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IMAGES: To download, click above. Photo credit Anna Maria Trudel.

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Nap Eyes

FIRST TRANSMISSION FROM THE NEON GATE / 20240514 / 0900R

“I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?” –  Chris Marker, Sans Soleil (1983)

When we last heard from Nap Eyes, in May 2021, in the wake of their fourth full-length record, Snapshot of a Beginner (PoB-058), released in March 2020 at the uncertain brink of the COVID-19 pandemic—their truncated tour with Destroyer was the final concert some of us saw for a year or longer—they were sharing covers by Green Day and Bonnie Raitt, on an EP plainly titled When I Come Around. It was an earthbound exercise, perhaps, in vigorous nostalgia as antidote to the exhaustion of awaiting an unusually unknowable future.

Then, silence—circumstantial but also self-imposed, unvowed but total.

Now, exactly three years later to the day, they’re back with two songs, old and new, that bookend the band’s history, monuments, or mnemonic mile markers, to fifteen years of singular songmaking. It is no coincidence that both songs are themselves concerned with marking, attenuating, and collapsing time.

There are classic Nap Eyes touchstones here—the uneasy interplay of physics and philosophy, perambulatory descriptions of landscape and weather, self-interrogating soliloquies, technological anxiety, apertures of surreality, video games—but also the sense, intentionally and unabashedly exhibited in the contrast, both sonic and lyrical, between the two specimens, that Nap Eyes have transmuted, as has their understanding of what a song is, what it can do, where it might go.

“Ice Grass Underpass,” which singer, principal songwriter, and guitarist Nigel Chapman wrote in 2009, predates the band’s existence entirely but prefigures the sonic signature of Nap Eyes’s foundational first two albums, Whine of the Mystic (2015, PoB-020) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016, PoB-024). In this recent rendering, it describes a solipsistic solo walk, ice-grass crunching underfoot, leaning through the snowy scrim of Brad Loughead’s guitar squall. Seasons change, as they always do—“I’ve been hoarding my coal so long / The winter turned to spring”—and time stitches its “squalid seams” of regret and forgetting. Who can remember thirst?

“Feline Wave Race” is something altogether stranger and more novel, emerging from Chapman’s current improvisational writing practice. Piloted by Seamus Dalton and Josh Salter’s subtle, synthetic rhythms, it feels more discursive and deconstructed, more abstract and nonlinear than anything they’ve attempted to date. Over the course of the song’s six-and-a-half-minute duration, a new deliquescent song-signature evolves alongside this narrative of planetary evolution and time travel. This rather leisurely “race” begins after the heat death of the universe, an abiding interest of the cosmically inclined Chapman, finding the narrator “in outer space / when the gas clouds / pass away and / the molecules / distribute / all across the fabric / of the horizon.” We are transported from deep space through telescoping deep time, from “the edge of the moat / of the 13th-century castle” to 1996, the year Nintendo released the jetskiing video game Wave Race 64.

The narrator’s familiar and companion, following a Franciscan encounter in a cave, is a wildcat, who, in an absurdist sleight of hand reminiscent of the similarly cat-consumed filmmaker Chris Marker, digitizes and surfs “a tidal wave” into the pixelated 64-bit waterways of Wave Race 64.

We’re left with no explanation and no ending, no return journey to our home world, resigned forever to explore the briny digital microcosmos with “that cat, that cat, that cat …”

To be continued …

CREDITS

Nigel Chapman: vocals, guitars, synths, drum programming

Brad Loughead: guitars, bass, synths, drum programming

Josh Salter: bass, guitars, synths

Seamus Dalton: drums, guitars, synths

“Feline Wave Race” was recorded in Windsor, NS by Nap Eyes and mixed by Brad Loughead in Los Angeles.

“Ice Grass Underpass” was recorded in Montreal, QC at Studio Dolly by Nigel Chapman and mixed by René Wilson at Value Sound Studios in Montreal.

Mastered by Josh Bonati in Brooklyn, NY.

LYRICS

Feline Wave Race
Beyond all doubt
Beyond all trace
Beyond all trace of doubt
In outer space
When the gas clouds
Pass away and
The molecules
Distribute
All across the fabric
Of the horizon
Down on a rock planet
With water and trees
Were a hundred million or so
Double barrelling monkeys and
Might be half a billion or so
Types of beetle species
And nobody but me
That’s just like me
A blood curdling yell
On the night street byway
In between the two poles
All across the distant skyway
And out at the edge of the moat
Of the 13th century castle
Where I turned my book and I spun it round
I was contemplating something
Walking out on the grounds
Or maybe it wasn’t me at all
It’s hard to say with this kind of hypothetical
“Don’t rain on my parade grounds;
I’ll crack it in your skull”
Was going on sometimes in those days
Dear Lord
But now as I cross the foggy expanse
In the graceful mountain twisting
Thought maybe I’d catch a curling glance from
Some wild cat that was
Stepping out
Across a branch
Around a root
Into a cave
Then out from a tunnel
Into a tidal wave
It’s playing sea race
It’s playing the N64 game wave race
It’s playing at racing now
That wildcat
That cat, that cat, that cat.

Ice Grass Underpass

The winter visit to the Ice Grass Underpass
You told me it would do me good
Divine motion in the long and in the cut grass
Was just too easily misunderstood
Anyway I’ve been hoarding my coal so long
The winter turned to spring
Brother says now my life has ended
That I might just spend it looking out for things,
Whereas
Usually I try to find where the fabric
Runs from lofty patterns into squalid seams
But with
Nothing left but this life ungiven
It’s the life I’m living
It’s a selfish dream
The winter visit to the Ice Grass Underpass
You told me it would do me good
Divine motion in the long and in the cut grass
Was just too easily misunderstood