Tag Archives: grief

Extended review – Family In Mourning featuring Lydia Lunch: Eulogy (Galtta)

Family in Mourning featuring Lydia Lunch: Eulogy (Galtta)

As concept albums go, it barely needs saying that Eulogy is among the less whimsical of its kind. But that is not to suggest it is a collection of songs burdened by the weight of their subject matter. With no wave poet Lydia Lunch, an ordained minister with the multi-faith Universal Life Church, fronting the most potent of the 10 tracks that make up this record, the overall mood is not so much sombre as reflective and feline, unafraid of allusions to the carnal impulses that can remain once a loving relationship is severed for ever.

Family In Mourning themselves are a funeral collective among whose ranks are an undertaker, a funeral director and a psychic adviser. They proudly tout their services for pre and post-mortem events starting at $5000, with prices for the higher end of their performances available on request. If you’re wondering how much of this is tongue-in-cheek, time spent with Eulogy should provide you with the answer.

It will also acquaint you with a sporadically devastating suite of songs that speak tenderly and eloquently to and about an experience common to every human being who ever walked the earth ­– loss – while making such sublime musical strides that it leads you to question why nobody has ever attempted such an undertaking before (sorry). This is music touched by echoes of Miles Davis, Swans, Johnny Cash and even glam rock. You might argue it is gothic in spirit, but sonically it is in a world of its own.

For an illustration of the sensitivity and acuity of Eulogy’s approach to death and mourning it is hard to see past Lunch’s lyrics on Dust And Shadows.

“What would you say to somebody who only had 30 days to live?” she purrs. “What could you say?/ That in this land of illusion/ We’re all just transitional creatures/ Peeping toms at the keyhole of all eternity/ That the past is only the present cloaked by invisibility/ And that the future is a murmur of a memory we will never possess.”

Thus she begins the 11-minute finale of Eulogy, a track fuelled by David Lackner’s keening saxophone, humid bass and jazz drums that builds in parallel with Lunch’s increasing distress, culminating in her promise to a departed loved one: “I won’t forget/ I won’t forget.” Questions of irrelevance, the cosmic hierarchy, purpose: all these and more are intrinsic to the grieving process and thus fair game for Lunch to mull over.

While Dust And Shadows is the highlight and emotional climax of Eulogy, the tracks that precede it only fall short by a whisker. Last Time We Met, a two-chord threnody garlanded by circling sax and ambient tones redolent of Oren Ambarchi’s sumptuously minimal In The Pendulum’s Embrace, gives Lunch’s mantra – “I’m making love to his ghost” – a suitably coital warmth, the introduction of queasy, off-axis drums merely adding to the low-level giddiness of the song.

Prey, which follows, finds Ben Lord posing as the Angel of Death armed with an acoustic guitar: “Come into the promised land/ Come into the promised land for you/ You are the prey that I have come for/ I wanna take your soul right now/ Push it in the fires that burn below.” Soon Lunch is repeating this reaper blues in a snarl Michael Gira would be proud of, psychedelic flute soaring and flipping like a leaf above a blazing pyre.

There’s also a poetry of sound at play within Eulogy that it would be remiss not to applaud, not least the opening Bell Tone, 19 seconds of crisp plangency that serves as the curtain raiser. The vignette Broken Glass pairs the sound of a broom on shards with portentous drone bass, while the apex of non-verbal grief therapy comes in the short intro to I Fell From Grace, wherein a disembodied choir emerges from heavily modulated noise and insistent organ, the cumulative effect being no less than euphoric, albeit at odds with the glam-rock ballad cum gospel of the song itself.

“Death is just a shadow,” Lunch repeats over and over as Eulogy arrives at its final resting place. If you find yourself in need of light, there could be no better place to start than this peculiarly therapeutic offering.

Click here to buy Eulogy from the Galtta Bandcamp page.

Review – Family in Mourning featuring Lydia Lunch: Eulogy (Galtta)

Family in Mourning featuring Lydia Lunch: Eulogy (Galtta)

As concept albums go, Eulogy is among the less whimsical of its kind. With no wave poet Lydia Lunch, a minister with the multi-faith Universal Life Church, fronting the bulk of the 10 tracks the mood is not so much sombre as reflective.

Family in Mourning describe themselves as a funeral collective, and number among them an undertaker, a funeral director and a psychic adviser, and they have authored a debut LP that speaks tenderly to and about an experience common to every human being who ever lived while making such a sublime noise you wonder why nobody has ever attempted such an undertaking (sorry) before.

Besides such hypnotic songs as Dust and Shadows and Last Time We Met, a two-chord threnody garlanded by circling sax and ambient tones, Eulogy finds space for poetry of sound, climaxing in the intro to I Fell from Grace, wherein a disembodied choir emerges from noise and insistent organ, the cumulative effect one of rhapsody.

“Death is just a shadow,” Lunch repeats over and over as this record arrives at its final resting place. If you find yourself in need of light, there could be no better place to start than this peculiarly therapeutic offering.

Watch the video for Last Time We Met below:

Buy Eulogy from the Galtta Bandcamp page here.

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.

Poetry and the power of grief

Moments of reflection can be thin on the ground. Whether due to pressures of work or family or the panicked ticking-off of an ever-lengthening to-do list, it’s rare that you can sink into a state of contemplation without the assistance of psychotropic drugs. At least, that’s how it is in the unbeautified hinterland beyond the west end of Glasgow that I call home. Perhaps the pollution from the nearby Clyde Tunnel is to blame.

Last week, though, I had two such experiences, where the clarity of the moment was unbreakable, where the immensity of the here and now engulfed my body and mind, or what’s left of the latter. Both occurred in the same locus and shared common aspects yet were otherwise an exercise in contrast.

The first came out of nowhere. I’d parked in the car park near the office and turned off the engine. I was as late as ever. But rather than getting a move on, I sat and let Bill Fay’s song Be At Peace With Yourself work its happy/sad magic over me.

“At the end of the day/ Ain’t nobody else/ Gonna walk in your shoes/ Quite the way that you do.” Unshackled from the voices that sing them, the words are prosaic. But their delivery by Fay and the London Community Gospel Choir lends them a poetic power that is enough to catch you unawares. Which is precisely what happened.

“So be at peace with yourself/ And keep a spring in your heel/ Keep climbing that hill/ And be at peace with yourself.”

I had a thousand-yard stare as the song brought vividly to mind my late mother and the acuity she’d bring to our conversations about life’s inevitable dips. Don’t let it grind you down. Rise above it. It was as if she were sitting in the passenger seat.

I’d thought the anniversary of her passing at the end of July would hit me like a train but was proved wrong. Instead, a month later, in the most mundane of surroundings, a whirlpool of grief threatened to suck me to its core. I could feel the current tugging at my feet, yet I swam free of it, crossed the beach and sought shelter in the dunes. It felt good.

Contemplation of a more frivolous nature struck with equal force a few days later as I exited the same car park after work. Hitting the on button of the stereo unleashed the silken strains of Us And Them by Pink Floyd. Glimpsing myself – Aviator shades, double denim – in the rearview mirror, the words of another song sprang to mind: “And you may ask yourself/ How did I get here?” How indeed.

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.

On grief, good and bad

On Boxing Day it will be five months since Mum died.

Never have I felt so exposed to emotional turbulence as in the time since. A sublime passage of music can reduce me to a bubbling heap, while sustained laughter leaves my body feeling as though it were flooded with opiates.

The first few weeks were spent wading through a mire of unquellable emotions, adjustment and reflection, barely an hour passing without having to check myself, swallow hard and soldier on. It must have been the same for my sisters and brother. I say must have, for it’s impossible to stay abreast of the nuances of each other’s sorrow. Grief evolves with neither pattern nor pity. We must each solve our own conundrum: how to fill an unfillable gap.

It was a summer to remember for positive reasons – a rare heatwave, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon – and their opposite: Mum’s certain and irreversible sinking into the maw of death, her voice, her functions and finally her fire extinguished.

Five months. One day it will be a year, and then two; and there will come a time when Ann Gray Guthrie has been in the loving hands of her God for a decade. Ten years gone. How many times will I have wept to My Sweet Lord by then? How often will I have shuddered at the void she has left come 2023? Material reminders – her binoculars, a set of coffee cups – are scant comfort.

At the time of Mum’s passing, Karen, my elder sister by 15 months (my parents’ generation didn’t shilly-shally), had made the skeleton and muscle of a documentary charting how Mum and the family dealt with her stroke (or strokes – so much about this ruinous condition is still unknown), and what it meant for her relationship with our father, her now ex-husband, Ian.

A working artist and doughty self-starter, Karen has scrabbled funding from various sources (not to mention pointed the camera, held the boom mic and done most else besides) and is within touching distance of putting the skin on the muscle.

By hook or by crook, the film will be completed, and perhaps the issues it highlights – how we care for the elderly, how best to live after being visited by the tactless brutality of stroke – will receive a fillip. The Closer We Get, it’s called. Google it, or if you’re on Twitter you can follow @thecloserweget. Don’t let the fact I’m in it put you off.

On a personal level, I look forward to having a permanent reminder of just how hardy my mother was. Knowing I share her genes will make growing old a little less frightening.

Watch the trailer for The Closer We Get below.

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.