Reflections on Winter

I’m being pulled hard towards the New Model Army album from 2016, Winter this past week or so. It’s strange, really, as I have always appreciated NMA, but wouldn’t be what you would call a rabid fan by any stretch of the imagination — I’m more of a casual listener, not even a fan. I couldn’t tell you one song from the next, or which album had what songs that I liked. Background music when I felt I needed to have some new sounds in my head.

I was looking for something different to listen to last week than what I normally listen to and recalled thinking Winter was a decent collection of songs when I listened to the album the first time about a year ago.

And now: I have the title track stuck in my head, and a few others worming their way into me ear.

I don’t know that I can explain. It’s a bit like the need to explore a tarot deck closer at the end of last year; I can’t articulate the attraction other than the album feels right for the moment, seems to grasp the wraithlike tendrils of whatever it is that my subconscious is driving towards without bothering to tell the lumbering lorry what the destination is that will be eclipsed. The very same otherworldly feel.

Yes, I know sometimes I come off as a bit of a crackpot who might benefit from a good dose of mood-altering prescription better-living-through-chemistry solutions to my mental stuff. I’m okay with it, although I wish I was more privy to the purpose, even if most people out there have always been a little disturbed by my approaches. Much of the weirdness, I am certain, still is an evolution even a year after giving up some of the drugs doctors thought would help me with persistent low-grade depression — I’m still rediscovering some of who I am after years of having had that part of my head stifled, walled in, closed off. I still revel in being able to write more consistently and frequently after years of authorized medication and even more years of alcoholic self-medication. Being depressed is a small price to pay to be able to write and to feel and think mostly straight again instead of walking though a fog of “meh”.

So it is nice to have something resonate so well. Take, for instance, the first verse to Echo November:

And everything laid before us now, nothing to conceal
I'm going back to the Nature Gods, the only thing that's real
And yes I heard the voices raised, I heard all the words you were saying
It sounds just like everything sounds, the sound of something praying

It’s the second line of that verse that grabs me: “I’m going back to the Nature Gods, the only thing that’s real”.

I guess that says most of it for me. Except that it’s not your Llewellyn mass paperback nature gods with candles and athames and incense — there is blood and viscera, pain and self-sacrifice as well as all those nice, fluffy, Disney-fied things that people prefer to focus on when they speak of their spiritualism. No — I’m not talking literally. I speak figuratively, although there is more to it than even that simple dichotomy. As I’ve said in the past, words are inadequate to express certain things — certain things are experienced, then known, and cannot be put into words:

The eternal Tao can never be completely described with spoken words or defined with written words. You cannot rely on words to understand it. You have to live it… and feel it.

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 1, as paraphrased by Derek Lin

Neither here, nor there — just some context for my thinking and possible explanation for the attraction. Lots of visionary imagery in some of the lyrics and, delving into the biographies of the band members over the past hour, it is quite apparent that we have some similar worldviews, even if there is not necessarily a direct mirroring of those views. So I guess it shouldn’t be all that much of a mystery as to why I’m being drawn into this album.

And yet, why now?

Was it the medication that made me say meh to so much of the life I was experiencing when I first heard it? Maybe. Or maybe it is just the moment that I need to finally really hear this album for reasons I am never meant to understand. And it might be a passing thing, but I can tell you the album is starting to sound like it is on Top 40 levels of high rotation in my listening.

The album itself is probably to sparse and driving for most people. It’s pretty stark and not full of fancy frippery. It’s not pretty. If it was a archetype, it’d be that battle-hardened drengr, weary from battles in the snowdrifts, ready to find her way home.

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