“People who want to die don’t know what being dead is like”
Dan Barrett’s Giles Corey project isn’t exactly an easy one to talk about; for the uninitiated, his self-titled debut (and thus far only record under the alias) is the record of a man with suicidal depression, the musical diary if you will of someone who’s grip of reality is slipping and whose purpose in life seems entirely absent. Dan admits that making this record saved his life, gave him some sense of meaning and a fortunate outlet for catharsis, and in the lo-fi tracts of this Avant Folk release we grapple with his difficult thought processes and overbearing oppression manifest as grey neutralities, hard lyrics and aggressive instrumentals.
“Spectral Bride” is temptingly intimate and seemingly straight-forward in its presentation but make no mistake it’s every bit as burdened and dark as its counterparts. The song itself is a reference to Voor’s theory of the Spectral Gaol in which our world is populated with ghostly remnants of the living, ethereal manifestations of previously corporeal presences on the solid Earth. But they aren’t real ghosts, they aren’t anything, just lingering shadows of the memories of millions of poor souls who have “crossed over” into the endless nothingness. “Everyone goes to the same place, which is nowhere” Dan writes in the book which accompanies the boxset, openly acknowledging the hard truth of death. Except a sort of spirit lingers in the world it leaves behind, a faded presence of a former self that haunts the hearts and heads of the living that remain.
“and if I don’t survive/
I’ll still be by your side”
Almost lost in the slow-motion headiness of the trumpeting, heavily percussive weight of the resigned chorus, Dan sings the admission of his presence after death: not a ghost, merely an imaginary phantom. Every syllable feels like a physical struggle, a slow and laboured effort that at first fights through the fugue and then has to battle through the dense piano, guitar and trumpets that seem almost ecstatic in the face of the possible release of death. After the outpourings of loneliness and unreachable expectations of the first half even the listener can’t help but get caught up in the carefully dramatic crescendo, Dan cleverly aligning us into his dangerous train of thought as he lays down the sympathy before he blows the lid off and sweeps us with him. How easy it would be to come to such temptations, how thin the border between life and death is, separated by one false thought or one quick action.
There are more overtly dark pieces on the record but “Spectral Bride” seems more disarming and almost less predictable than the others because of its alternative presentation, a sleepy gem that too easily lulls the listener into empathetic agreement. I can’t stress enough how ridiculously potent this record is, and I’d strongly suggest finding a copy of the box-set with its book to really gain a much deeper insight into Dan’s thoughts and inspirations for the pieces than I can explore here. It’s a tough read as much as this is an overwhelming listen but when has death ever been an easy topic to digest?