Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Listen/Watch: Typhoon - "Rorschach

photo by Jeremy Hernandez
With the release of a solo album What Will Destroy You from Typhoon frontman Kyle Morton in the autumn of 2016, I thought it might be some time until we saw a release from the band in earnest. Which is not to say that a four year gap between records isn't a sizable one - rather, the fact that many of its members leaned into the post-album hiatus after 2013's White Lighter and Morton, the band's chief songwriter released a full length solo debut, I figured it might be some time before Morton cobbled up as complete a set of songs as was necessary to constitute a full length Typhoon record. So imagine my surprise when not only was it announced that the band was working on/recording a follow up last year but that when unveiled it would turn out to be the band's most ambitious.

Offerings, the fourth full length record from Portland, Oregon collective Typhoon is a 14 song concept album split in four parts. The band announced the album with a stream of the album's first movement Floodplains and it showed off both the album's concept: a man losing his memory and thereby himself while also offering up the band's incredible sense of songcraft. Morton's songwriting is as visceral as ever and the band's arrangements as vital. It's been my go-to since its premiere and I was happy to discover that one of my favorite songs in the initial batch "Rorschach" would receive a music video.

While album opener "Wake" functions much less like "Prelude" from White Lighter and much more like "Artificial Light" or "Poor Bastard" from Morton's solo debut in terms of establishing the album's would-be core themes, "Rorschach" introduces the album's conflict in that of the unnamed man's actual response to his memory loss. "Wake" functions as a sort of Greek chorus like introduction before the man's entrance. "Rorschach" finds the man having a much more alarmed reaction to his memory loss as he copes with far less acceptance than his "Wake" counterpart. The reason for this may be time. Morton's songcraft is mostly narrative as he focuses on the disorienting sense that something is missing that haunts the album's protagonist. The song begins with an almost casual utterance of a theme that's plagued many a songwriter: "Eyes on the screen, we have all this information now but what does it mean?"

Bands like Radiohead and Arcade Fire have made whole albums devoted to how we as modern people deal with life in the digital age and how the excessive access to information might be dulling not only how we regard that information but our own humanity. Morton instead opts to focus on the latter: namely what's the use of limitless information if it can't help you preserve who you are? Morton leaves little clues here and there about why the protagonist ended up in this scenario but the why is also treated (as least in the case of "Rorschach") as largely irrelevant. Instead "Rorschach" focuses, like all compelling mysteries, on the "what now?" aspect.

The accompanying music video, directed by Neighborhood Films' Matthew Thomas Ross, leans further into that mystery and that particular sense of loss as the unnamed man (played by Morton) undergoes some sort of psychological evaluation/interrogation hybrid meant to either restore the lost memories or discern if they're really gone to begin with. Plagued by fragments of memories with no  of what they mean. The "Rorschach" video is essentially a mystery inside of a mystery as the viewer is put in the same position as the unnamed man of figuring out just what it all means. It's slickly and captivating shot and is one of those rare music videos that provide new added context to the song it's accompanying. Hardly surprising considering Typhoon and their longtime collaborator put considerable thought into the concepts but the "Rorschach" video levels up their partnership as the band zeroes in on ensuring the viewer/listener takes away a feeling.

Typhoon's fourth full length album Offerings is out now on Roll Call Records. You can order it now. The band are also on tour, you can check out tour dates here.

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