Poppy Nogood‘s follow-up to last year’s Music for Mourning continues to delve into the personal realm. The unofficial subtitle, “a self-portrait in four parts”, marks it as an introspective set; the fact that a dozen instruments are played by the artist and only three by guests cements the association. Jordan Ewert’s patient video for “last gasp” (see below) provides the metaphor, as the macro lens moves slowly toward and away from its subjects, which at the beginning and end appear to be lava and snow, but in the center seem like marbles. (Even with freeze frame, it’s hard to figure out how this was done!)
Patrick Nevada’s cover swirl is matched by the swirls of instruments; the title, Mood Paintings, was well chosen. Just as concentrated introspection can spur unexpected revelations, these four tracks float in nebulous clouds before coalescing. The opening movement (the highlight of Preserved Sound’s New Year’s compilation, Anticipation of an Uncertain Future) finds its footing when the piano emerges from the banks of guitars and strings. And while that same piano is heard at the start of the subsequent piece, it’s more of a launching pad for continued reflection.
While it’s tempting to try to match the four advertised emotions (hope, ecstasy, turmoil and longing) with the four tracks, each defies such easy labeling. Emotions are complex animals, and tend to bleed into each other; and different cultures experience timbre in different ways. This being said, “the light hits you eyes_i blink” is indeed the most hopeful track, which is why it debuted on January 1. As for the February tracks, stranger curtains descend. “last gasp” seems nervous, even agitated, as it extends past the point where the video ends. Its late drones stop just shy of fear; it’s clearly the “tension” track. A surprising entry of bass and percussion pushes “treading” above the surface, where wordless looped voices float on the waves. And “hold me like you do the sun” is bittersweet nostalgia, saudade.
In the end, Mood Paintings does exactly what one might expect from the title. It’s a bit less unified than its predecessor, which unfolded in a more linear fashion; but its compositional intention is to be a series of connected movements rather than a story. While listening, one is invited to paint one’s own emotional snapshots, and in so doing come to a deeper self-understanding. (Richard Allen)