Reviewing Hejira’s new album THREAD OF GOLD (Lima Limo, 2019)
With a steady heart beat and synth that seems to come from the aether
Hejira’s Thread of Gold album opens with a voice that soothes; a known ghost.
Spirits of Eden are heard, as Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne’s voice seems to echo
Mark Hollis, charting sacred terrain to enthrall us and value the sounds
We prize most. Save it for Another is more than the opening to an album;
It is a call to those forces that in listening scour peace
In order to find the true way, to which only music can lead us,
Something from the soul and heart singing for all of our long sought release.
That thread of gold may be all things of worth running through us,
Coloured and fuelled by the heartbeat that continues to resound despite grief.
For this is an album of loss and from that loss, celebration; as departing fathers
And loved ones harmonise with love ended. And so memory grants relief.
Joyful Mind shimmers in, as spectral strings precede drumbeats.
This call to arms and embraces fuses those memories.
Its only for a moment
Then its gone in a flash
The best things don’t last
They come and they go so fast
Skittering tempos and pulse that allow the thread to find motion,
As if the joys of mind led the body its own easy dance.
Grief has its positives, too, as those we have lost return to us,
At once more vital and visceral too, soundtracked here to entrance.
Hejira use a trusted enclave of session musicians
But the core of Debebe Dessalegne, Sam Beste and Alex Reeve river through
Successive waves of glimmering instrumentation
To show a bright trio rising through the greys of grief to chart blue.
Melodic lines arc and rise, and guitar lines duly ripple,
And all the while, beats propel us, Dessalegne’s bass also breathing
As survival and song moat a fortress that needs to be built and swum through.
Breaching walls of resistance and change is there in Ribs’ artful chorus
Speaking of the need to cross over and to stage a return from the cold.
But love’s deficiencies stun whenever a problem arises and as the words
Map the damage no recompense can be sold. Beste and Reeves
Try to soothe in the musical terrain they now conjure. Gentle guitar notes,
Synths chiming, as the squandered emotion runs loose,
The sung line journeys on, defying predictable resolution,
As the poetry and emotion use song as a means to chart truth.
You keep building these walls
That I can’t climb
Barricading the doors
Leaving me behind
At the edge of the water
And so sings the lost daughter, looking to others
To compare and contrast shades of love.
From childrens voices and birds in a flurry of crowd, Lima Limo,
A song deeply connected to both the band and their source,
From ‘Solomon and sheba’s trees’ there is a biblical sense to the searching
As well as incantation. Evocation too, of starred force. Whether it is God
Whose implored or some higher spirit, Debebe-Dessalegne offers worship
To each element.
To greet the sun
before it falls
Is the mission; to seize what is crucial to our sense of ourselves
Is the cause. Perhaps that explains the name of the song and the label,
A unification of presentation and content that when considered
Casts Hejira’s agenda as something finer than we may have well heard before.
This then is an album of prayer, a record of near divine contemplation.
A fleshing out of the hollow. In a shallow age that’s profound.
The simple statements are key at a time when we could well lose
The message. Death, for the living, if it does nothing else, will remind them
To make something lasting on the fast passing ground. And so it proves here,
As Beste and Reeves spark and glisten, and Dessalegne rises, like light
Through the rain, light through cloud.
Empire jangles in, like eighties indie pop in an instant.
A gentle house of love’s new construction as lotus eaters lounge
By a lake. The sun glitters through as the band harmonises,
The song and place fusing summers which no amount of time
Can unmake. It is the most pop like piece so far on the album,
Shades of Shelley Ann Orphan, and maybe Shelley too can be heard.
An exotic locale in which empires of place are accomplished
And where the shade’s prized light left us remain represented
By the flutter of notes and soft words.
A Taxi Man draws us in, drawing up,
With what sounds like an intoned dulcimer
Slight dischord somehow helping
As a cello like drone apes sitar.
A beat lunges, falls, as the vocal line powers,
A single note drives us forward
As the lyric snakes
We glimpse stars.
The song is a short poem
Made for the existential.
The taxi man’s whole potential
Is and will be dependent
On when his next rides comes
And how far.
Seven has force, its music and sense using transport,
And not just of emotion but of reason and place, sanity:
Seven years in the past
A strange reality
To live the same day once again
With your distant family
Here, the impressionistic nature of grief
Transmogrifies in the music, as all art should;
What the writer feels and lives finds expression
In imagination, conjecture and those inner visions
That only music as the greatest form of all can provide.
Whatever led them to write has found new dimension.
Abstractions aren’t random if properly used. They confide.
With what we know and don’t know. That’s why Miro
Captivates us. As well as De Kooning,
And Hejira too in this song.
One feels this is what their music is for:
To attain these lost places. This was the point for Mark Hollis,
And Scott Walker, too, all along;
To find the true realm that will combine all impressions
Into one conscience, into one refrain, for all songs.
Hejira’s work is pure poetry; that is the notion that strikes me.
They obey no rules.They are abstract,
But grounded too, in the real.
They are simply extending the form, as others tried,
They continue. With Walker gone, Hollis silenced,
Hejira is a place whose sole purpose is to try to relearn
How to feel.
You’s gentle blue is pure cloud, on a drone fed sky giving way
To broken bottle percussion. It makes shining moment from echo
And pluck. (Could be Prince!) It is a combination of sounds
Placed in a box of song all can open. Hearing this bright collection,
A clatter of words and notes will convince.
Thread of Gold closes all but promises fresh invention.
Its stately strings and piano are anthem like calls to the heart.
It is a song for all songs. Community can be heard in its chorus
As if it had joined with all anthems to temper and frame
Their own stance. Dessalegne’s fragile voice achieves sky,
As strings soar about her. Beste and Reeves too are flying,
Filling each space with bright schemes. That an album of loss,
Or which came from loss finds ascendance is testament to the glory
That this trio have found. You hear peace. From their backgrounds
In jazz, they have forged a new form of music. The foreground
Is coloured by these fresh innovations. Days are daubed.
And there is clearly a purpose to the fact that their recording base
Has this title; as you visit theirs attain spirit
In Hejira’s Thread and their blanket of cover
You will find star and shelter
In their sublime
House of Dreams.
David Erdos, April 4th 2019