Written by: The Administrator
Greetings, dear (beloved, neglected) readers! It has admittedly been a few months, but we slumbering scribes have finally returned to our drafty scriptorium, largely thanks to today's artist in question. I've been a fan of Mae Shults' Everson Poe for a few years now, and the promise of a new album following fast on the heels of March's excellent servant was enough to draw me back into the fray. And so here we are, expansive track premiere primed and ready. Let's get into it, shall we?
Everson Poe has never shied away from the long form, but with the forthcoming The Tower (Nov. 23rd via Trepanation Recordings) Mae embraces wholeheartedly the, um, even longer form. Here, she delivers two tracks that each run north of 25 minutes. As a result, both sides lean heavily into the kind of slow and elongated build that implicitly rewards in-depth listening sessions. The track we are premiering here today, "i. upright," serves as Side A, and clocks in at a trim 26 minutes and 50 seconds. If you're not already thinking about Everson Poe in terms of epic narrative, now is the time to start doing so.
In the typical track premiere here at ye olde Sleeping Village, this is the part where I mention something about checking out, post-haste, the track conveniently located below the fold. However, given both the substantial length and the emotive weight of today's offering, I'll alter that recommendation. Rather than biting off more than you can realistically chew at this moment in time, I definitely recommend hitting play at a time that affords you the space and ability to actively listen and enjoy in full. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Please stretch and hydrate accordingly. Disclaimer aside: more below!
While undeniably heavy across the board, Everson Poe transcends genre in a way that few artists are able to achieve, melding doomy ambiance with post-metal elegance and blackened rage with sludgy heft. In the spirit of this approach, "upright" is a track that defies classic summarization. As an isolated song and a component part of a larger project, it is intrinsically intense both by benefit of composition and subject matter. Indeed, the album description indicates that, like many Everson Poe albums, this is not an easy listen. I'd wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. I also hasten to add that a difficult listening experience is very far from a negative quality. Beyond lending repeat listens a certain gratification, this is a track that demands extensive attention. It has a unique depth.
Everson Poe has previously used vocal and dialog samples to great effect, and here, that element returns in the form of hateful tirades alongside oppositional declarations. In the face of ideological and political institutions that serve to strip the rights and humanity of trans people, the album's protagonist--a trans woman--presents a narrative that is not reflective of a distant dystopian fiction, but rather a tangible experience. Hateful statements scattered throughout the track aren't merely cartoonishly evil--they are real and current. To highlight one example among many, the track's midsection includes a moment where a parent discusses a lack of willingness to save their child.
The heartless "no" followed by the pounding low end is physically heartwrenching. Truly sinister stuff. That said, it is not all gloom--the multiple voices condemning overt genocidal action are impactful on their own right. The first instance of dialog is from activist Loren Perkins, whose powerful testimony sits well within the instrumentation and sets a precedent for the stoicism at the core of the album. The instrumentation and gloriously powerful vocals work together seamlessly to provide even more emotive oomph.
If we're being real, I could talk about this track's excellence all day, so for the sake of brevity, let me pull out a few key moments. I love the hollow drums, somber riff, and yearning vocals across the track's first few minutes. They are collectively open and longing, creating a sparse atmosphere that feels notably solitary. It is powerful feeling upon which to enter the track and album--even with knowledge of the fullness that follows, the intro still makes me feel like I am lost with the narrator in the middle of a vast field, surrounded by nothing but dark unknown. Mae is a genuine master of dynamics, and this sense of isolation pairs nicely with the fullness that the track demonstrates in later sections. Speaking of yearning vocals, the guest list here is stellar, and the resulting choir of voices across the breadth only adds to the intensity. Every application of vocals feels poignant. Mae is a talented curator of voices, whether spoken, sung, or screamed.
I also love the moment around the 19:30 mark where the cacophony of voices is drowned out by a swell of punchy riffage and distant howls. Later, a somber choir rides the current behind rolling drums, eventually persisting alongside yet more dialog. The vocals issue a call to arms: "how much blood is on your hands?/ you who wear the stolen crown/ never shall your tower stand/brick by brick, we'll tear it down." While the overall story does ultimately require Side B "ii. reversed" to feel truly conclusive, the track ends on a moment of defiance and strength.
"upright" is stellar. The execution here is beautiful and formidable. Everson Poe historically creates music that exists in my mind far after the track has ended, and this song is no exception. Indeed, it serves as a prime example of Mae's strengths. "upright" and the tower as a whole don't exactly present an opportunity for idle listening, and I've found myself returning again and again.
In sum, this is an arresting track, and the tower is a striking album. If this isn't a contender for my year end list, I frankly don't know what is. I highly recommend giving it a listen. And then another listen. And perhaps another for good measure?
Everson Poe - the tower will be released Nov. 23rd, 2023 via Trepanation Recordings and Euphoriadic. Find it here, snag that preorder!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.