songs: ohia – didn’t it rain deluxe edition

the blue moon is a hunter, and when you come face to face with that darkness and desolation… you are not helpless

this has always been a confessional endeavour. music will never cease to be intensely personal for me. there are good and bad reasons that it has taken four months to come back to what i know.

in the spirit of devastation, resilience and admitting more about one’s emotional state than one should, i pick up again with the reissue vinyl of didn’t it rain, which i’ve previously examined. so for this entry, i focus on the previously unreleased demo tracks, which was the main reason to part with the cash.

i’d been consumed late last year by the secretly canadian pre-release of the demo for blue chicago moon. my heart swelled every time i refreshed the soundcloud page (what a thing to say). i was stunned by it. i sang it out across the valley from my bedroom window in the mild midnights. what would a stranger make of hearing it like that? perhaps it was a form of mania cast outwards. right now, it’s the most beautiful thing i can imagine, and i still cannot stop listening to it.

the first song on the album, and first track here, is the eponymous didn’t it rain. in demo, there’s less dredging weight and more (almost) optimism or conviction about the content. it’s in his voice, and the little melodic flourishes in the guitar line. i try to mean things when i say them, even when it’s using others’ words such as jason molina’s here. this song was said to someone, by me; which somehow must still stand, as hard as that reality is. perhaps it’s now meaningless. but he always meant it with every fibre of his being.

rendered as drafts, of sorts, the second song of the demos is ring the bell. the album version jangles my nerves, offering a musical interpretation of the implement in the title through the excessively twangy electric guitar – which has always distracted me. but this version allows a lot more focus and attention to be placed on the story he’s actually telling. the ultimately urgent rhythm is still imparted by the rapid strumming of the acoustic guitar, but your consciousness of the experience he’s conveying makes this a much more powerful song in this form.

the experience is strangely replicated in the third demo and equally sequential album track, cross the road, molina. neither of these songs were anywhere near my favourites off the album itself, but have found new awe in my mind through hearing these renditions.

and then there’s the fifth demo (song one on side d), two blue lights, that is the closest to its album cousin. the final two demo tracks are not didn’t it rain album songs, but sit ideally within the snapshot of time when he was recording the others.

it’s perfectly sensible in my mind that the vinyl has a flaw. it crackles over some tracks more than the warmth of a record should. i’m still contemplating whether to go through exchanging it. but the flaw makes it somehow more real. imperfectly heard. still understood.

i know why the songs in these forms were not right for the album versions. but in hindsight they are the most spectacularly beautiful and simple articulations of emotion. this is the core of his eminence, and the scale of the world’s loss.

why wouldn’t i be trying to figure it out?
i don’t know what it looks like; i don’t care what it looks like

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