Right off the bat, Disaster Amnesiac must say that Alan Sondheim & Azure Carters' new ESP Disk' CD Plaguesong is brilliant. As usual, it's wonderful to listen as Alan plays a range of instruments. Whether it's the sparse flute tones of Creatures, or the studied and reverent treatment of Guqin, or the skilled strumming in Promised Land and Derelict, or the fascinating, lonely harmonica tones of As Above So O As Below, or the beautiful violin on Sentence, he demonstrates the kind of mastery of musical thought that Disaster Amnesiac has come to expect from all of his myriad output. Added to this, you have Azure and her wonderful, clear voice. Seriously, a few listens to Plaguesong, and it's guaranteed that you'll be hearing her lyrics in your sleep, as I have. Trip on the straight dada of Mno, or marvel at the clear, simple insights of World; you'll love them as you find yourself singing their lyrics to yourself, as I have. Such a lovely, clear voice from Ms. Carter.
These two just make great music, music that's forged from deeply rooted personal vision and steadfast effort, effort that has been put in over great spans of time. Sondheim and Carter mean it, and they show it.
All that said, Disaster Amnesiac seriously struggles with Plaugesong. It's just REALLY tough to listen to. You see, the album is the direct result of Sondheim and Carters' experience during this year's lockup of pretty much everyone on earth. Per the liner note, all of its tracks were recorded in a single room within their flat in Providence. Also per the note, Plaguesong's music is directly the result of "isolation, depression, anxiety, and fear". These emotions are ones that I'm sure it's safe to say we ALL have felt since mid-March 2020. They are also emotions that I'm sure it's safe to say we are going to continue to feel well into the future. As such, Plaguesong hits a bit too close to home. Often when listening to music, Disaster Amnesiac has no trouble being objective. In fact, that objectivity is the reason behind my moniker. An album about the event that is fucking up the lives of me and everyone else, to whatever extent, though? Kind of hard to NOT be a bit subjective! It brings to mind the sage words of Wilmington CA poet Jack Brewer: "...pain is real/as real is pain..." Listening to Plaguesong is just too painful for me, too damn REAL, knowing from whence it springs, and, as such, I have struggled with it. Big time.
Again, I love the music of Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter. Their output always arrives at chez Amnesiac to excitement and enthusiasm. Plaguesong did as well. After multiple listens, the terror of the experience that it's about looms large on my already frazzled perceptions. It is in no way an easy experience. This is not an easy album to take in.
Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter have documented what they've been going through in honest terms, and, as stated, the music, singing, and lyrics are brilliant, but Disaster Amnesiac has really had a tough time with it. It's the REALITY thing. Plaguesong dips into it fully. Or, as Azure sings in My Life, "....I hate my life/my life does.....SUCK..." Is there a person out there currently that that doesn't apply to in spades, at least for some of the time?
As the recent months have rolled past, Disaster Amnesiac has pondered that someday, someone is going to write the novel that encapsulates this thing that we're experiencing. I feel as though that will only come with some hindsight. For example, Pynchon's Bleeding Edge, from 2013, is a pretty damn great novelization of the 9/11/01 experience. Alan Sondheim and Azure Carter have, with Plaguesong, produced a pretty much in real time artistic document that captures the terrors which most of us wrestle with currently, and into the foreseeable future. Perhaps they'll be the ones to do a music summation of this disaster, after its time has passed, and they have absolutely summed its current state well.
Seriously, I hate what this album is about. So I struggle with Plaguesong, not for any aesthetic reasons, but for purely emotional ones, despite my best intentions. If you're in a dark mental place, you may want to hold off on listening to it, even if you are a fan Alan and Azure. It hits hard, and it seems like we're only in about Round 3 of this World Historical heavyweight match.