As JIMMY LAVALLE, multi-instrumentalist and head of THE ALBUM LEAF named MARK KOZELEK’s music to be one of his major influences on various occasions, he might not have thought about collaborating with the former singer of legendary slowcore-institution RED HOUSE PAINTERS. And to be honest, a certain amount of scepticism felt appropriate indeed, when Perils From The Sea first was announced. Especially for long time followers of those two artists, it’s definitely quite challenging to think of a mixture of Lavalle’s minimalistic electronica and Kozelek’s distinct but fragile voice over the length of an whole album. Now that the thing is out though, and the first beeps and bloops of What happened to my brother lead over into beautiful, simple harmonies, one can’t wait for Kozelek’s voice to finally arrive: “What happened to my brother/ the life in his eyes/ did something shake his brain on that long bus ride?”.
Under his SUN KIL MOON-moniker, Kozelek lately concentrated on simple arrangements consisting only of his voice and the sound of his nylon-string-guitar. An arrangement that reduced the cost of touring and became something like the trademark of his music in the past years. On Perils From The Sea he rarely contributes his picking-skills to the sound-concept, with Caroline being one of the few exceptions. A mild but striking change that’s totally acceptable, for Lavalle’s carpet of oldschool electronica and POSTAL SERVICE-minimalism serve as an excellent frame in which Kozelek spreads out his reduced, poetic stream of consciousness. His everyday-life reflections, the contemplating calm of his voice and the painful beauty of his imagery is all that the admirers of his work need anyway. And he’s serving plenty of it during the 80 minutes of Perils From The Sea. Impressive how his words still seem to be all falling into line with whatever music he’s putting them on.
Take Somehow the wonder of life prevails – a mesmerizing, associative time travel, typical for Kozelek’s storytelling. No need to pull yourself together really, for this his sheer beauty. Memorizing a highschool friend who liked Black Sabbath and drawing, Kozelek tells us a story of life and early death, just as it is. Still tragic looking back, but nonetheless growing pale over the years. A memory of guilt and life’s unpredictable changes. “I talked with his mother, and his father and his brothers; I talked to them all/ about his love for heavy metal, his love for hunting and how good he could draw”, he recalls bitter experiences like no one else: a simple but haunting narration. Meanwhile, Lavalle leaves him the space he needs, just adding slow, pulsating beats and some simple synthie-loops, prooving his electronica to be the kind to dream yourself away to, rather than urging for the dancefloor.
This dancefloor’s sparsely lit indeed, eyes are closed and memories come rushing in like seldom sparks of neon-light. Not the shiny, disco-type of neon. It’s the filthy highway-motel-neon, blinking infrequently due to defective contacts. Those kind of places where everything feels in-between, where crime, loneliness, melancholy and volatile rest all blur together and fortunately leave their imprint on a delighted songwriting mind like the one of Mark Kozelek. “Laying in my bed, ceiling gazing, can’t make my mind stop from racing/it’s not good or bad, it’s just how god made me/to lay awake at night, ceiling gazing” – a central line in Ceiling Gazing that maybe describes quite good the mood of this record, the interaction of Lavalle’s soundscapes and Kozelek’s lyrics. Perils From The Sea turned out to be a suprisingly coherent, organic collaboration of two highly prolific artists, that fits both of their catalogues extraordinarily well. Rare beauty.