by trevor elkin
“by the time I’d found my father, he’d already gone away”
There are no words. You just have to hear it. I’m talking about the opening seconds of Idgy Dean‘s new album ‘Ominous Harminus’. Describing something so personal and stomach tearing would reduce its significance, rendering it a preamble or ‘entertainment’. So I won’t – you’ll just have listen.
What then follows is something which deserves careful listening, understanding and celebration. Idgy Dean is Brooklyn artist Lindsay Sanwald, a DIY songwriter and performer. On ‘Ominous Harminus’ she displays exceptional insight into the timeless rhythms and vibrancy of life, the immense silence of death and what happens after. Her work masterfully spans several genres in service of a central concept, which she describes as Apocalypse Optimism: a marriage of death, beauty and community. What we get is ancient, primordial energy channeled through drums, unsettling vocal chants and layers of angular guitar, transporting us to another plane. This spiritualism is echoed in her words, which also feel deeply personal and moving. This steers the overall finished work completely clear of being a superficial facsimile of iamamiwhoami or Karin Andersson’s Fever Ray persona.
Opening track ‘Overture’ is brave in many senses. It is a little over 9 minutes long, so wouldn’t pass the usual album format test. But as implied above, this is no ordinary album. It’s also a tribute to Sanwald’s late father, who’s passing kicked off a period of enormous creativity and pain which transformed her life forever. The heralding, deep resonant blast of horns at the start signifies this journey begins for us too, as we absorb the array of emotions and succumb to the push-pull of tribal rhythm. A more joyful ‘Inauguration’ comes next, summoning the spirit of love and happiness, but only to see it turn to vapors and leave us empty, bitter and regretful: “Am I the one to come undone, cause that’s how you like me to be, is that how you want me to be?”
‘Pantheon Punk’ and the energetic instrumentation of ‘Hopscotch’ tap into the transcendent power of repetition and ritual call and chant, but their upbeat nature hides a nervous self-awareness that things are not how they should be. This theme continues into stand-out track ‘The Indian Squirrel Dance’, a neurotic, paranoid reflection on a failing relationship, where the desperate need to understand and make meaning of it all ultimately precipitates the end.
The title track returns to the source of the journey, the first spark of the forest fire, the moment of realisation. The relentless and steady pulse of drums pushes us on, with vocal drone engulfing. It’s this incantation on ‘Ominous Harminus’ that unravels Sanwald’s soul completely, as the story is told:
“Am I allowed to have a nervous breakdown?”
“I wanna lose myself right now…”
We have no choice but to listen, observe and hope this is not the end. We are powerless. In truth, this is Idgy Dean’s core message. When something is over, we have a choice: accept its finality and rebuild, or get swallowed up by the darkness created in our denial.
‘Ominous Harminus’ is out now.