Come so close that I might see…

Recently, my friend Aarik (whom I haven’t seen in person in about two years, which is a travesty) made an intriguing post on Twitter. He was musing about the idea of publishing an anthology of reflections regarding an important single line from some song, film, poem, or other source. He suggested calling this journal Hold The Line and I’ve been thinking about the idea every day since I skimmed my eyes over his tweet.

It goes without saying that each one of us could offer many dozens of lines from the treasure trove we carry in our minds. Lord knows I’ve been moved by everything from scriptures to contemporary internet memes. When I glide back over my life, though, it’s clear that some lines are held more closely to my core – to the experiences they influenced – than others.

Lying in bed last night I decided to make an entry in Aarik’s theoretical journal. My Hold The Line for today (for right now, since probably it would be something else in 20 minutes), is from Mazzy Star’s 1993 masterpiece, So Tonight That I Might See.

“Come so close that I might see the crash of light come down on me.”1

There’s something so powerful in the idea that when we come together we approach transcendence: come so close that I might see. It’s a proposition, a hope. If/Then. If this other entity is close enough to my core, then perhaps I may experience a charged glimpse of something beyond me. Then it would also be within me, a kind of multiplicity that blows out me-ness with all-ness.

Even so, my perspective – my sensate awareness – is also central. This is like Annie Dillard’s “tree with the lights in it”2 or Moses’s burning bush; the intimate presence, both terrifying and awesome, brings astonishment. Come so close that I might be more than me. Ego death. Samadhi. A disappearance of masks and pettiness in lieu of some true (if only momentary) unity.

Let there be light – and it crashes.

There is a bit of an out-of-body charge to the order of operations in Hope Sandoval’s mumbled words, in the “gothic hallucination”3 of Roback’s droning guitar tone. From closeness to sight to the mystical crash of light. Closeness catalyzes an outside, transmundane experience. I see the light come down on me in that moment. Sharp, electric, like an accidental brush against a live wire or the vertigo of a hypnic jerk.

I have felt that pulsing disorientation a few times. With Robin, her blond bob, and the small of her back all those years ago. With Miranda, born like a bomb, a modern Minerva bursting fully-formed into new reality. Even last week, suddenly seeing a former student after years and almost bursting into tears over it.

Maybe the crash of light always carries tears along with it.

Cliché, I suppose. But also real experience and astonishment… moments of enlightenment brought on by the presence of another real person.

Album cover for Mazzy Star’s So Tonight That I Might See.

1) Mazzy Star. “So Tonight That I Might See.” So Tonight That I Might See, performance by Sandoval, Hope and David Roback, Capitol Records, 1993.

2) Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York, NY: Harper, 1998. Page 35-36.

3) Moreland, Quinn. “Review – Mazzy Star: So Tonight That I Might See.” Pitchfork, Pitchfork, 14 June 2020, pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/mazzy-star-so-tonight-that-i-might-see/.

Into Dust

“Can I remember it only in some half-form? Can I remember it only as a chimera, made of memory and will and hope? Can I not recall it totally, fully, being in myself as I was? Does no one understand the fullness of the emptying time? Does no one sense it in themselves, that time when they lost the tether? Let it loose again, to feel that it is gone! Alone. This is the deep pit of sensing, where I know the contour of death and dying. Suspended above the abyss. Glory.” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

“Look… an abyssal missive, a doctrine of smoke… ‘into dust.’

In the end I suppose that I wish for it, (and sometimes still seek it with nervous hope) that confusion. Sweet psychological instability – the wobbly legs of a newly drunken lad – here as the land curves away beneath me. I guess that, at times, the seeking is more interesting to me than the knowing. I’ve seen it here, right here on this land; is there self-loathing? What’s beneath the surface of us all? Did I see myself here for the first time, or was I just revealed anew, from a novel angle and in skewed light? The absolute beauty of being permissive, of stepping aside and watching oneself from the wings – it can’t be beat, though it stays with you in some way I can’t yet fully understand. I don’t think I ever will understand it. Watching others though – there’s the bittersweet fruit. The fallen human trembles and tumbles through life, and even at the lowest point renders to itself the most poetic, romanticized stroke.” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

Still falling
Breathless and on again
Inside today
Beside me today
A round broken in two
’til your eyes shed into dust
Like two strangers turning into dust
’til my hand shook the way I fear

I could possibly be fading
Or have something more to gain
I could feel myself growing colder
I could feel myself under your face
Under…your face

It was you
breathless and torn
I could feel my eyes turning into dust
And two strangers turning into dust
Turning into dust.

“Into Dust” by Mazzy Star

All images above are from digital photos taken between May and August 2001.

Music for Reading A Mnemonic of Longing

Music for reading A Mnemonic of Longing,

an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

THE OCEAN

by u2

FIRESUITE

by doves

FOX CONFESSOR BRINGS THE FLOOD

by neko case

BLACK MILK

by massive attack

HISTORY SONG

by the good the bad and the queen

MARY OF SILENCE

by mazzy star

PYRAMID SONG

by radiohead

WAITING IN THE KOUNTRY

by gram rabbit

HARES DON’T HAVE TEA, SILLY

by gram rabbit

OAHU

by menomena

M62 SONG

by doves

SHE’S GOT CHANEL NO. 5

by calexico

WILLOW SONG

by doves

SO TONIGHT THAT I MIGHT SEE

by mazzy star

KATMANDU

by cat stevens

Hope Sandoval

Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions just released their second, long-awaited collection of music, titled Through the Devil Softly.

The new music stands in some dusty, murky ground between the previous HS&tWI CD, 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread (BFB), and the legendary body of work created by Sandoval’s other (long dormant) band, Mazzy Star. Through the Devil Softly (TtDS) is neither as downbeat-shoe-gazing as BFB was, nor is it as deathly otherworldly as the Mazzy Star work was. TtDS finds a glowing haze that the others forego in their overcast evenings and midnight reveries.

The sonic textures of old (glinting, rain-like guitar work; fleeting harmonicas; noir-ish, understated drums) are back and certainly reference the previous HS&tWI recording. But in TtDS they feel not so much quoted as rethought, reconstructed; there really is a different feeling to this new group of songs. Bavarian Fruit Bread’s sound was nested largely in an acoustic feel and this inflected every aspect of the production – even the layered use of keyboards and other ambient soundscapes present in the work. In TtDS, layered instrumentation and vocals signal the constructed, incremental product that it is.

I’m pleased with the confidence in Sandoval’s voice on TtDS and find the syncopation of delivery that she’s using really lovely. Yes, the trademark lilting languidness is there – it’s something fundamental to how she uses her instrument – but on TtDS her intonation touches a clarity and closeness not felt on previous tracks. The music stays pushed off in fade and reverb, yet Sandoval’s breathy voice is near and concise when compared to her past work.

Overall, TtDS feels more varied and staged than BFB… and that’s good. It’s a body of music that feels like it is referencing a greater range of feeling than past tracks were while retaining the trademark sound and mood for which Sandoval is known.

It’s nice to have more Hope out there.

Key tracks from Through the Devil Softly:

Blanchard
For the Rest of Your Life
Sets the Blaze

ttds