Last year at this time, we reviewed Aperus‘ Archaic Signal, an album informed by petroglyphs and the lost civilizations of New Mexico. Weather Anomalies is a worthy follow-up, offered with similarly generous packaging; a car’s rusted hood graces the cover, while the packet includes a series of weather photographs.
When gazing upon these cloud formations, one might expect an album airy, light and dreamy, but this is not the case. The photos set up a strange dichotomy: the world as it is, and the world as we wish it could be. Spectacular shadows were created by 28 days of fire in the Santa Fe region: fires whose soot occurred the sun from west to east, affecting skies as far as New York. In “an already apocalyptic year,” Aperus (Brian McWilliams) was inspired to revisit old recordings and blend them with new. Karla K Williams contributes flute, Geoscience modular synth and Ivan Block guitar, deepening the textures as ash infiltrates clouds.
Precipitation is a constant presence, whether sheets of water or rumbles of thunder. The “=” signs on the cover are old weather symbols for rain. Helicopters crisscross the opening soundscape as a metallic pulse carries the tone from natural to mechanical. In the quarter-hour title track, looped notes wail a lament. The length of the track, paired with its dense, oppressive nature, suggests that what were once anomalies may now be perennial: no longer surprising, but expected. Fires rage; cities flood; locusts invade. In the 21st century we have grown desensitized to Biblical plagues.
In the wake of the foreboding “Up in Flames,” McWilliams offers “Collective Memory,” a more wistful piece whose theme hearkens back to Archaic Signal. Over the past two years, the very existence of collective memory has been challenged, as even recorded history (the pandemic of 1918) has been ignored. Perhaps the greatest repositories of collected memory are the Native Americans, the first and among the least appreciated of all North American cultures. As Chief Seattle once wrote, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” Could there be any greater evidence than our current glut of weather anomalies? As once we looked at the clouds and saw shapes, now we see skies so polluted that they take on a uniform hue, not a shape but a shroud. One day we may look at McWilliams’ photos with longing, remembering the blue above as it fades from our collective memory. Is a turnaround “Mirage or Vision?” The album lands on an open-ended question, suggesting there is still time, but not much. (Richard Allen)