words by william caston cook
photograph by brian vu
You can watch sometimes as thoughts run away from themselves, desperately seeking their own demise in any kind of resolution, leaving their wake trailing through the bookends of days. In the space where you struggle to come to terms with everything happening at once, before it starts, or before it ends; it’s here that the music of Yohuna has found a home in me. Where memories of past reactions become poignant, precious pictures painted by hindsight, where streams of questions and generalised statements act only as starting points. Somewhere between being done with it and being asleep, peak time, in my minds playground.
To begin with, it’s all downstrokes and through threads.
Mirroring was predominantly written with a guitar, as opposed to the keyboard which drenched Patientness. You can feel the difference in the songs. Album opener ‘Knowing U’ encapsulates this; it stutters at the start until firm footing is found, then melodies expand and grow, subtle flourishes are allowed breathing room. You can almost feel the collective exhale as the drums start. Maybe the act of creation is more physically connected with a guitar. You touch, you provoke, you create resonating strings. You allow the strings to resonate.
When I write I use a pen. At some point in the process, these thoughts and the movement of my hand become so entwined that I cannot distinguish between them. The flow occurs on the page without my brain needing to engage in the act of writing it at all. The same thing seems to happen within these songs, they are conscious of themselves, to begin with, then they get lost within.
All downstrokes and through threads.
A nostalgic glaze coats everything. A sense of familiarity, lingering in melodies, carried by the warmth of Swanson’s voice. Throughout the album moments drift from anonymity in the back of the conscious brain to become wildly important; the cresting wave of harmony in ‘Fade To Blue’, the harp as it takes over ‘Find a Quiet Place’, the ten second reprise at the end of ‘Mirroring’ which makes me wish I’d modelled a life cool enough to warrant using it for a soundtrack.
It’s worth dwelling on that song. There are layers and layers to it, a glowing example of how far Swanson’s songwriting has evolved. As you listen to the album it hits you like a warm breeze and brings everything that comes with one. ‘Mirroring’ is probably my favourite song from her entire back catalogue and it’s not just because of the squealing lead guitar tone, which has its own story, carrying weight in the texture it adds. It’s the crescendo. The propulsion as the drums change their pattern for the second chorus. It’s the confidence to kill it dead, then toy with the promise of more, only to kill it again. There are many lessons here.
It’s undoubtedly a breakup album, but it’s not about the fireworks (not everything has to be). It’s the unwrapping, the unfurling of self, which follows to the end. When you’re sitting cross-legged on a floor wondering, what you actually need to be, where you begin and how you end.
Downstrokes and through threads.
Relationships are compromises. An increasing collection of compromises that can end up defining you. Over time, it’s easy to lose sight of what you were, to become weathered like a stone in the sea. You just have to decide how you feel about that when you realise.
It is born in empathy. A projection of you, defining me, with its projection.
An endless feedback loop.
Somewhere behind the learned behavioural indicators is a blurred perception of where our essences meet. It’s not a lie to be a different person to different people; it’s an extension of a reward based perception of how to interact, or how to interpret what you actually are. It’s an acute sensitivity to the signalling of other people. It’s easy to get lost in a perceived idea of me. It’s easy to break under the weight of expectations. It’s nothing to do with strength of character. It’s a survival technique, I think.
Or it’s how water takes the shape of what contains it, how the lost become contained by the decisive, it happens. It doesn’t mean weakness, although weakness is fine, weakness is honest. It’s somewhere between borderless like an ideal planet, or rudderless, or more than that. It’s how all the rudders, sails, and nautical navigational metaphors in the world couldn’t steer you in a direction you don’t know you want to go in.
Alongside this, amongst the theme of the album, there is another constant; a stillness that I cannot relate to. My internal monologue is defined by a frenetic nervous energy I can’t control, the crackle of distant fireworks; the songs on Mirroring patiently dwell on the emotion they inspire. Tone, textures: build, overlap, pulse and vibrate. With repeated listens this album has become so incredibly necessary to me. Notes hang like morning mist on your nostalgic mind, collecting in the deeper pockets of meaningful memories, thoughts are allowed to reach fruition. Which opens the floodgates, if you let it, to the poetry of past mistakes.
‘Mirroring’ is released June 7th, via Orchid Tapes & Fear Of Missing Out
You can buy it here