Shearwater – The Great Awakening: The Silence of Animals

While not quite reaching the intoxicating grandeur of the finest moments in his “Island Arc” trilogy, Jonathan Meiburg and his Shearwater find grace again with a new album to celebrate nature.

Photo credit: Bryan Parker

Here comes your heart attack / Starless and bible black / And here is the playoffs… ”(Here comes your heart attack / Starless and in biblical darkness / Here comes the end of the game …). A few words sung by Jonathan Meiburg at the opening of the new album by Shearwater, The great awakeningand the charm, the magic does not work again: this magic, which in particular had been lacking in albums of Meiburg from The Golden Archipelago, we find it here, finally, intact. And our happiness is enormous – despite the darkness of the words (not to mention the reference to King Crimson from his most abstract period): sublime, Shearwater is again sublime. The “worthy successor of Mark Hollis whisper those who have never recovered talk-talk. We, that talk-talk never completely convinced – and we know, of course, that we are wrong – so let’s rather rediscover the dizzying call of nature, the silence, the emptiness itself.

The great awakeningWe remember little by little having lost our interest, or less passion for music Meiburg from’Expensive Joy, as it became more down to earth, more rocket, more muscular, more trivial perhaps too. And the grip of the catastrophic American political situation, Meiburg had dropped his habit as a dreamy ornithologist, to go to scrap in the American REALITY arena: it was undoubtedly necessary for him to get involved in this way in an anxious context, but the result turned out to be far less indispensable musically, even if his latest album (6 years already!), Jetfly and Oxbow did not lack qualities, with a more electronic formula, almost Berlin (in the “Bowien” sense of the term).

So back to the organic, to the minimalism, with The great awakeningwhere Meiburg mourns humanity and chooses to represent a world without humans, an ideal world where animals rule: we have the right to find the naive, but what does it do good! This undeniable return to the magnificent singularity of the “Island Arc Trilogy” (the trio Palo Santo, Smoke THE absolute masterpiece of Meiburg – and The Golden Archipelago) also does not mean that he has given up his ambitions and his will to move forward: even more radical than the works from the years 2006 to 2010, The great awakening testifies to a patient journey from the initial darkness (this ” Starless and Bible Black “of Highgate) against the light, or at least a hypnotic whiteness. With his idealistic claim ” Far across the day / Carries the hope of a past life / Who never died completely / Keeps its shape in your mind again / It exceeds your eyes / Fills the storm drains / Start now (Through the day / Carry the hope of a past life / Which never completely died / Keeps its shape again in your mind / It invades your eyes / Fills the storm drains / It’s time to start …), the conclusion of Wind is love evokes the possibility of a new beginning …

One thing is immediately striking, from the first listen to the album: Meiburg noted certain excessive weighting (of greatness?), which weighed on his trilogy, and he decided to purify, to erode his music, from the reduced to its purest, its simplest expression. There are only approx Laguna Seca that tribal percussions (?) and guitar rumbles bring a little more abstract music to life, and so on Plot Orchestra that a touch of poetry is reborn: to soak up the rest of the 11 songs, the listener must have the same patience as Meiburg obviously put in writing and performing the album. This beauty, slow, is not immediate, not obvious, it must be deserved.

The most beautiful track on the album is called xenarthran : inspired by these strange animals, which are xenarthra (the family of armadillos, tapirs, sloths, mainly established in South America), Meiburg takes us on a strange nocturnal journey (While at night / Circles during the day – While at night / Turns during the day), hovering, mysteriously fascinating. It is a glaring example of what can be described as “ingenious” on the part of this musician, as marginal as he is utterly amazing, provided we are willing to give an attentive ear to what he has to offer us.

If something is missing The great awakening to be an indisputably new masterpiece within the discography of Shearwaterit’s probably one or two tracks that give a different perspective on the album’s overall atmosphere: Plot Orchestra explore this path, however Meiburg give it up too soon. A further touch of anxiety, threat, yes even terror would have made the trip even more gripping, more memorable.

But let’s not complain The great awakening is a completely separate record, a wonderful experience in every sense of the word. And he replaces Shearwater at the center of the game: in our soul and in our heart.

Eric Debarnot

Shearwater – The Great Awakening
Brand: Polyborus
Release Date: June 10, 2022

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