Author: Shannon Cleary
Date: February 4th, 2011
Photographs by PJ Sykes
The Richmond Ballet is an intriguing space for recording. The corridors resonate peculiar sonic identities that help provide definition for each project. When The Low Branches approached this location for the recording of Sinking, Rising, it made perfect sense. The eloquence to their craft could only be masterfully unraveled and contained in such a way that there would be no denying their whimsical beauty. Lobo Marino’s approach to using this space differs in many respects, but still achieves what all parties involved set out to do. It made the tight intricacies and brevity of their ideas echo and sprawl throughout The Reincarnation EP.
When we last left Lobo Marino, they were chronicling their journeys abroad on Keep Your Head Up. The release relied heavily on an organic approach that relished in it’s basic recording methods and impressive storytelling devices. With multi-instrumentalist Nathaniel Roseberry in tow, the group can finally excel to new pinnacles of defining their sound. It’s in his accompaniment that Jameson Price and Laney Sullivan’s ideas become even more fruitful. The dynamic and challenges they provide for themselves and the listener are concise and they leave you craving yet another listen.
For The Reincarnation EP, Lobo Marino decided to utilize two longer tracks that could gracefully intertwine instrumental segments, powerful refrains and methodical paces. Where Keep Your Head Up represented the landscapes of South America and the confrontation of internal battles, The Reincarnation EP is the return home. With all lessons learned, what is there to make of this new knowledge in a world that evolved in one’s departure. Can one ever come home again, let alone make a change in their former worlds upon their return? This is a constant overarching query that presents itself in each section of the fourteen-minute long EP.
Everything begins with a howl. The ideas that imprisoned these individuals have now been removed and they are returning. To describe them as free spirits would be a disservice in my eyes. They raise their loving eyes and fragile mouths to the sky and let out a howl as a greeting to the home they once knew. The greeting they receive is intriguing in that it’s the sound of machinery moving across the city streets. In place of the sounds of chirping and silence, it is now cluttered with jangling iron and steel. [1} As the street sounds breeze by, Lobo Marino revels in the prior landscapes. They imagine the earth as they once saw it. It has now been replaced by streetlights and gravel. The juxtaposition of both worlds is immediately noticeable. It goes beyond the aesthetics. They conceive how everything learned isn’t as easy to translate in this modern world. This pertains to religion and commerce. In the lines that refer to cutting their hands in order to reveal what they have stolen as thieves and even the desire to remain warm in this climate, it’s a transformation for the group. They stare in the eyes of new representations of secular ideology and how this reflects itself in the mechanics of a world that is taken advantage of in it’s resources and belief systems.
The howls reappear and reappear and reappear. As they reappear, I imagine them as a way of holding on to the memory of the old world. They act as a fading sentiment that the three members of Lobo Marino hold on to as a way of finding meaning and making sense of the industrialization of the States that they are reintroduced to. This is also where percussive elements are brought to the forefront. This helps provide cadence to Price’s refrain in which he demands that everyone not exist as an onlooker as he falls. To not wait until that day to arrive, but to challenge the idea that this day should ever have to come at all.
As “Side B” approaches, Price declares, “These skyscrapers got a bad name.” It’s in these buildings that they no longer act as homes for commerce. These skyscrapers are now over-arching tombstones that glare down at the city below. Their existence alone has now been predicated on what they have desecrated. It presents even greater questions about the return of Lobo Marino to the stateside. How little is life valued any longer since their
departure? Has it now become acceptable to place such little consideration into how we house the remains of the dearly departed? Is the ability for a business to acquire revenue in the construction of a building that may end up vacant in the future more important than instituting lessons founded by religion? In the second side of this EP, all of these questions are asked and it would be too easy to provide quick answers. That isn’t even the purpose. The purpose is that we should all prevent ourselves from staring at the surrounding world with tired, vacant eyes.
In the use of a Spanish verse, it helps reiterate the group’s plea. When translating, the verse wonders where the dead will go. When I consider this concept, I tend to think even further. At first, I immediately conjure ideas about how much of our world is spiritually assigned with purgatory. If there is no more space for the spiritual world, where can any of us imagine departing to when we are no longer a part of the living? In an even greater sense, I wonder if by considering where the dead will go is a thought leaning towards the idea that in our actions, perhaps we are already dead. In our inability to stop the destructive nature of the modern world, we have made our reality and our existence into a purgatory-like existence. The modern world may pertain itself to one large waiting room and it’s sad to consider that. Yet, you cant help but consider this a possibility when so little is done out of a selfless need to help those around us.
It may only seem like this because of Lobo Marino’s eventual departure from the city to investigate more of the world, but this is how I feel The Reincarnation EP concludes. They now see this familiar world in a hue of distortion and it’s time to leave. They haven’t given up on the city, but it’s a matter of time before it may consume them as well. There is still much to be learned. In this second departure, they can only retain the memories of the past and a strong optimism for what they may encounter when they return again. At no point was their homecoming tainted by the realities of this city’s evolution. It was simply a wake-up call. In this moment of clarity, the idea of reincarnation becomes apparent. This religious idea exists as an afterthought to what becomes of us when we die. In considering the tragedy of being dead already in our apathy, perhaps a reincarnation is possible while we are still living. It goes against the traditional idea in that we would still remain in the same physical home, but our minds would become free. In this freedom, more stimuli is engaged in the heart and soul and what may have seemed like an impossible feat in past thoughts is now within arm’s reach. This is how I think the storytelling journey that is reflected throughout this EP examines a modern translation of reincarnation and how it applies to us all.
If The Reincarnation EP is Lobo Marino’s perspective on returning back to a familiar home, I can only wonder what the next sequence of songs will reveal. Will they depict a more heightened sense of political prowess and a fierce desire to enact change whenever they see fit? Will more treasures of the world be uncovered so that they may be beloved again? I eagerly anticipate these perspectives to unveil themselves in future Lobo Marino releases. In the sadness that I feel in their departure, there is much more to discover in what their travels will offer them. For that sheer fact, I am excited for the group and the future of their challenging repertoire of ideology and musical inklings that will carry on for years to come.
In my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in
tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night
-Allen Ginsberg Howl
I think this is interesting given the context of comparing the Low Branches and Lobo
Marino’s experiences recording at the Richmond Ballet. The Low Branches remarked
in how they would grow somewhat frustrated in the near-perfect takes they would
achieve to only discover they were tainted by the sound of oncoming traffic outside of
the recording space. In consideration of what Lobo Marino set out to do with the idea of
The Reincarnation EP, it makes perfect sense that they would embrace these noises as a
means of conjuring up intense thoughts in regards to the context of this world that was
On Tuesday, 2.8.11, Say 'Bon Voyage' to Lobo Marino as they embark upon an 8 month tour adventure. While you're there, pick up their new EP!
It is also available digitally through their Bandcamp site.