Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Brett Allen
For some, the idea of eternal blackness isn't that at all. It's more of a fairyland with perfect conditions, impeccable weather (always ripe for golf or snorkeling), the freshest fruits and vegetables to just chow down in an endless feed, and all of the kindest and dearest people we've ever known, making up our neighborhood. It can also be more of a barbeque - towers of flames and the fumes of burning flesh filling the air. Or it can be nothing like anyone has imagined, we suppose. It's always a possibility that when the heart stops beating - it gets weird.
The reincarnation that Eef Barzelay sprinkles generously into his songs is what comes on the other side of the first wave of blackness, potentially after a long, meandering crash course in prolonged darkness. The acts or the improvisational suggestion of these reincarnations come from various people that Barzelay throws into his impressionistic stories of people getting their strings tied and people on the outskirts of what it means to be content and energized. Someone over here can't take comfort in the cliché that "it could be worse" and too many are hoping that they don't end now, that this can't be their last quarter sweating in their hand and causing it to smell like licked nickel.
Barzelay puts so many people at the ends of their last straw, gripping to the greasy end of a rope. He writes these people into unfortunate surroundings, unfortunate circumstances that they played a large enough part of to get a partial byline, but still unfortunate. More often than not, it seems, that lives that could be forgivable aren't forgiven because there is no being out there to do it. If that being exists, getting those good virtues extolled takes death for the process to start rolling. Nobody here has the right tools to do such a thing and there's still more than a shadow of a doubt that no one or no being does.
It's all a very speculative thing - anything that's faith-based, but what Barzelay does is to raise that speculation, to twist it and make it into something that, while waffling or wading slowly into any of the bubbling waters, could strike people hard, could turn out to be the best use of the thought of a higher order. Barzelay makes use out of the thought that our bodies can be turned into something more useful when we're done with them or at least go back to the state that they were in when they first came into this universe as mass.
He sings, "Back to stardust, we return again," and also suggests to whomever takes the orders or listens to such recommendations to take the bones or the dust of them and make them into another tree, the particular forest is completely the call of the maker. It's about living on when the real living being done as the matter for reincarnation wasn't the best situation at all. That which the woman in "Make Another Tree" is after isn't a solitary wish. It's, in a way, partially what all of those in Barzelay's songs are striving (more like struggling) for: that which was supposedly promised to them. When it's dialed in, this doesn't amount to much. It's not fancy meals three times a day, huge ass cars, gaudy houses and more money than they could ever spend. It's more closely defined as that wish to just be made into a tree. One could argue that letting our feet become the roots of a thick and healthy tree, to bloom, spread our arms out for hotel rooms for birds and animals, to sway like water in a stiff breeze and to be as naturally close to the sun as anything else standing can be wouldn't be all that bad. Many of the people in Barzelay's apocalyptic folk songs could use such a feeling - a reprieve from the knives, the sandpaper and all of the hammers.
*Essay originally published October, 2008