Scott Churchman‘s latest (and long overdue) cassette, “Ignore That Noise,” is haunted. Figuratively and literally.
There’s more than music embedded on the magnetic tape here. There’s a spectral presence pulsing inside. A revenant. A wraith. Press “play” at your own risk, because once you do it will slip its shadow-fingers deep inside you and work its midnight magic like nobody’s business.
Okay, so I’m being melodramatic. Hyperbole is fun. Sue me.
Seriously, though, “Ignore That Noise” is one ghostly piece of business. Not in a Misfits “devil locks ‘n’ corpse paint” kind of way. Rather, in a subtler, much more effective way. A lot of that has to do with Churchman’s voice. It’s smooth, casual and slightly detached. Somewhere between mournful and vacant. At the same time, it’s incredible evocative, poignant and vaguely seductive, but in a very human, untintentional, flawed kind of way.
The music on “Ignore That Noise,” then, is a perfect fit for Churchman’s own idiosyncratic, funereal charisma. Opening track “Ella” sets the tone with its deliberate, droning, delicate-touch dirge-folk that blossoms briefly into a dramatic burst of moonglow. Following that, “Right Ones” delivers tangy, twangy country that sounds like it was recorded in a big, old, dilapidated chapel beside an abandoned, overgrown cemetery. Outside, the sky is dark with storm clouds. It’s not about to rain, though. It already has.
After that, “Setting Sun” gets surprisingly bright, despite all its oft-repeated chorus telling us “You can’t stop the setting sun.” Here the statement becomes oddly reassuring, as if Churchman knows that, sometimes, people actually want to be reminded that, for all their shrieking and scraping and squabbling, they ultimately have no power over the universe. Sometimes the promise of imminent death is comforting. Then again, maybe it’s just me.
Yeah, I guess I’m a morbid weirdo.
Anyway, the track shows off a lot of Churchman’s 70′s pop influences. So there’s that.
Track #4, “Ocean,” is almost the polar opposite off “Setting Sun,” all oppressive/depressive density, echoing endlessly as if from within an emptiness. Along with track #5, “Anna,” “Ocean” forms the black-hole sun around which the rest of “Ignore That Noise” orbits, acting as the purest, most perfect realization of Churchman’s disquieting, disorienting and distorted aesthetic. Where “Oceans” has an atmosphere of anger to it, “Anna” feels more like a straight lament, tragic romance bordering on suicidal hysteria.
Both tracks, however, benefit from the prominence of the weird, dissonant sounds that emerge from the shadows of Churchman’s rustic, cemetery-in-winter melodies.
“Snow Fall Sound” and “Silent” are all-too-brief mirror images of “Anna” and “Ocean,” respectively. “Snow Fall Sound” echoes the fragile poetry of “Anna,” while “Silent” represents another doom-saying prophecy of cataclysm along the lines of “Ocean.”
Elsewhere, the aforementioned 70’s pop influences rear their heads more dominantly on the crooning, finger-snapping “Above the Sky” and the curious “Harp,” which starts out as an epic meditation on sadness and dread before suddenly growing wings and soaring into the heavens. Dependably, Churchman quickly fires an arrow and drops the bird his song has become back down to Earth, where it dies in the grass, staring up at the sky it just seconds ago knew so intimately.
I did mention that I’m a morbid weirdo, right? And that I find melodramatic hyperbole fun?
Okay, cool. Glad we’re on the same page here.
Following that, “Fall” is another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it miniature sojourn into corn-fed, rural-wasteland angst that spirals into nonexistence just as quickly as it began. And, finally, that bring us to “Sleep,” the longest track on the album, and one where Churchman’s voice packs its greatest punch, softening up a bit to reveal a more human, less ominous side that perfectly complements the song’s lonely-but-shiny, shimmering underwater guitar strumming.
A surprisingly uplifting and utterly appropriate denouement for an album that feels so much like someone taking you buy the hand and leading you into an open grave. “Sleep” is the moment of peace that follows the last gasp.
Here’s hoping it’s not another three years before Churchman rises from his resting place again. His is one haunted house I wouldn’t mind taking up year-round residence in.
Choice cuts: “Right Ones, “Ocean,” “Anna,” “Harp”