Friday, January 14, 2011

Heartland: How to Move

I wrote this essay almost a year ago. I'm proud of parts of it, but virginal stuff like "fully intentioned concept record" grosses me out, as does the writing. But I like the model I developed, it felt good in writing, and it had a lot of good citations. I stand by it. It's audience is an unfamiliar listener.

The violinist Owen Pallett released his third LP [1], Heartland, on January 12th 2010. Following the rushed yet elegiac Has a Good Home (2005), and the string-quartet song cycle He Poos Clouds (2006), Heartland is a firmly intentioned concept album, following the journey of the farmer Lewis through the world of Spectrum. However, this concept is not removed from incisive implications on life. Pallett’s second release used the format of a string quartet song cycle and the rough concept of the eight schools of magic of Dungeons and Dragons to explore how atheists approach death [2], and Heartland works similarly. His latest work folds in love (from the perspective of the loved), violence, masculinity, and the limits of creative expression, all within the journey of his protagonist.

Some background on Pallett and his work provides useful background for understanding Heartland, both because the album contains a character name Owen, and since his music is self-referential: “Even though while I was writing about [the character of] Lewis...when I’m writing about him, I’m still writing about me...I felt a little laid bare” [3]. One of the major threads through his career has been his love of geek culture [4]. Has a Good Home both idealizes and bemoans fantasy novels and games as escapes from reality, and He Poos Clouds uses Dungeons and Dragons as a proxy for religion. Although Heartland's concept is less apparently nerdy, it is important to recognize that Pallett is again playing with the boundary of fantasy themes; in the case of Heartland, the character Lewis will rebel against the limits of his reality. In the spirit of playful geekiness, Pallett will spice the lyrical and musical structures he creates with puns and references [5]. Pallett is also gay, which adds a subtext to the nearly homoerotic love between Lewis and the deity Owen, between creator and fantasy, and the place of the singer in this fourth-wall-shattering mess. In the end, Heartland is a progression of a man who follows his desires, but whether that man is the subject matter Lewis, the god Owen, the singer Pallett, or some combination of all three has to be decided.

[1] A list of relevant discography is available in the Addendum.
[4] Until very recently, Pallett recorded and performed under the name Final Fantasy, a reference to the video games series of the same name.
[5] As a perfect example: “Heartland” was a 1986 video game for the ZX Spectrum 48K. Owen would have been seven years old at release time. Tip from therethere on Dec 29 2009 from fanforums, also

Midnight Directives [7]: the march

The first piece on this album begins in ambiguity: a loud electronic organ shifts back between a solid perfect fifth, the cornerstone of tonal music, and the tritone, the devil's interval. Not only will the piece build across this highly unstable foundation, but it will do so using suspended notes and a heavy amount of accidents and chromatic movement. The effect is tamer at first; the voices shift between comfortable thirds and slightly dissonant seconds, and the strings glissando a diminished ninth up from B and E, the most dissonant of notes within this F Lydian (raised fourth) key to C and F.

Despite this entrancing yet uncomfortable dissonance, the voice rings out like a horn, declaiming bravely, almost foolishly. The voice sings of distance from some feminine figure, or femininity in general, in favor of the freedom of red blood and burned connections to the past; the percussion gives tempo and insistence to this ambition. On the other hand, his path is set for him, by the power and violence of nature itself; the chirping wind trills and chromatic descents mirror that “tornado,” or the frenzied wings of a bird. Somehow the vocal line ends up in Bb major at the same time, furthering the ambiguity behind this ambition. It is the strings, moving across notes and creating the greatest dissonances, which mark the beginning of a new section; strings will soon exemplify the exact kind of atonal ambiguity that is presented here, in the first song.

Once the chorus begins, the vocal approach changes significantly. His seductive descriptions of his future, of cutlasses, of a clear purpose in “service,” and lack of responsibility (or femininity, in his family) do not match the tentative stepwise rising and falling of the line. A snare/bass drum rhythm is added which accelerates the song, yet it seems to fill the chorus measures randomly, the snare roll ending after an awkward twenty-one hits. The bass moves as well, changing the chord structure to include accidentals from Bb major...regardless of the insistent organ. The singer is unsure, and is dismayed at his circumstances, and yet insistent on continuing.

Yet adding to the glitz of the song comes a rhythmic pizzicato violin figure, and on cue Lewis begins a discussion of the deity Owen, and his own youth. The two are related by Lewis' sense of belonging, and returning to a “Saturday night” world with adventure, and some sort of “Midnight Directives” to complete. Owen seems to grant that, yet at the same time seduces Lewis into rejecting marital bonds, into a “trick with a prick of a pin,” as a sex figure, quite possibly. The creation is playing into the whim of the creator, a moral subtext that Lewis seems determined to ignore at the moment in his ever-the-more confident delivery; in fact, after the second chorus, the singer buoys his rising melody on the swelling violas and violins (Owens’s trademark), and reaches a falsetto climax about the worthlessness of all souls, as just food for men and food for fire. The repetition of this line ad infinitum is important; the violent spirit and repetition of this piece has seduced Lewis into a military march, right into the hands of Owen.

[7] "I fully expected to recycle and change the order of the songs... the flow of the album is far more important to me than the cohesion of the narrative.” (Owen from Final Fantasy on Jan 3rd 2010 on Fanforums) Although the order was altered from its "original" state, some sequences have been left in order. See the Addendum for commentary on tracklist continuity and the lyrics of the B-Sides and Spectrum, 14th Century.

Keep the Dog Quiet / Mt. Alpentine: walking in circles

Whereas Lewis was seduced by the preceding track's mad ambition, this understated piece focuses heavily on its own repetition: a figure of piano and low strings modulating between the relative minor and major, laced with dissonance to add emphasis to the already booming parallel fifths. Much like the preceding piece, wind lines accent and force notes onto the beat, horn lines mirror Lewis' ambition, and string lines, or in this case ghostly improvising between two notes, represent ambiguity and Owen's hand. Lewis spends the song in his own head, sifting through dreams and memories of what he left. The voice's mourning tone contains many more descending than ascending figures, and works across many dissonances of its own; there is some regret or nervousness in both of these qualities. Moreover, its rhythm either moves across the holes in the main riff or follows it blindly, marking a sort of indecision about where to commit himself. The second verse (“When will you...”) widens in orchestration as Lewis' imagination spreads to question the entirety of Spectrum. The repeat of “sequential, sequential...” builds to a terrifying major-key climax twice, and the second time breaks free into action.

Lewis broke free from questioning the story he's placed in for the first time. He doubts the trust of Owen and notices all the violence and terror he causes, his violin playing on despite his absolute control of Spectrum. Lewis realizes the extent of Owen's control, and sees Owen's lie in promising so much satisfaction (instead, “this union is a cage about a cage about a cage”). Whatever the story around him is, he claims, “this place is a narrative mess.” To escape this, Lewis skates into the Mt. Alpentine sequence, with score written in B and vocals in Bb. Furiously dissonant like the wind itself, Lewis gives himself up to his sense of “satisfaction.” To drive the implications of his spiritual brooding, Lewis goes from walking in circles to jumping forward into the breach [8], embracing the tonal ambiguity which Owen so represents, even in Lewis' attempts to escape.

[8] In the original lyrical order, this sequence was followed by Tryst With Mephistopheles, although not too much lyrical continuity is lost if Lewis decides to, instead, Take Action.

Red Sun No. 5:

Lewis has espoused night as the cover for his actions, and the arrival of sunlight reveals the exact nature of what he fears most: the transiency of his own life. The pulse of the song is begun by two electronic instruments of opposite types: the ARP 2600, contributing a buzzing octave and bass-drum note, and the Wurlitzer, contributing sweet broken chords. This pulse is Lewis' pulse: caught between the wail of war and the caress of peace, Lewis can shout thunder from his chest to reject his station in life, and comfort his wife with a touch to her heart. Once Lewis has recognized his spiritual problem in the fragility of his body, he tries to both escape and maintain this pulse.

The musicality lends immediately to Lewis' humanity. While the winds distract and pivot away from any central order or tonality, percussion and timpani lines put emphasis on those regular downbeats. The voice, between these extremes, cascades down, signifying resignation. The voice's high point is when the pulse cuts out, and he is lost only in the lilting and moaning of the strings and winds, away from that pulse and its requirements. The "cover of night" is enough for Lewis for now, as Owen wants. But the created has now questioned both his world and himself; where could his doubt go next?

Lewis Takes Action:

After more serious, weighty, and atonal pieces, the bouncy drum line that begins this piece is out of place, something not suspect or double-meaning. It emerges from the mush of foreboding wailing horns. The piece is further augmented with some strange his on snare and violins (direction: "turn to random pitches, descend and die away"), creating more tonal chaos, while the sweetest melodies of the wind section, like a triumphant birdsong, eventually is corrupted. One can trace this piece as a palatable pop song imploding, showing all the cracks and misses in Lewis' supposed "satisfaction." Even the baseline, which does not start on the tonic, and which frustrates the typical C to Db movement common in tonal music, ruins the bouncy goal of this piece.

Lewis has a reason to be proud in this piece. His success against the Cockatrice No-Face proves him a hero of Spectrum. But in his faith to the "bidding of the singer," Lewis engages in frighteningly violent behavior: bludgeoning to death, breaking a bird by its beak, having some sort of "amber whip, and the fire from my fingers." This man is the red-winged bird come to life, but for his own satisfaction. The final moments of the piece have a near-comical voice gliss leading to strong dissonance in the wind trills, adding tension and confusion. Lewis and Owen are satisfied, but in the following series of chained songs, this too shall pass.

The Great Elsewhere:
sailing crashing

Cutting in quickly with two startling chords, this piece replaces the artifice of its predecessor with more visible cracks in the pop structure: backwards piano, glitch-like insertions (which fit rhythmically into the faster portion of the song), and a stuttering synth line. Something has changed significantly in this piece: vocals are almost entirely descending lines, and atonality is limited to ornamental 7ths and 9ths; there is an actual chord progression without atonal mishmash frustrating it (e - FM7 - Gdom7 - Gsus4); and a jarring tempo switch. In only the first bars of this tune, so much has changed. Owen's smug atonality is gone, and in its place are softer, more painful, more sincere chords.

The melancholic 3/2 groove morphs, after some laments by Lewis about his inability to prove Owen's love, into a much more aggressive percussion. Horn blasts and percussion and flashes of light from the violins put us firmly in 4/4, but it feels so jarring, recontexualizing everything we assumed about the song in the first place. It's a betrayal of expectation, just as Owen betrays Lewis' in the song's story. Sailing out to see to colonize, Lewis realizes more and more about Owen's lust for him: "and every time I show it I feel your eyes on me." As the swoops and flashes of the orchestra increase, eventually gaining the momentum to play eighth notes alongside the drums, Owen's love seems absent, and while Lewis is still engaging in his violent missionary campaigns, he finds the meaning absent when he tries to convert one native: he is attacked, lanced through the shoulder. Owen's indifference finally appears to him in the full orchestra climax of every instrument, and with that we return to 3/2, left to mourn with only a few violins. The song fades out into chord movement across a minor seventh arpeggio, losing all of its momentum to solemnity and indecisive tonality.

Oh Heartland, Up Yours!:

If Lewis Takes Action set up the expectations to destroy, and The Great Elsewhere destroyed them, this piece plots how Lewis, the ultraviolent former farmer abandoned by god, reacts. Sure of Owen's betrayal yet unsure of how to go on, the song begins with the third beat removed from every measure, like a halted pace. The bass drags itself from it's i chord to its iv, and the horns, reminiscent of Midnight Directives’ starting thirds in the voice, follow sullenly. Everything's done: "seems there is nothing more."

The piece's simple tonality is striking after the complexity of The Great Elsewhere. The orchestration remains lush, yet restraint is showed in the verses. The vocals dither about upper or lower movement, but in the chorus firmly descend while Lewis laments the power of his god. The brushes make those shuffling footsteps visceral, and their place in the second verse gives the piece a bit more focus. Other melodies begin intersecting with Lewis' as he critiques how Owen tried to pigeonhole him into some gay stereotype, and rebels: "doesn't work, doesn't fly, doesn't handle." "Satisfaction," instead, becomes the focus, and under its rule the song becomes a full-on quarter note groove, with a syncopated baseline, military percussion, and the steady gait of someone in control. Lewis finishes with an upward melody line, a decision to strive against Owen's designs. Atonality enters here and only here, to accompany this disturbing ambition of Lewis: to reject his Homeland, and to embark on a journey to kill Owen.

Lewis Takes Off His Shirt
: galloping

Ending the cycle started by Lewis Takes Action for a two-song interlude by a piece of Paper and Owen, Lewis here shows the full extents of his violent and energetic capability. Yet, fed up with all of the themes and implications and betrayals he has reduced himself to a mathematical movement, a being driven by only satisfaction and his energy. During his ride he questions motives and life and expression, but comes back to his refrain: "I'm never gonna give it to you." Shirtless and sexualized, this is Lewis at his simplest, as exemplified by the simple, striving chords and clarity of the arrangement (besides those pesky violin swells, representing the pursuit of his fate).

The song begins with a different kind of hum: not a violin or horn, but an electronic swell, crescendoing, wailing and breaking into electronic double-time synth playing. With only the tempo and the hihat to sustain it, these chords must be the driving force. The violin swell does come like an angel of fate, but Lewis strives onward. Much of the piece has melodies that end on the on-beat, and the rest are descending; the melodies either mark Lewis' sense of loss or drive him faster and faster, like an internal dialog. The snare click pushes it even further. Winds play their stereotypical chirping trill which, although random, later becomes as frequent as the snare drum itself. Enough has been built to break through the second violin swell, and Lewis continues with a societal critique of a false governing power. On and on and on, clarinets begin to double the melody and violins sneak their way into the arrangement. In the final verse the horn joins in to declare its bombast, as "the vector" continues on his ever-blinded way. The last chorus adds in all the 9ths and 7ths and sixteenth notes that it can handle, even with violins providing more punch. Lewis has achieved his most pure ignorance and devotion to his task; and the stage must be set for the confrontation on Alpentine.

Flare Gun
and E is for Estranged: interlude montage

Shifting gears to a piece of Spectrum propaganda, biting and bitter atonality returns to this major-key piece flirting with minor-key definitions and notes. The random percussion would imply some sort of carnival around it, and yet this song is a call to war. The nearly-drunken tempo changes and bleating horns add an element of self-absorbed frenzy. The pamphlet gives us promises of exactly what Lewis left, exactly what never satisfied, returning the atonality of Owen's rule back into focus, closing in on Lewis and his purpose. With a cued-by-conductor series of amazingly dissonant hits, the deal is sealed: Spectrum is insane.

After so much angry and energetic climax, Estranged gains great weight and should evoke surprise in a listener, especially considering that Owen is likely the speaker. The score contains little for winds and horns, but violins create nearly all of the tone and energy. This piece is Owen's elegy for the ways of the world, the themes which Lewis is rushing blindly towards looked at from a wider perspective of men everywhere, committing acts of violence against each other, running like water. Its first act is to bend the resolution of Flare Gun into a long hum of quarter steps, every string on every instrument screaming its lament. A sad waltz figure for the piano cuts through, setting up a very long progression to follow, and very slowly enticing the strings to double it. Even when the strings tremolo on two wildly dissonant notes, the motion is kept, which foreshadows the insatiable groove of Tryst With Mephistopheles to follow. The lyric descends with more regret than Lewis ever could muster, beyond his obsession with his desires. After the first chorus, a melody emerges, a sort of example to follow, and on cue a morbid 25-year old son becomes the focus of the piece. Owen feels frustrated at the boy's inability to express himself, much like his father: the "liar," the "flightless bird.” That melody gets so many additions and plays off it that the piano riff changes during the next chorus, without disrupting the flow at all. Another melody, after the percussive breakdown, intersects with the first, and the cage of sounds is complete. Even though the "pathos" of Lewis and of everyone else is useless, Owen will play, Owen will sing; the people, unbeknownst to them, need Owen. The final question of the album, the line between creator and creation, is set.

Tryst With Mephistopheles: sprinting

The final conflict begins between the wailing of strings and the pulses of a bass and drum rock beat. The strings play randomly with a motif, tossing it around and modulating it, while the beat continues on blindly, with the occasional shift. Owen’s power and Lewis’ determination are mixing, building off each other: for example, the strings and piano take an atonal melody which seems to pivot around the central beat, even mixing with the vocal line later. The first sounds of the voice, not surprisingly a descending line, are accompanied with muted horns: the bombast of Lewis’ ambition has been muted itself, as the vocals suggest. Lewis focuses on his own imperfection and his former love for Owen, mourning his inability to understand how Owen fits into this world, accompanied by a temporary halting of the beat: “I don’t know what your devotion means I don’t know what your devotion means.” The phrase could mean either Lewis’ religious devotion to Owen, Owen’s erotic devotion to Lewis, or the devotion between creator and created. Piano and unmated trumpet blend into the flow of the beat, as do the horns in triumphant octaves; even through uncertainty and regret, everything is decided.

As Lewis calls out to his “Great White Noise,” the beat morphs subtly: the drums place the bass drum note on the second beat of the measure and snare on the third, removing emphasis from the downbeat but creating a cascading effect on the flow. Nearly random insertions of horn notes and glistening syncopation contribute as strings fuse further with the beat, swirling across that melody. Yet when the beat begins to fade, Lewis has to face all the consequences of his actions: as he stabs Owen (you could even say penetrates), the melody moves neutrally and the tension of the beat is slowly defused, like a fog clearing. A few sad melody notes, arpeggios, and scales punctuate it and with a last punch of dissonant horns we arrive in a new key. Winds and strings cycle senselessly in the air as Lewis describes…urinating onto Owen’s course. It’s a ridiculous gesture, and the absurdity of the whole situation continues with a feeling of “Now what.”

The main groove returns with less density, but the largest mystery is why the song hasn’t ended. Lewis does his best to recast killing Owen as his self-determination, and staying uninterruptable removes all guilt from him, keeping him under the “cover of the night.” As if descending from the peak and reaching the body, Lewis sees Owen finally as the author, and everything changes: horns take downward scales, the drums shift, the bass adds a pattern. The last synth plays a prior string/wind melody, but it takes a minor twist as a mass of strings arrive, driving the narrative down to the quiet hell of the next song.

What Do You think Will Happen Now?: standing.

The musical part of the last track is simple. Broken fifths ascend up and down the scale, vocal melody moves back and forth chromatically. Added to the mix is the random percussion of the prepared (or more poetically, predestined) piano, giving the piece an ambiguous sort of meaning. Eventually high notes with doubled vocals add a melody, culminating with doubled words and a last manifesto; yet the song ends on an unresolved chord descending into nothingness, like hope of deciphering has itself died.

The main purpose of the song is the vocal manifesto of Lewis’ state of mind, the mind of a creation without creator. “Despite myself” and his doubts, “I reaffirm my endless devotion” to a world of communal brotherhood and optimism. From the strife of Midnight Directives to the nonsense of Flare Gun and the regret of E is for Estranged, this claim is beyond false. Lewis keeps his doubts in a movement to “debilitate us, delineate us, repackage our words, demystify us”: to stray us from ourselves into the world of clear-cut, scholarly definition. He hides within obscurity and ambiguity and rejects all objective truth. A creation could never know his purpose as a well-defined concept, except…

Except by opening his eyes. Lewis dreamily wanders around the world of Spectrum for examples of dereliction. References to the Norse figures Loki and Surtr suggest the coming end of the world [8]. The sun of reality washes over Lewis, and manages to give him some motivation: “This morning I must get up to see the world around me, what I forgot in seeing ourselves as words upon a paper.” Acceptance fills him, reconciling the sun and the world, leaving behind his dark world, to be “yours.” Yours, meaning both the audience’s and Owen’s, in the darkness of that unresolved final chord. The trials of Heartland have lead to this piece of unmoving, tortured morning, of movement leading to stasis and darkness. Ultimately the creation cannot be divorced from the creator, and Lewis embodies Owen as much as he rejects him. Connection, with oneself and the surrounding environment, is the only hint of a savior.

[8] Interestingly, Midnight Directive's original title was "The End of the World."


White, Shelley. "Owen Pallett Wears His Heartland On His Sleeve." spinner 14 Jan 2010: n. pag. Web. 1 Apr 2010. .

Hiedemann, Jason. "Fantasy World." Out and About: Chicago 16 Jul 2009: n. pag. Web. 1 Apr 2010.

Chafin, CL. "Blissfully Nerdy." Popmatters 4 Feb 2010: n. pag. Web. 1 Apr 2010.

Carew, Anthony. "Interview: Owen Pallett." Alternative Music n. pag. Web. 1 Apr 2010. .

Culloty, Shane. "Interview: Owen Pallett." slate 18 Mar 2010: n. pag. Web. 1 Apr 2010. .

Pallett, Owen. Owen Pallett - Heartland. Recording andPrint


Pallett focused more heavily on musical flow and symbolic meaning, rather than a distinct narrative; not surprisingly, the order of songs was changed multiple times, lyrics rewritten and recycled, and tracks swapped in and out. Here is the original tracklisting, and the US released version. From Owen from Final Fantasy, Jan 3rd 2010 on fanforums.


Red Sun No.5

Midnight Directives



Wella-Balsam Reverie (aka The Man With No Ankles)

Keep the Dog Quiet



Scandal at the Parkade

Mt. Alpentine



Lewis Takes Action

Red Sun No. 5



The Great Elsewhere

Lewis Takes Action



Oh Heartland, Up Yours!

The Great Elsewhere



Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

Oh Heartland, Up Yours!



Keep the Dog Quiet

Lewis Takes Off His Shirt



Mt. Alpentine

Flare Gun



Tryst With Mephistopheles

E is for Estranged



The End of Time (aka Midnight Directives)

Tryst With Mephistopheles



What Do You Think Will Happen Now?

What Do You Think Will Happen now?



Midnight Directives

Cross her off the shortlist.
My blood is a red-winged bird.
The way will be lit by the bridges we burn, oh.
And come, tornado!
Carry me away from the croft.
Ruffle my hair, bear my body aloft, oh.

As the cutlass came down on a Saturday night,
Left an un-planted field, left my daughter and wife.
Called away into service, for a clerical life.
Left an un-planted field, left my daughter and wife.

Thought I was a sad-boy.
Now I know, I know, I know I was wrong.
Since you came along, I can see how content I had been.
It'll drive a man crazy to age from the outside in.
But I have a plan, it's a trick with a prick of a pin.

And as the cutlass came down on a Saturday night,
Left an un-planted field, left my daughter and wife.
Called away into service, for a clerical life.
Left an un-planted field, left my daughter and wife.

For a man can be bought, and a man can be sold,
And the price of a hundred thousand unwatered souls
Is a bit of meat and a bit of coal.
It's a bit of meat and a bit of coal.
It's a little bit of meat and coal.

Keep the Dog Quiet

My body is a cage2.
This union is cage about a cage about a cage.
And this, and this town too.
I'll see you once in a while but I can't be seen with you.
This place is a narrative mess.
The floor a tangle of bedsheets and battered sundress.
The ink has dried in the well.
The journey once was consequential,
Now: sequential, sequential, sequential, sequential.

When will you silence your hounds?
The eldest sons to the altar of the Eternal Sound.
Their blood is spilled at the dawn.
A nation bound to your will, still, the violin plays on.
Plays its devotional song.
Once it was, once it was so essential,
Now: sequential, sequential, sequential, sequential.

Mt. Alpentine

Lead on, oh horse of mine, we will climb the side of Alpentine.
Lead on, oh horse of mine, we will voice our satisfactions.
Karma is the concatenation of your actions.

Red Sun No. 53

I'd been living through days
Carrying no burden
But the shit of cattle
And my resignation

Until the sun rose crimson
Crept across my limbs and
I saw that they were earthen
That they decay and worsen

And from my ginger chest, there
Came the sound of thunder
I am not a father
I am not a farmer

I tremble to speak of it.
Held her in my arms and
Pressed her to my heart and
Pressed my hand o'er her lips

I murmured words of his love
I will be his baron
With him I have an ending
With him I have completion
And the cover of night

Lewis Takes Action4

I got a message for the acolytes.
I am your man for a wifey fight.
I got a thirst for liquid gold.
I'll bludgeon 'til the body's cold.

The stony hiss of cockatrice has cast us into serfdom.
I close my eyes, and spur Imelda down the mountainside
For a liberated Spectrum.

I took No-Face by his beak and broke his jaw, he'll never speak again.
I took No-Face by his beak and broke his jaw, he'll never speak again.

My every move is guided by the bidding of the singer.
The night is split by the whistle of my amber whip
And the fire from my fingers.

The Great Elsewhere

Talking, what's it good for?
Absolutely nothing.
Wrestle, let's wrestle.
You can pin me to anything.

Thought I saw you in my tea leaves.
Thought I saw you in a forest flame.
I'll fill up the silence with the sound of your holy name.

Knowledge of the sea-ways, knowledge of how the water flows.
Whoever coined the phrase has never had to brave the snow.
I climbed the shroud to the top-sail and I peeked through the glass.
The curvature bisected by a wintry mizzen mast.

The scar upon my stomach, I call it my Flying V
And every time I show it, I can feel your eyes on me.
How many islands will surrender to the blunderbuss?
And how long must we sail before you show your face to us?

Followed him out to the end of the pier.
"Don't come any closer," he cried, "I am afraid
Of the man I'll become if I lay my
Life down for a people who I don't even care for."
Face to his face, I put my
Hand into his and I tried to tell him, "No,
I've seen his work upon the panes of cathedrals,
In the sweat of the workers and the flight of the seagulls."

My words were drowned out by the sound
Of the motors and rowers, the ship as it ran aground
And from the trees came a thousand soldiers.
I went down on my knees with a spear in my shoulder.
About face, about face, I swam back
To the Victoria
6. I shiver with the
Memory, memory of the island dwellers
And the indifferences of the Storyteller.

Oh Heartland, Up Yours!7

The stars collected.
Each world accounted for
Freed all the children.
Seems there's nothing more.

If I only had a rowboat, I would row it up to heaven
And if heaven will not have me, I will take the other option.
I will seek out my own satisfaction.

From the wight lying in the barrow
To the priest with his broken arrows.
There's a method to the madness
They will feign an expression of sadness.
A concatenation of locusts,
And the farmers are losing their focus.
On the pitch of the Avenroe grasses
I will sing, sing, sing to the masses
Oh Heartland, up yours!

The hollow voice of our 14th century.
Too much assumption to be taken seriously.

Oh, you wrote me like a Disney kid, in cut-offs and a beater
With a feathered fringe, it doesn't suit a simoniac breeder
Doesn't work, doesn't fly, doesn't handle.

From the wight lying in the barrow,
To the priest with his broken arrows.
There's a method to the madness.
They will feign an expression of sadness.
A concatenation of locusts,
And the farmers are losing their focus.
On the pitch of the Avenroe grasses
I will sing, sing, sing to the masses
Oh Heartland, up yours!

My homeland.
I will not sing your praises here.

Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

As soon as I got on the horse, I forgot about the math.
Forgot about the odds against an adolescent standing up to all of Owen's wrath.
The heat of prairie summer, impossible to take.
I grab the hem and lift the fabric over my sweet head.
I know what you're looking for, and I'm never gonna give it to you.
I'm never gonna give it to you.
I'm never gonna give it to you.

Government rule established by a dazzling light show.
A hegemony armoured with a thousand-watt head and seven inches of echo.
I keep up my velocity, my spurs are in her sides.
I don't know what I'm doing, and it is the only way.
Toward the range I'll ride, singing, I'm never gonna give it to you.
I'm never gonna give it to you.
I'm never gonna give it to you.

"I am overrated," said the sculptress to the sea.
"I've been praised for all the ways the marble leaves the man,
And I was wrong to try and free him."
And as for me, I am a vector, I am muscle, I am bone.
The sun upon my shoulders and the horse between my legs,
This is all I know.

My senses are bedazzled by the parallax of the road.
I concentrate to keep contained the overflow.
My knuckles grip so tightly, my fingers start to bleed.
If what I have is what you need,
I'm never gonna give it to you.
I'm never gonna give it to you.
I'm never gonna give it to you.

Flare Gun13

The wella woods of Belvedere.
The peat and moss of Avenroe.
St. Germain's canaries.
The fortress of Alpentine.
Oh my soul, my loyalty is to the East
And Spectral man, and bird, and beast.

Red soil for the taking.
Ruddy women for your brides
All good men of valourous heart,
Consider a new start and sail today for the Heartland.

E Is For Estranged

Boys run like water from the barrel to the trough.
They'll never stop their running.
Gunning for their brothers.
This house is a hostel.
It is peaceful, but it's always emptying.
Boys all want to be someone.

Haven't you heard? I am a flightless bird.
I am a liar, feeding facts to a false fire.
If pathos is borne, borne out of bullshit--in formal attire,
I'll score you a string ensemble

I saw my son at seventeen,
The shutters made projections on his naked frame.
Now at twenty-five,
He simply cannot stay away from the ketamine.
With makeup on his sores,
He spends an hour a day composing little eulogies.
Sometimes he sends me letters,
But it's mostly garbled phrases and apologies.

But haven't you heard? I am a flightless bird.
I am a liar, feeding facts to a false fire.
If pathos is borne, borne out of bullshit--in formal attire,
Cue the Bulgarian men's choir.

Tryst With Mephistopheles

I stumbled on the summit's path.
Clumsy, clumsy.
No paragon am I.
I can't even keep my shoes tied.

I've been in love with Owen ever since
I heard the strains of Psalm 21
Standing between the choirs,
As they sang, "Laudate Dominum, Laudate Dominum".

Damn, I wrote it down, but I left it in the pocket of my other jeans.
Scrawled across the foolscap: "I don't know what your devotion means,
I don't know what your devotion means."

And up, upon the summit I can see
The one I worshipped as a boy.
The Creator, The Great White Noise.
The Great White Noise.

Charged and charging up the ridge.
The chests are empty, the coffers too.
They float in the flood, and so will you, I swear, so will you.

"Your light is spent! Your light is spent!" I cried,
As I drove the iron spike into Owen's eyes.
The sun sped cross the plains like that cinematic moment where
Humanity and nature collide.
When you think, "Everything's gonna be all right,"
Just before the hero gets a bullet in his side.

Whizzing off the clifftop,
Listening for the spatter, thirty floors below.
Down come the vultures.
I will not be your fuel anymore.

Now the author has been silenced, how will they ever decipher me?
I hope they hear these words and are convinced
You never even knew me.

I draw a bruise on your brawny shoulder,
Scratch my fingers over your tattoos.
The author has been removed.

What Do You Think Will Happen Now?

The difficulties of my story:
Despite discomforts, despite myself, I
I reaffirm my endless devotion
To the belief that we're all of value,
We're all of virtue, and so inclined we
Fill up our cups and toast to each other,
And though I listen to the arguments
That most divergent systems employ to

Debilitate us, delineate us,
Repackage our words, demystify us,
I unceasingly affirm my love can
Cannot be measured, cannot be altered.
I know, I know it, I do affirm it
With overzealous obscurantism.
With every word and with every gesture,
I must express it. I can't define it,
But all the same I know I can describe it:

I walk o'er bridges and see the river.
A marble statue the sun has weather'd.
The stubbornness of the overgrowth and
The old memorials covered in snow. We've
Written the way the universe will go.
A righteous white horse
17, a man with a bow18.
A sharpened bit of the mistletoe
Scissors of fate
20 or the fire of Surtur21.
Though we're divided, the force of nature
Will put us all in the ground together

This morning I must get up
To see the world around me.
Right away, what I forgot
In seeing ourselves as words upon a paper.

The sun is up.
My arms are wide.
I am a good man, I am yours.


Wella-Balsam Reverie (aka The Man With No Ankles)

Somewhere between a window and my doorstep
I remembered what it was to play, to play, to play
Don't tell me you can't remember
A time before carnal needs
Turned us all into employers and employees

The future is a constant in the world everywhere
But if humans aren't predestined, the future is variable
Well I don't even I don't know what it means, don't know what it means
But a fine figured wife isn't how I'm gonna end my teens

I'll do, upon, upon, your beauty
I'll do, d-do, d-do, my duty
I'll do, I'll do, I'll do my duty
I'll do, d-do, d-do, my duty

I stopped by the river to fish out a fiver
I couldn't stand to see my countenance there
Oh, as the water hit my calves and my ankles
To the back of my legs, to my neck, to my head

Woo. hoo.. ahh....!

I'll do, I'll do, I'll do, my duty
I'll do, d-do, d-do, my duty
I'll do, I'll do, I'll do, my duty
I'll do, d-do, d-do, my duty

Lewis' Dream

Benito was fifteen when he went off to college
I stayed home and tried to go with his best friend
He told me he was gonna cut my neck right across
Then he read Rousseau
Where did he go?

Master comes to me while I'm sleeping
Gives me hell for my overeating
Tells me how I should cut my hair
You think I am only dreaming

But I've arms of bronze and bone
I was born into a loving home
And of all the promises that I have made
There's one I'll never break

Write his name on your chest in a fever
Sing his song to the boats on the river
Heaven's number is seventy-one
Our work has only just begun

With our arms of bronze and bone
We will set our shoulders to the stone
We will lift it, we will bear it 'til our bodies
Our bodies break

A Watery Day

The day I lost my virginity
I made a pot of chicken noodle soup.
Cracked the eggs into a swirling mess.
I ate half and I chucked the rest.

The day the doctor gave me pills
I smirked like a kid with chewing gum
As if the plague was a college acceptance
Or the memory of a brilliant threesome

A letter came in from St. Germain
My mother washed away by two weeks of rain.
The Singer took away my family
But all I felt were his glowin' arms around me

During Easter dinner, the dog died
And I failed, I failed, I failed
And I couldn't even lift the spade

1 Possible reference to the video games Super Mario Bros. 3 or the Legend of Zelda Series. Suggested by scarychips on Dec 25 2009 on Fanforums

2 Pallett arranged strings for Arcade Fire’s second LP, Neon Bible, the last track of which is called My Body is a Cage.

3 “Called ‘No. 5’ because, like Chanle No. 5, it was the fifth version that made the cut.”

4 This song contains reference to almost every track on the Spectrum, 14th Century EP. “Cockatrice,” “Imelda,” and “No-Face” are both titles/characters, “Spectrum” is used to name the setting, and “The Singer” is used to reference Owen (as in The Butcher). Suggested on the fanforums.

5 A Flying V is a model of electric violin. Suggested by Peter Heke and joebonte on Feb 15th 2010 on Fanforums.

6 The Victoria is the name of Ferdinan Magellan’s ship. He was killed on an expedition much like Lewis’. Suggested by ben on Feb 15 2010 on Fanforums. See also: “As a kid I was really into Magellan and this song re-imagines that bit when he was killed by a Filipino chieftain”

7 In October 1977, the English punk group Xray Spex released their game-changing single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”

8 Collecting stars and traveling between worlds is a constant game mechanic in the Super Mario series. Suggested by Peter Heke on Feb 15 2010 on Fanforums.

9 On Radiohead’s June 2001 album Amnesiac, Track two, Pyramid Song, contains the lyric: “We all went to heaven in a little rowboat.” Suggested by Alyssa on Feb 15 2010 on Fanforums.

10 Very direct reference to a sequence in JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings.

11 Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2.

12 Slang in some queer communities for heterosexuals. Suggested by emlyi on Feb 17 2010 on Fanforums.

13 Each of these song titles is in some way derivative of some other fantasy-related or fantastical concept.

Belvedere is “beautiful view” in Italian, and is often used as an architecture term, and for various brands.

Avenroe shows up in this poem about truth and action: “But such deep secrets willingly I leave / To grand philosophers. I'll forward go / In my proposed way. If they conceive / There's but one soul (though many seem in show) / Where in these living bodies here below / Doth operate (some such opinion / That Learned Arab held hight Aven-Roe) / How comes't to pass that she's so seldome known / In her own self? In few she thinks her self but one.” A Platonicall Song of the Soul, translated by Henry More.

St. Germain is a chateau in France.

Alpentine takes the adjective alpine, meaning mountainous.

14 See Blue Imelda for Owen’s thoughts on the relationship between farming and women.

15 Pallett is one of the foremost arrangers on the classical/indie circuit.

16 The psalm contains these words: “Though they plan evil against you, / though they devise mischief, they will not succeed. / For you will put them to flight; / you will aim at their faces with your bows.” Notice the double meaning of bows, and Owen’s face wound later in the song. Suggested by joebonte on Feb 15th 2010 on Fanforums.

17 Horses show up in Lewis Takes Off His Shirt and Lewis Takes Action (through Blue Imelda), possibly alluding to his sexuality (“the horse between my legs / this is all I know”)

18 Violin bow?

19 Loki used mistletoe to kill Baldur. Suggested by ren on 16 Feb 2010 on Fanforums

20 The weavers of fate, Atropos. Suggested by ren on 16 Feb 2010 on Fanforums.

21 Surtr commanded fire in Norse mythology. Suggested by ben on 16 Feb 2010 on Fanforums

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