Wife Signs ~ Beneath the Weight of Care

The current worldwide pandemic has detonated many a discussion around care, about what it means, about who should or should not enact it, about the loss, the warmth, the worth, even the commotion that ensues from a myriad small acts of love, to the point of toppling old symbols of carelessness. What lies Beneath the Weight of Care is a community, the kindness of living with another, the remembrance of the roots that constitute experiences in common. Wife Signs, following the same path of poetic ambient artists like Federico Durand, Midori Hirano or Rafael Anton Irisarri, crafts music that seems to be much more interested in that process of affection, the construction of a deeply emotional environment. In it, sentimentality recovers its philosophical core, in which present and past are impossible to separate, in which to live is to become memory unfolding, the consciousness of all things lost a quiet reminder of all that is in need of healing.

Inspired by the piano works of Ethiopian composer Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, Wife Signs articulates what makes songs of longing and nostalgia so necessary, what makes them feel like the moment when one realizes a wound will eventually stop hurting, leaving only a memory behind. Guèbrou is a nun whose family suffered greatly during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, and who wrote pieces that by the 1970s would become associated with a genre called tizita. Embroiled with diasporic histories of Ethiopians and the songbooks in the Amharic language they carried throughout their exiles, tizita often spoke of baggage, of heart-homes that were no longer, and the very risk of forgetting it all: one day, one might wake up, and everything once cherished would dissolve instantly, like snapping out of a dream. As a distant lament, the tizita melts away the line between the care of communities and communities of care, a nun’s dedication to God streamlined into concrete works (even musical), a group of expats keeping alive a remembrance of shared life somewhere that is not here, adding, bit by bit, to a trove of histories whose heaviness is invisible.

Wife Signs’ piano is the exact opposite of the decisive, clear styling with which the instrument is commonly associated, fading in and out, seemingly opaqued by a cloud of soft drones and low noises. It seems forever stuck mid-way between absence and presence, its melodies the center of a swirl with no end, a mist whose bright drones reassure you that the uncertainty of their tones is in fact a source of peace. The melodies themselves are minimal, echoing and repeating across the entire album, the core of memories winding up and unravelling and winding up and unravelling once more over time. The tranquillity constantly created by the music is practically meditative: it is by turning inward that the knowledge of the outside is preserved, taken care of, every relation to the other also a relation to the self. The cloud of drones and noises weigh nothing, and yet they burden the melodies with a distance that seems impossible to dispel. Just like the tizita reflects the community in movement, Beneath the Weight of Care attempts to connect us with a tradition reimagined, with yet another process of remembrance. If it makes you think of someone, or of something, or of a moment in your own history, it has accomplished its great assurance: you are not alone, and that memory or thought is a small act of love, a burden that reveals there is a myriad connections between you and the rest of the world. You are always losing them, and yet they remain. They are yours, just like you are theirs, and will be so till the end. (David Murrieta Flores)

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