Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Ian Grimble and Richard Matthews of Communion Music at 2KHz, Crouch End, London
It's something else to empathize, to really get a sense of the pain that another person is going through, taking it into your own self and feeling it. It's quite the feat, though it's easier to do if you've been there and you've been ripped apart that exact same way. Perhaps that's the exact definition of empathy, but then again, to defend ourselves, there's a lot of weak empathizing going round and there always has been. The good stuff is the kind that brings the speckles of tears to the fringe of your eyes just as the details of the story are heard. You're already there as you've been flung or whipped right into the middle of that sadness. It's immediately your own. It's as if the melancholy of something can be contagious.
Somewhere in an interview the other day, I read about a person saying that they were struggling to feel things, or feel good about things. It was likely some actor or actress bemoaning some form of life that wasn't all that bad, but they were insisting on a need to get back to really feeling things again. They were doing everything they could to remember what their firsts were like - the first jaw-dropping, clear, black country sky freckled with stars, the first love, the first time they ever ate their favorite food. They were simply hoping for the rush to return because they were bankrupt of sensitivity.
This person in question should think about listening to London's Goldheart Assembly. The five-piece seems to have no difficulty in getting under the skin of things and pulling us right into the thick of it with them, jarring loose all kinds of emotions that - had we been polled beforehand - we would have insisted were not being harbored within. Somehow they got there, sneaking in through the back and side doors, or tunneling in from the earthen floor. The band has its own wine and they're reinforced with the lucidity that circles back around on a person after they're a few glasses in, seeing things in a different sort of light - maybe some of that starry country night light referred to earlier.
The positively stunning song, "So Long St. Christopher," off the group's debut record, "Wolves and Thieves," could make a believer out of anyone that there really is such a thing as a separation being mutually agreeable, that there are no hard feelings and both persons will remain friends, loving one another no less. It's something so painful, but for the best in the long run. It's a song that takes place on one of those barren, slightly chilly country nights, beneath that spotted blanket of blinkers as singers James Dale and John Herbert sing, "Drinking wild until sunrise/Sprinkle salt into my eyes/Chewing over many doubts/When I'm drunk I spit it out/And all the lights shine from the northern stars/I saw you radiate/And I don't mean to be so seasonal/Spring is here and no one stirred/So long St. Christopher/And I'd like to believe you but I can't so I leave you on your own/Passing time." We're not sure what's going to happen next, but it feels as if there are bound to be regrets. There always are when it comes to nights like these and observations like this about them.
Goldheart Assembly gives us the out-of-body experience of having been a part of that particular evening, getting a little drunk and seeing that girl radiating. Maybe they make us feel that way for the first time and it's why it hits so hard. Or maybe we just like when the lights gleam magically. We never have any idea when they're going to do it, but we recognize when they do immediately and it makes its way into us post-haste.
*Essay originally published May, 2011