Louise van den Muyzenberg’s striking cover image makes the perfect entry point. The figures are dotted yet complementary ~ if they were to hug, their holes might even match up. The image is an homage to the yin/yang, an intimation that humankind might not be comprised of polar opposites, despite such rampant xenophobia. We might have much to learn from each other should we look for commonality, or at the very least, the freshness of different perspectives.
The album is released as migrant crises continue to proliferate around the globe, from caged children at the Mexico/U.S. border to continuing problems in Syria and other war-torn nations. And Where Are You Really From? asks McCorry, floating the question not in terms of national identity, but of atomic makeup. Each of us may contain molecules from multiple continents. Our ancestors evolved from single-celled sea creatures. Before that, we were stardust. So why do we get along so awfully?
In this context, opening track “Music Like Water” seems a return to primordial roots, as dancing strings sprout from precipitation like mitosis. Here we are, single-celled organisms yearning to breathe free; tired, poor, huddled masses of protoplasm. We are in the race to evolve, but at least we’re all on the same level, with no time to remark that that protoplasm is a funny color and “not like us at all.” Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” comes to mind: and another with spots! Toward the end of the track, the turbidity is replaced by (literal) waves of peace. What do the seabirds care of our distinctions? How does the tide regard our stereotypes?
In spring, the word migrations is associated with birds, but the track of the same name asks us to remember human migration, stretching from colonial expansion to the European migrant crisis. We flee warfare and poverty; we set our sights on safety and opportunity. Yet our minds can also migrate from ignorance to awareness, from conservative to liberal and vice versa. An evolution of thought is also a migration. Once again the strings prod the exodus: from staid thoughts to active, from numb acceptance to questioning. In ten years, might the figures on the cover switch places? In a hundred years? A thousand? How long does it take to become other?
After the sprawling and lovely “Bold As Love,” the album comes “Full Circle,” returning once again to the sea. We are gone; our components are scattered, air and water and dust. And where are you really from, asks a speck of our former body. The same place as you, a second speck responds. And other places as well. (Richard Allen)