Deep sea diving music. Is that a thing? Because that’s what Portland, Oregon’s Typhoon seem to have achieved on their fourth offering, entitled…er…Offerings. A bizarre comment, perhaps, but the air of mystique – of dipping your toes (or perhaps plunging deep) into an unknown world, with all its complexities, dangers, and curiosities – is wholly palpable.
Both ‘Wake‘ and ‘Rorschach‘, which open ceremony here, are ethereal but hearty – high drama, if you will – coming across, variously, as a homage to Villagers, Japan, Bright Eyes, Toto(!), Explosions In The Sky, Six Organs Of Admittance, Cars and…er….Clannad. If nothing else, this should at least give you an idea of how diverse and otherworldy Offerings is.
A concept album of sorts, the record focuses upon “a fictional man who is losing his memory, and in turn, his sense of self.”
According to the band’s main man, singer/songwriter Kyle Morton: “I’ve always been preoccupied with memory, losing memory, and trying to recapture memory. I wanted to explore the questions: What does a person become if they don’t know where they came from? What is the essential quality of the person if you strip away all memory?“. And that sense of disorientation is beautifully portrayed in both the music here and Morton’s lyrical imagery.
Perhaps the most hard hitting of these is the melancholic ‘Algernon‘, where we find the quite wonderful lyric: “She holds the picture up, while she studies my eyes / I’m trying hard to recall the routine, but I can’t and so I improvise / This one’s of my father wearing ladies clothes – I walked in on him once as a kid, must have thought nobody else was home / It’s a lie and she knows“, revealing the desperation in the narrator’s voice to find out who he really is, or at least to convince others that he is who he is pretending to be, in order that he may start to believe it himself.
Inspired by the works of big screen svengalis such as David Lynch or Christopher Nolan, Offerings is divided up into quarters. Initially, we are taken through the realisation stage, where it first dawns on our protagonist that there is something wrong, before chaos descends upon his life as a result. Next comes the much needed acceptance of the situation, but before you stop crying into your popcorn and start preparing for the big, feelgood Hollywood finish, I ought to point out that, like all the best movies, that happy ending will never be forthcoming. This is a brave, spectacularly bleak record, and is all the better for it. Sure, the near-thirteen-minute finale of ‘Sleep‘ may conclude with a good time knees up, but don’t let that mislead you, for in terms of ambiguity, this is the smile on Julie Christie’s lips at the end of Don’t Look Now; it is the expression on the faces of Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross in The Graduate as their bus disappears out of view; it is the descent into nothingness after the success of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band at the Royal Albert Hall in Brassed Off. In short, it is an acknowledgment that perhaps the future will hold something better, whilst knowing that it could just as easily slide into a never ending abyss. Exhilarating, breathtaking and heart-wrenching all at once and highly impressive as a result.
Offerings is released on Roll Call records on January 12th.