Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hiss Golden Messenger's Haw: A Question of Faith, Laughing In The Face of Death


MC Taylor’s 2011 album as Hiss Golden Messenger, Poor Moon, blended folk, soul and gospel, revealing Taylor as a writer inside his own lyrical universe; hewn from Biblical imagery and folk mores. The beautiful sequel, Haw, is the same, but moreso. The arrangements are bigger, the language more dense, the symbolism darker.
Hat act: HGM's MC Taylor
“We didn’t set out to make a record that was more complex,” says Taylor. “There’s a weird dynamic at work with Hiss Golden Messenger. As I continue to make records, they feel like they’re becoming more personal, not less. The more records I make, the more solitary they become, emotionally speaking. I, of course, hope that people connect to them. But in the case of HGM the reason the small group of people that connect to them connect to them is because of the rawness of spirit that is in them. It took me a long time before I felt safe enough to put that stuff to record, to tape. It makes me feel very vulnerable, but the thing that gives me hope is that these are personal feelings, but they’re also universal. I think everybody has questions of faith and who they’re supposed to be and what their responsibility is to the world and to the community.”
Taylor also suggests that Haw is an attempt to understand his spiritual life, a recurring theme in his work. Emotionally, it’s tough, swinging between Christmas (I’ve Got A Name For The Newborn Child) and rebirth (the gorgeous Cheerwine Easter).
“It’s a seasonal record in a way. It has a blustery and bright Spring quality to it. There is some light, and there is a lot of darkness too, which you referred to as density. Maybe density would be a better way to describe it. It’s certainly a more emotionally complex record than Poor Moon is. If Poor Moon was setting the stage for these questions of faith then Haw really tries to puzzle them out a little more. If Poor Moon opened up the possibility to me that I could be a spiritual person, then Haw interrogates these questions of: what does that mean and why, what use is faith? And what are the problems with faith? There are many.”
There’s a solution of sorts on Devotion, but Taylor is serious enough to understand that deliverance and pain are eternally intertwined.
“There is a through line on Haw that has to do with a reckoning with death, and understanding that death is the end result of life. To recognise that and to understand that on a daily basis has the potential to make life and our experience of being in the world more profound, I think. This is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around because I’m a person that thinks about the past a lot, or I think about the future – it’s hard for me to live in the moment.
“I was reading an interview with author George Saunders. He’s a very profound writer because of the way he addresses life questions. His latest book, 10th of December, is a funny book, but it’s also really deep. But in this interview he did with the New York Times he says something to the effect of: when death is in the room, things become very interesting. What he meant was, when you are aware of the imminence of death, not as something bleak or dark, but as something which can serve to make life richer because you have to value each moment, then things become a lot more interesting. I just thought that was so incredible. It’s such a simple statement, and kind of obvious, but it also summed up a lot of what I was feeling and thinking during the making of Haw. Death is on the way, how do we celebrate these days?”