Elders is a reflective album, rising from the ashes of an undisclosed “personal failure.” Was it a romantic relationship, a business venture, a relocation attempt? Perhaps it’s better not to know, as the album is more accessible as a result. This fifth full-length set from Gowaart Van Den Bossche is available separately as well as with Lost Tribe Sound’s subscription series.
The warmth of the recording seems to indicate that the artist composed this music as comfort, creating something precious to mark what might otherwise have been remembered as a difficult time. Acoustic guitar is the main feature, but Elders, unlike prior recordings, also draws upon field recordings and overdubs for depth. There’s even a bit of recited Persian poetry. As opening track “Hier” grows declarative in its closing minutes, one can sense a newfound strength.
In a bit of English misdirection, the title Elders is Dutch for Elsewhere while “Hier” means “here.” The other titles are translated “over there,” “further,” and “somewhere.” In the spirit of Pico Iyer, yadayn asks, “where and what is home?” When one has traveled for many years, one may develop a wanderlust, wondering if there is truly a place where one belongs ~ and if, once found, one may be satisfied to remain there. The wistful nature of “Ginder” hammers this point home, as piano descends to a soft, uncertain electronic sheen.
Pieces of folk songs are woven into the tapestry, most recognizably a snippet of “My Favorite Things” in “Elders I” (2:28-32). When comparing countries or homes, it’s easy to make a list of comparative advantages. But when push comes to shove, the heart makes the final decision. As the narrator speaks of a lover in “Verder,” so does yadayn speak wordlessly in the other pieces about place. If home is where the heart is, what happens when the heart is broken?
Perhaps the healthiest answer is to reflect and give thanks. Sometimes places and people don’t work out, and we can either reject the entire experience or delve into the richness of experience. We have lived fully and lost deeply. This bittersweet tone hangs over Elders like a drop cloth, but is part of its allure. The past few years have nudged Van Den Bossche to make a different type of music, and the listener, at least, is better off because of it. (Richard Allen)