Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Consult all of your darkest, blackest seeds, find the road maps to the pits of your guts, your soul, your hells and then multiply that atmosphere by infinity -- plus one. It is from which and by way of all of those locations that Brooks Strause finds his meaning. He stakes out those sinister thoughts and that veiled, often poo-pooed gloom that is typically left for the unspoken daily scrolls that one keeps under lock and key.
If you're being true to yourself, you'll admit to momentarily daydreaming of the most awful ways a moment can turn, the grisliest ways you're going to die - which speaks nothing to the ways you're going to suffer before you get to that point. You dream hard about what it would feel like to be in the chamber of an ascending airplane and to become the casualty of some flight path navigational error, smashing into another plane on its way down. You fantasize what it would feel like to fall off the building you're currently on the 60th floor of and looking over the side - the same goes for driving around the canyons while visiting the Hoover Dam, one false fucking move and toodles. Catastrophes don't really happen to us all that often, but when they do, they are gruesome and painful. The painful and bloody circumstances aren't tasteless or forbidden, just not what we talk about when we discuss our days when prompted. They exist in the clamped up reaches of our insides, usually to stay there indefinitely. They are not fed or allowed out for fresh air, just left to be as silent as they can be in a socially acceptable resting state.
Strause gives these miscreant notions all of the nourishment they could ever beg for; he coddles them as a child - clumsy with intimacy and the right touch with soft animals - strokes the fur of a rabbit or a cat. He seems to be able to make these scary thoughts his best friends. Satan is just another man to get him somewhere exclusive. He is the night where echoes blast against the walls of the pitch blackness like pinballs - the lonesome and harrowing howls of a thousand rapid wolves. Strause sings on "The Black Ribbon," "The tomb is a womb is a tomb is a womb" and the circular reasoning, the perfect association between death and the days before you start that dying, is inseparable. It's part of the precision that he believes in and it's the unflappable claim that there isn't all that great of a difference in traumas. His voice is a harsh amalgamation of tired living and a sense that living going to get harder. He makes the acquaintance of stinging reality and heated hearts a pleasant one because there's nothing sadder or more depressing than the forfeiture of fighting to get out of this life alive.
Strause is not sad. He's not scared. He's just taking it all in, like a coal-burning stove, letting the fires melt off the fingerprints off of his fingers and the smiles from his faces, and bringing in the soot, letting it deposit itself all along his inner walls like a new coat of indoor painting. From top to bottom, he's inhaled the black cloud - welcomed the ominous swarms of cicadas in too - just as he and his wife suck in their cigarettes - long and slow and purposefully, like hummingbirds pulling in sugar water, just getting drunk on it. He reminds us that there need not be a bow atop something to make it a gift.