boxhead ensemble – the last place to go

i had to follow last night’s disappointment with something i knew was up there with the best. and this isn’t an obvious best for most people i would think. it is my music though.

it seems entirely appropriate that this music was performed for the european screenings of the braden king and laura moya documentary dutch harbor: where the sea breaks its back in 1997. i was first drawn into the music and the film by the involvement of will oldham (you’d be used to that by now!), ken vandermark and mick turner and jim white of dirty three.

i feel sick saying it’s atmospheric, but think of that in terms of the actual atmosphere that envelopes the world. this suite of releases related to the film mean so much to me because of so many factors – hearing the aleutian woman lamenting their disappearing language and culture; a woman called carolyn reed speaking the most remarkable passage about why she moved to this place (transcribed below in full); the sound of fierce winds and actual film spinning in the projector.

the music has the most surreal quality of any manufactured sounds i’ve ever heard. it’s not in the least bit experimental though – in fact it’s completely organic and invokes images so plain and clear and cold (except for the warmth conveyed by coastal boarder with the gorgeous cello of fred lonberg-holm, unmistakeable brushes of snare from jim white and guitar flourishes from mick turner).

the film itself is up there as one of the most affecting, and i mean truly soul-altering. along with mabo in the same league, it reaches into the centre of your self and grabs a tight hold. it makes you think about the things we place meaning in, as large and small societies, and what life is like on the margins and sometimes way outside them. it makes so much seem insignificant and worthless as preoccupations and obsessions in everyday life.

i’ve fantasised many times about finding a place like dutch harbor as described in carolyn’s theme, and one day perhaps i will actively seek it:

i think one thing i’ve been fighting for a lot of my life growing up in the suburbs was the types of houses you’re s’posed to live in, the types of jobs that you’re s’posed to have, the types of relationships that you’re s’posed to have. coming up here, i could just start to create my own type of environment, my own type of relationships, and i wouldn’t have people telling me i couldn’t do it. maybe it’s called escapism, but to me when i look at people that go out and really do kind of leave the place of their original society, it’s because they’ve tried to work with it but they just cannot truly work with it and feel a peace of mind in their heart. and so they just have to leave and go and try and create their own world. and so this type of a place for me was like a place that was left that still could potentially be alive…

and while the song below is from perhaps my most favourite album ever, ocean songs by the dirty three – not the european screenings – it’s necessary to convey the beauty of the place and the images (as directed by braden king using footage from the film):


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