words by maria sledmere
In Storming the Gates of Paradise, Rebecca Solnit writes of the fine line between wanting to get lost and wanting to go home. She suggests writing itself is a labyrinth, ‘in which the lines we draw between things become tangled, become a network of connections to get lost in’; getting lost becomes the quest itself, the necessary process by which we find things, whether at the centre or otherwise. In the labyrinth we trail our ‘desire to go home’, ‘a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through the stars’. I wonder if we might think of music in a similar way: something to get lost in, tangled in melodic constellations, and by way of our wandering find ourselves home, wherever we might call ‘that centre called love’.
There are ways of intensifying our sense of the labyrinth. What if we wrote songs in just one week, what if we found ourselves out in dry wind, among dry leaves, kept solely by the company of dogs and horses? What if the labyrinth became a farm, let down its walls in favour of grassy plains, dust and sun-swaying trees? So goes the Among Horses project, setup and run by Barcelona’s San Canciones records. If we think of writing as labour, here the labour is literal: bound up in the running of a farm, living off the land, learning to create with someone new.
In the project’s third iteration, the label have selected two Portlandians for the challenge: Haley Heynderickx (Oregon) and Max García Conover (Maine). Fresh from the release of her acclaimed 2018 album, We Need to Start a Garden, Heynderickx has already earned her credentials as a poet of all beautiful and unnoticed things, little insects and fissures of identity. Conover, whose third album Motorhome was released last year by Son Canciones, is a one-man band or bard of the road, stringing prolific lyrics and trailing miles behind him. On their joint EP, Among Horses III, the two singer-songwriters have made something plaintive, raw and warming. The feeling of adapting to a landscape, living slow, losing something of your heart to the journey.
This is an EP of connection and disconnection, intimacy and estrangement. Driving through darkness, mending a broken love with the searing wind; singing of your mother, a sense of self torn between two worlds, striving to be whole. Reflecting on what we leave behind. Like previous Among Horses EPs (featuring Withered Hand and A Singer of Songs, Zoe Boekbinder and Dustin Hamman), this record is a wistful slice of elsewhere, a place of enchantment and transience. As Heynderickx sings, ‘Don’t you wanna fly with the highland birds?’ we’re swept up over those Spanish vistas; we feel something of the heat, the wind, the exchange of stories. The EP closes on ‘Crow Song’, with the chorus sung by Heynderickx and Conover together, ‘I’ll be home where I go / I’ll be home wherever I go’.
What does it mean to be wherever home, home wherever? To choose a way of life the way the crow flies, shunning the set, familiar ways? Listening to Among Horses III, I get to share a little of that wanderlust, maudlin for summer and a misplaced want, following the musing stream of a thought. ‘How nice to see a pattern broken’, Heynderickx sings in ‘The Park’; a place where life grows, where we begin as seeds. Images wash over me and sweep the labyrinth clear of debris, so I can see the shimmering centre. Maybe in a voice you can find a home.