jason molina – pyramid electric co

i could just tell it was bad, i couldn’t tell how bad

i think i have something to blame pitchfork for – though i can’t hold it against william bowers who is an excellent writer. but i always thought fuck that band because of what i read about jason molina, especially if you take in the review for this release. his music was always described as either a rip off of other artists i loved, so not worth entering (which turned out to be wholly untrue), or too depressing or affected to be of any broader interest than moments of wallowing.

everyone warns of the darkness of this particular molina release. it’s harrowing, painful, “grabs you violently and lays you down so, so gently”. in fact, bowers concludes that if you “get” it, congratulations; you’re impenetrable. i actually think it’s far from these descriptors and, well, i won’t comment on the latter. these songs are spectacularly beautiful. for a start, i’ve never heard a guitar played like that on pyramid electric co, the first song.

three of my favourite molina songs appear on this album (though the proportion of favourites to all recorded songs is high in this instance) – red comet dust, spectral alphabet and long desert train. the first of these, for instance, invokes both other-worldliness, celestial bodies and a firm set of roots in the place we live. who can debate the amazing groundedness of such a lyric as i want to be true like the solid earth? i think of this song when i’m in the mountains and there’s no other body around. that’s the real truth of life and existence, out there. it is exactly what it is.

as an album it’s like a palindrome of seven songs. the first and last songs are lamentations on reality of similar sounds – strong and long in their way, and exposing the superfluous nonsense that we preoccupy our lives with. the second and sixth are stunning ruminations on the universe, as in astronomical and philosophical. the middle three are about everyday experiences of sorts – prostitution, relationships, travail. they show just how gorgeous his voice and thoughts were.

i can’t tell you how much i’ve cried since i found out he had passed away. i was at work. someone came to talk to me just after i’d read the news. i think they knew. but what do people usually cry about in public? maybe receiving bad news about a loved one or a close friend – not a musician on the other side of the world who ended up meaning more to you than you could ever have imagined. it’s inexplicable and perhaps, as mentioned above, impenetrable.

of course, much of his music from across various releases came to mean so much afterwards – those who listened heard the lyrics anew. there’s a level of predictability that makes the pain that much greater.

but i completely disagree that if you appreciate and love music such as jason molina made, you are prone to want to hurt yourself or hate yourself or slowly/quickly kill yourself. what layers beneath the obvious in all of his creations is a sense of resilience and sometimes paradoxical joy about the simplicity of the world and universe around us, and sometimes even the pain. you know you feel that; it makes you and it real.

i think people react negatively to music like this because most can’t deal with being alone, in their own mind and body, and grasp what that truly means. it’s like the avoidance of thinking about death because of the prospect (reality) that there’s nothing there. as the sticker on the back of my car implies, the end is infinite.

regardless, i’m not sure i’ll ever get over his early death. the fact that there will be nothing new ever again for the remaining years of my own life before that nothingness that he now inhabits, when there was probably so much more to be sung.

unlike molina’s music, the pain in my chest whenever i think of him is nearly unbearable. and that’s remembering forever.

i think we’ll be okay


2 responses to “jason molina – pyramid electric co

  1. thank you so much for sharing that john. i can’t find words right now, but will write to you about it more when i can. i did finally get myself the “hard copy” of sojourner, along with hecla & griper on vinyl. looking forward to the tribute album arriving too…

  2. Just this weekend I was traveling with a friend through the Appalachians in North America on a road trip; and as long roads normally remind me of Jason Molina, we went through many of his most popular albums: Magnolia Electric Co., Fading Trails, Sojourner, What Comes After The Blues.. We began speaking of his prolific catalogue and began speaking about his many solo projects, as well as his many sides from Near-Country as Josephine, the Lo-Fi beginnings of Songs-Ohia, and the sort-of Singer Songwriter recordings such as Pyramid Electric Co.
    I had forgotten about this gem, and was a little embarrassed, especially since it holds one of my favorite Molina tracks, Honey, Watch Your Ass. My friend also admitted that two of his favorite Molina songs, Red Comet Dust and Spectral Alphabet, were also on Pyramid Electric Co.

    It wasn’t until I read this wonderfully insightful eulogy that I saw Mr. Molina’s work sectioned into different categories as well, in lyrical content. Which you are absolutely right, my traveling buddy is decidedly on the side of the in “astronomical and philosophical” side of Molina where as I tend to fall deeply for the “everyday experiences” songs such as Just Be Simple, Don’t Fade On Me, and The Dark Don’t Hide It. Whatever your preferences, it’s truly a testament to Molina’s wide scope and ability to speak to a large variety of people. Why Pyramid Electric Co. was met with such skepticism is beyond me. It has that unabashed personality that I so love from In The Human World/No Moon On The Water with the clear warm and unique guitar sounds from Magnolia Electric Co. Demo recordings.
    Honestly I picked up Pyramid due to a conversation I had with Molina; I can’t recall exactly how the conversation went, as after his death I have been trying to recall all our conversations but as experiences go, we aren’t aware of the true value until other experiences remind us that we have lost the chance to experience them again, but anyway he didn’t give the normal musician’s pitch about it, just saying they were songs he needed to record.
    I too was completely shaken by his death. I called a mutual friend to offer my respects, although in retrospect I needed consoling myself, even though I didn’t know him really, and definitely not nearly as well as my friend. My friend said “John, people are leaving this planet, aren’t they?” which at the time didn’t help. But later I found these words strangely consoling after all; and possibly something Molina would have agreed with, considering his astral affinity. He has left this world, but not before giving us some consoling for the all darkness we are bound to encounter before we leave this world too. And now it’s not just the long road that reminds me of Molina, but also the vast night sky and the idea that he might be there in some philosophical way. (also he might be gone, but we still might get some new music from him, as he mentioned recording several albums that he wanted to release slowly).

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