, redirecting this song. I like your description for it – 'furtive blues dirge'. Yes, that guitar thunders in, sets a dark and seedy tone. We are locked and we follow the melody as it slowly, while falling, ascends towards the chorus – so light compared to the verses. Even though the lyric, holding so much weight in this small space, is exhausted, the music is working in another direction. It is lightening the load, it is giving us some fresh air. It lasts just long enough for us to stay conscious. Then the grit of the electric pulls us under again. This music is doing a lot of work here. Chris is masterful at giving us tiny moments of musical reprieve in the midst of emotional obstacles and mind-bending riddles.

I am most interested in the last few lines of the last verse. Chris is talking about diving into the corner of ones mind, watching the intersections, seeing how memories become etched. How our secrets belong to us and 'come to bed' with us. Then 'In the dark for long enough, more than the eyes adjust' – the air is sucked out of my lungs, I feel the blow to the chest. Here it is, the point – we can get used to anything. We can sit in the darkness for long enough that it becomes the light. The idea that we can get so used to something that it becomes normalized. Abuse can become ordinary and being loved can become passé. This speaks to me in a global way. This song plays as a personal journey into ones own self-contemplation, but it also seems to mirror a very human condition of becoming accustomed. I will accept this song as a reminder that just because you can get used to something does mean you should.

Until next time!


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