Friday, December 5, 2008

Sequoya: Sleep and Dream of Fire

Sleep and Dream of Fire

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Once I wrote a song about going to jail. It was a minor keyed emo tale about strife and troubles that I thought to be pretty clever. After playing it for a friend the response came, "so what personal experience are you drawing from?" Seeing as I have never been to jail nor have I even committed a jailable offense, there was none. So why favor a fictional tale rather than draw from a painful bag of my true misfortunes? My lesson was found in the vulnerability and damage exposed on Sleep and Dream of Fire, the latest album from Sequoya. This album comes to terms with wounds that will never heal and broken questions which have no answer. Bonnie and Matthew have spilled their hearts upon the table and asked us, "What color is the blood?" There is no anthem to be found here, just true-to-form folk music that pairs the listener with the artist and hikes an emotional trail of guarded fears and troubled memories. This is mature songwriting that has the guts to reach deep into a bag of pain and pull forth the stories, none of which by the way, are about a fictitious trip to jail.

The importance of this album reaches further than just listing Sequoya's artistic address. It is also significant to the Durham independent DIY music culture. With the self described "DIY Musicians Collective" Subdivision 67 and "local to Durham DIY Indie Label" 307 Knox Records promoting a local DIY infrastructure, the trampled grass of a lawn the morning following an open invitation house party showcasing a full bill of Durham DIY acts, and the rising frequency of minimalist DIY and duo bands booking headlining positions in local shows, the signs of a billowing new DIY music culture in Durham stands unobstructed. Sequoya successfully employing minimalist and DIY techniques to record, produce, and promote Sleep and Dream of Fire is a victory for the movement in that it stands as further proof that it posesses tangible, sustainable, and desirable qualities.

To mobilize a following as I am describing, the first component is music that inspires. Sequoya masters a technique of story telling through music and song that uses metaphor to put the listener in the shoes of the artist and draws upon common ground in order for the listener to relate. No better example of this metaphorical story telling than on "Satellite" which compares estranged love to a hunk of metal in space or the "My Father" lyrics "When my father left for space, I was not awake" painfully describing a father who walked out on an expecting mother. By the way, this song and "Cosmonauts Wife" seem to be the same story told from two different perspectives, a surprising and delightful energy from a talented songwriter. I suggest listening to these one after the other and make your own conclusion. Sequoya proves that DIY doesn't mean simple and terse also. There is art found in the arrangement and recording technique of this album. The elaborate layers of harmonies found in "Rocket" represent a track that could have been mulled over by a team of studio engineers, a rare quality for DIY recording.

Bonnie's blog on blogspot, "I'm so happy that it's done, but after completing a project there is a sadness that goes along with the joy. I chalk it up to nervousness and the uncertainty of what's to come, but that's the fun part" strikes me as the dissonance created in the anticipation of a response, not unlike the combination of fear and excitement of saying "I Love You" for the first time and panning for the same words to be returned. With a fresh and meaningful album to fuel live performance and a eagerly growing local music scene to fill out the schedule, the response could be overwhelming. The Pinhook hosts Sequoya's official CD Release party for Sleep and Dream of Fire on Saturday December 6, 2008.

Visit Sequoya's profiles: Sequoya sequoya

1 comment:

  1. Very, very awesome blog and review...thanks so much for writing it. I love this album, and the people who wrote and perform it.