Friday, April 17, 2015

Abstract Heart

"Our last record was written as an escape from the situations we were dealing with at the time. But there is only so long you can suppress reality." - Kathryn Pepper, 2015

Zervas & Pepper seem to be pitching Abstract Heart as something of a comedown album. If Lifebringer was a dream of coasts, canyons, and Americana, its follow-up is the life to which you return upon waking. It's an album of troubles and sadness and terror, and of attempting to deal with those problems in the best way possible.

Having said that, we're still in much the same musical territory as we were back in 2013. Z&P have brought a few new tricks back from their recent trip to India (most audible on closing track Celestial Friend), but overall, they're still emulating their American heroes: David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, and so forth.

Not that this is a bad thing. Lifebringer was a wonderful album, and Abstract Heart is wonderful too, with Z&P still sounding like the perfect people to have in the back seat of your convertible as you drive along the Californian coastline. In fact, one of my favourite things about this new record is the dissonance between the sunny, laid-back music and the dark, worried lyrics. The aforementioned final track, for example, deals with the death of a close friend, while Terraform addresses the very real possibility of Earth going to total wrack and ruin in the near future. Then there's the title track, which Paul Zervas himself has stated is 'pretty dark lyrically':

And yet none of these songs really sound like they're about anything other than jamming your way around the USA, and that's the true, tragic beauty of Abstract Heart: even as Zervas & Pepper look life's darkest themes in the eye, they're still tugging in the other direction, trying to escape back to their Lifebringer universe (where everything was bright and exciting and magical).

All of which brings me to my final point, and the reason why - ultimately - Abstract Heart is a better album than Lifebringer (which, just to clarify, I love). Paul Zervas and Kathryn Pepper spent the duration of their last album playing pretend; one minute they were cowboys, the next they were rail-riding hobos. They were living out their dream of being West Coast people, but as much fun as that was, it was all a pastiche. Abstract Heart is the TRUE voice of Zervas & Pepper, and it's great to see them using their musical influences to say something of their own.

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