Capac ~ Through the Dread Waste

In 2017 This Is It Forever released an EP on a USB stick connected to a small lightbulb. This year the label is pushing the envelope even further with Capac‘s new release.  In order to access the “original constructions” of the music, one must burn a tiny fire log; instructions are found on a metal plate within.  Or one can simply enjoy the “deconstructions” in the digital download.

The concept mirrors the manner in which these songs are approached.  A quick look at the titles, and one may be fooled into thinking this is a Christmas album.  After all, there’s “O Holy Night” and a four part “In the Bleak Midwinter”.  But this music is deeper than holidays, as it’s also about the construction and deconstruction of folk tales and songs, which mutate with time according to their handlers.  An accompanying pamphlet details the history of these selections.  Yet if one never reads the track titles or pamphlet, one will likely never make the carol connection, save for “Ach Bittrer Winter”.  Oh bitter Winter, you are so cold, You have taken away the leaves of the green wood.  Memories of the song’s melancholy visit the ears, despite the instrumental nature of this version.  The same holds true for “In the Bleak Midwinter” (Snow had fallen, snow on snow; in the bleak midwinter, long ago.)  But the bulk of the project is inspired by a long poem from Robert Cooper, titled “Winter Morning”:

It’s cauld – it’s dark – through the dread waste
Yon starn, sae red, and sma
Presses its weak, encumber’d, beam
To perish in the sna’.  

“Winter Morning” presents a reading by a grandfather, joined first by children, then by grandchildren, its concurrent intonation exposing the linguistic evolution that separates cauld from cold.  The album’s sole choral piece follows,  channeling pleasant associations with Dead Can Dance.

Those familiar with Capac’s last winter outing, Sea Freeze, will be caught off guard by the timbre of the new album.  The former drew from the legacy of trip-hop, while the latter draws on the power of drone.  The former featured a female vocalist, while the latter is mostly instrumental.  The former danced in the light; the latter bunkers down in the dark.  “O Holy Night” is like nothing ever heard at a Christmas service (and if we’ve misspoken, please tell us where we can go next Christmas to hear it!).  The forlorn tone seems more suited to Tromsø, where the sun hides beneath the horizon for weeks.

Call this a realistic winter: cold, dark and grey.  The dread waste forces us indoors to find its opposite: warmth, light, color.  The little fire log is a symbol of a winter fire, “Winter Morning” a reminder of the reassuring nature of generations united in one place, fleeing the same cold enemy, passing down their stories and songs.  We may survive this winter still.  (Richard Allen)

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