Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Shawn Biggs
Twice in Jeffrey Brown's latest graphic novel release Little Things: A Memoir In Slices, does the character version of the autobiographical Brown gawk appreciatively at river streams that his friend points out exist and are as cold as they are because they're the product of a glacier melting high above them. Brown's on a trip to Seattle, Washington, to see a high school friend, who lives in a cabin three bus rides from the hub of any sort of civilization and his Chicago-dwelling, coffeehouse around any given corner chum finds himself having his breath taken away constantly as critters scurry out and a van of people calmly and coolly just let a bear crossing the road in front of them move about as leisurely as it damned well pleased.
Even with little commentary or descriptive set-up, the comic panels were explicit in depicting the awe in Brown that came about through the age-old, but capital idea of intruding upon nature. There was a strong sense - and this happens to most of us when we break free from the familiarities of bustling and materialism and venture out into the trees, where voices and congestive white noise can't reach - that all of the things Brown was witnessing, while meaningful and almost too much for him to take it, were part of the humdrum. They were going to get pulled off without the help of anyone or anything else. They just were, these little operations and these tiny processes that have been going on for millions of years whether we see them and are inspired or shocked by them or not. It knocks you down some.
Beatbeat Whisper have felt these same things, turning them into the respectable mere mortals that we can always strive to be - the kind of people who look at a fallen leaf and trace over its green veins with their fingertips and try to imagine what it must have felt like to have had rain water shooting through them from the bottom up. Davyd and Ayla Nereo, the brother and sister combination who make us this Oakland, Calif., twosome have surely done something just the same in their time. They've likely gone to a secluded bend of a pond or lake and skipped flat, washer-like stones off the surfaced and thought that each grazing of the water's skin was like a heartbeat to be trusted. They've likely wanted to sneak up on jittery squirrels just to calm their tails or to gently pick up a willing bird, put its chest to their ear and hear what a bird's ticker really sounds like to our ears. Is it the same, is it nowhere near? The music that they make together - that you'll hear on their new album Wonder Continental this week - is much like that icy stream flowing down from spots on a mountain that people don't get to very often. They plume out of instruments that sound as if they've had countless hands touch them over their many decades - love them and treat them in their own ways, all of them. It can be spooked and startled and yet it's not precious at all, nature talking its own jive.
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