Music

David Kilgour: The Far Now

Dreamlike clarity and gentle surreality suffuse David Kilgour's sixth full-length solo album, another slow-burning triumph.


David Kilgour

The Far Now

Label: Merge
US Release Date: 2007-01-23
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

There's something incandescent about David Kilgour's sound, an echoey surreality, a spiritual immanence that can't quite be contained in the simple melodies he strums and sings. Whether it's how he records or how he plays or just how he is, his songs have always been more than the sum of their parts, luminous, mysterious and inexplicably gorgeous. Since his days with the Clean, Kilgour has recorded six full-length solo albums, full of light and dotted with epiphanies but couched in modest psyche-folk-pop terms.

Kilgour's last album The Frozen Orange was recorded in Nashville with Mark Nevers producing and members of Nevers' Lambchop sitting in. With The Far Now, he's back to New Zealand -- and back to basics -- relying on his long-time band, the Heavy Eights for dreamlike texture and context. The songs on this album range from the very spare -- "I Cut My Heart Out Once" is just Kilgour's voice and acoustic blues guitar -- to dizzying density, as on the instrumental closer "Out of the Moment", with its multiple guitars and rich threads of viola. Alan Starrett, who played a variety of stringed and keyboard instruments for the Clean, supplies violin, viola and cello, adding subtle warmth and plangent melancholy to about a third of the cuts. He is particularly affecting on "Too Long for Me", underlining Kilgour's backwards-looking wistfulness with a one-person string trio. "Wave of Love", one of two cuts co-credited to Kilgour and long-time collaborator Tony De Raad (ex of the Mad Scene), is perhaps the best cut on this uniformly gorgeous album. It piles layers of acoustic guitars, keyboards and harmonies onto its down-drifting melody, yet the orchestration feels light and shimmery as clouds.

The lyrics are lightly mind-bending, as well. "It's all under fog/ Can't be seen", Kilgour sings in "Under Cloud," simple strummed acoustic overlaid with indefinite slides and harmonies, and it's like George Harrison at his best, perfectly simple melodies that imply the infinite. Drifting as the words do, in and out of pearlized mists of melody, it is sometimes hard to make them out. Later in"Yenisei" (that's the name of a river in Mongolia, but it won't help you understand the song), Kilgour speak-sings the lyrics, slipping above and below the mix of guitars and drums. "I got drunk/ On Yenisei," he starts, straightforwardly enough, but the rest is a mumble. It's not quite frustrating, though, because the lyrics you do catch seem to be about uncertainty and indistinctness... it almost makes sense that you can't hear them.

There are hints of the modern world in these songs -- the helicopters in "BBC World", the the disturbing news programs in "Wave of Love" -- yet the music, syrup-viscous guitar slides and radiant vocal harmonies seems to smooth over all troubles. "I can't get out of this song/ I really could live in this song," sings Kilgour in the chorus to "We Really Can't Get Along". We could all do a lot worse than to live in these songs. Low-key and slow-burning, The Far Now is nevertheless a triumph.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image