Milagres

Milagres

Jesse Marchant, Basic Shapes

Wed, September 24, 2014

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Rough Trade NYC

Brooklyn, NY

$12 advance / $15 day of show

This event is 21 and over

Milagres
Milagres
Audible fireworks explode in the distance of the opening moments of Milagres second album, the aptly titled, Violent Light. It is essentially elemental, as vocalist Kyle Wilson descends on lead track, “Perennial Bulb”, singing, “I am in a cloud”, keys and drums pounding around him as he issues the album’s thesis statement: “My feet are bare. They hit the ground. I’m running toward the miracle.” This is the way down and the way up for the band, fire exploding in the sky behind them, toes tucked firmly into the dark soil, running toward a transfiguration. Far from being the fleeting perennial bulb or mercurial firework, Milagres instead fill Violent Light with richness and delicacy, channeling influences as diverse as Bowie, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, providing a durability of vision and influence that is as much born from the earth as it seeks to return to it.



The history of Milagres runs back more than a decade as Wilson performed under the name as a solo artist before moving to Brooklyn and eventually linking with current members Fraser McCulloch, Chris Brazee and new drummer, Paul Payabyab. In 2011, official debut Milagres record, Glowing Mouth, yielded a sight-unseen signing to Kill Rock Stars, national club and European festival touring, and inclusion on numerous year-end “Best of” lists for 2011 and 2012. Eponymous single, “Glowing Mouth” introduced audiences to Wilson’s brilliant falsetto hooks, as well as the band’s blinking, cold-medicine aesthetic. It was a fever dream, a fantasy world full of pitch and yaw, blurry edges and limitless possibility, choruses that erupted and hooks that stuck. Independent rock fans and press took note, as well as radio outlets KEXP and KCRW. Returning to the studio with McCulloch on production duties, Wilson and the band set out to expand and clarify the warm neon universe of Glowing Mouth.



Violent Light begins at the beginning. Wilson found inspiration for the record in the memories of childhood summers spent with his grandparents in Northern New Mexico. The caves, valleys and mesa burial grounds of the Pueblo Indians intermingled with Wilson’s conversations about atomic physics with his grandfather, a scientist on the Manhattan Project of the 1940s and the development of the hydrogen bomb in the 1950s. This mixture of twin organic compounds, the history of ancient people who made their lives in these caves in the earth and the lethal, brilliant modernity of the mid-20th century, unite and blur on Violent Light. When the recording for the album was complete, Wilson returned to visit his grandfather, an attempt to unify these visions, the scientist and the outdoorsmen poet. The conversation bore no fruit, and the listener is left only with the brilliant tension between these twin naturalisms on Violent Light. The stakes aren’t life and death, but how best to live in the shadow of modern fatalism, to wrestle with the meaning of the fire in the sky.



The album ranges across eras and soundscapes channeling psychedelica, dream pop and classic rock. Lead single, “Jeweled Cave” rides a winking Bowie hook, surging keyboard and syrupy backing vocals. Wilson insists in the tracer fire of the chorus, “We were in love” as the arrangement swirls around him. The stakes are in the sky on “Black Table” as Paul Payabyab’s insistent drumming backs an arrangement that easily could fit in the Peter Gabriel catalogue. Stand-out “Terrifying Sea” swells with immediacy, Wilson again drifting through a dangerous and elemental geography before pleading for connection, “I want nothing but you touching me.” Perhaps this is the “core of light” that Chris Brazee describes as lying at the center of these dark compositions. Even the bright, synthesizer-driven, “Sunburn” has Wilson wrestling between the earthly and the modern, “You felt real in a world of plastic, a bit of grit in a sterile place, I’ll be the bird flying up into the sunburn”, another of the album’s instantly memorable hooks. It is the Icarus problem, to have flown so high and burned our little wax wings: The caves of the Pueblo Indians dug into earth of the testing sites for the atomic bomb.



These tensions drive Milagres forward on Violent Light. Melodies and lyrics written partially in wanderings through Greenpoint and Williamsburg day and nightlife, Wilson and the band apply their unique democracy to fleshing out the arrangements that appear on the record. They take the listener into the belly of a remembered landscape, a meditation on the self and modernity as we have come to know and fear it. On final track, “Another Light”, Wilson sings, “When I was young I was afraid that I would never find a way home”, closing the record with, “I’m not afraid to die a natural death”, the final rest in the existential crisis. This is the atomic bomb, the ancient burial site, the melody hiding in the bar at the corner of Franklin and Manhattan Avenues. This, then, is the miracle, the bare feet and explosions of Violent Light, an intimate and ambitious record from a band with its toes on the ground and its eyes in the sky.
Jesse Marchant
Jesse Marchant
It could almost be inferred that Jesse Marchant wrote the songs for his new album over a period of months in New York City during which a lot of his world had come out from under him, in what he has described as “a general period of falling outs, absence and abuse, both of self and of what should or could have been surrounding”. But in the process of finding an end to that Marchant feels to have grown. One is not left to wonder why he chose to drop the moniker of his former releases (his initials JBM) for the use of his proper full name, nor why his voice and lyrics, recorded with a mouth-to-ear intimacy, emphasizing his deepening and wearying baritone, sit loud and naked atop the widescreen backdrop of the deep synthesizer and orchestral pads and arrangements, often reminiscent of “I’m on Fire” era Springsteen. There is a sense of wanting to take responsibility and a desire to have things seen and said clearly for what they are, directly.

The production of the record reflects that same growth, balancing a new, vivid sound with matured control and rootedness. The lyrics were written later in that same year, when Marchant toured the country twice alone, on early mornings in motel rooms and for a period that he spent following, in a rented house far into the desert around 29 Palms, CA. The tone and image of this is carried throughout the record – drenched in a blinding white sunlight, in the heat, in a dream.

The songs that make up this eponymous album are menacing, dreamy worlds of their own, each one unique for each listener, instantly relatable and surprisingly therapeutic: Marchant’s revelations are infectious. He is processing internal and external problems that aren’t just personal but feel like signs of our times, and in doing so has created an album that feels particularly important, relevant, and powerful.

Starting with the ambitious 6-minute, lyrically dense album opener “Words Underlined,” Marchant quickly establishes this tone. “Where were you,” he asks, “when all of this was fucked and on it’s side?”

“I am on your side,” he sings in the very next song “All Your Promise”, with a feeling like the dilemma has been resolved. But this is not an album of resolution; it’s an album of disillusion. Even the album’s poppiest song, “The Whip”, contains a biting social commentary: “everybody likes to feel they’re holding the whip.”

But for all its philosophical, world-weary tendencies, the album is really based in themes of lost love and failed relationships. Not in a conventional sense, but in the decidedly 21st century conundrum of looking for love in the age of disconnection. Marchant’s disillusionment is rooted in this disconnection, and ironically, it exists in opposition to his uncanny ability to articulate himself through music and, in turn, connect with listeners. But when focused on an individual, these theoretical ideas become painful realities.

Later in “The Whip” he sings, “I felt the sun…then I lost you…and I never got it back.” In “Every Eye Open,” he continues, “I’ve been living in lies too… and the secret sin that I’ve loved you for more than a little while.” And in “Stay On Your Knees,” “love was real, but the meaning was wrong.”

Whether at odds with the outside world or the world within him, the battles Marchant fights on this record are such that any intuitive, conscientious listener will relate. Perhaps the entire notion is contained in a single couplet from “Snow Chicago,” that feels at once exhausted and revelatory: “I just wanna feel at ease / And that for once I do belong.”

By Dave Godowsky w/Jesse Marchant.
Basic Shapes
Basic Shapes
Venue Information:
Rough Trade NYC
64 N 9th St
Brooklyn, NY, 11249