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Underground Unusualities #6: Asphodel Meadows’ “I​-​VI” Paints Nightmares Under Eyelids

asphodal meadows i-iv

In this series, Jenna scours the musical expanse for unusual (but fitting) albums to soundtrack life’s tumult.

After the annual 14 hospitable days, the air was gaining the soft static that turns carrying body weight into a battle against gravity’s pull. A turn of a corner brings sudden blindness with flames that turn fair skin pink and eyes all white; the angle of Earth hardly ever seems to get it quite right. The straps of my backpack were turning into wet sponges pressed into my aching shoulders. School was out for summer; the days of walking to hours of statistical programming with flurries buried into the waves of my hair were nothing but a distant dream. Now all that’s left to do is soak up too much of a good thing. From “raw dogging reality” to drinking up sun until you lose your first layer, summer’s strike is always sudden but never swift.

As I walked home from moderating a final for my intro course, I could already feel the static trying to stretch my limbs like the Blair Witch. The blistering knives that had kept me jumping all semester had slowly been scratched dull. My heart-shaped sunglasses projected the album to which I was listening: I-VI by Asphodel Meadows. As the cover boy collapsed clean on the cool floor, I wished to succumb to the same cavernous atmosphere.

My apartment building impending, I saw a trio on the stoop set up amongst strewn materials. I considered taking the back entrance but couldn’t fathom taking another step under high beams. As the album cycled from the beginning, echoes accompanied the soft crunch of my sneakers tip toeing on empty wrappers and tarp scraps. “I think… someone… needs,” a graying man began, loitering upright but stumbling backward. “Needs to get in… in the thing.” His leathery arm gestured to the front door. I heard something murmur up from my sneakers.

“I’m sorry.”

My eyes moved down to a younger woman with a pixie cut seated at my left. She was holding a syringe to her forearm, a few centimeters of blood flooding from the needle’s nucleus. Her eyes remained on her task, but not with the fixedness of precision. I stopped for a moment as my clanging keys were rendered silent in my fist.

The older man continued to repeat his initial sentence, but their voices were becoming but soft whispers through the growing hisses in my headphones. I glanced back down, this time to my right, and saw a young man with his eyes closed and his chin pressed firmly into his shoulders. “It’s okay,” I finally let out, emphasizing “okay” to be sure that I could hear it through siren-like lo-fi sonics. I hovered my key fob over the sensor just a few inches above the young man’s head and slinked inside.

The clasping of the lock behind me might as well have been the turn of a vault. The unairconditioned air, whose presence I, for some reason, pay to grace, had a bad case of rigor mortis, intensified only by the globe fixture overhead that was dotted with gnats. Knowing that the condition would only worsen a few floors up, I followed the matted damask carpet down to the basement.

I was hit by a lessening of light and texture, picking up steam past the row of mailboxes and laundry room fluorescence to the small lounge at the end of the tunnel-like hallway. Discarded board games and empty Leinenkugels bottles sat with sounds of dying laughter. I tucked my sunglasses into the front of my tank-top and slung my backpack to the ground, sending one hollow vessel rolling until it was muted by cinder block. To the unbending couch, I collapsed, my eyes shuttering the array of metal cubbies at the opposite end.

The earbud lodged between the suede and me was pumping billowing winds from a seasonless dimension. A low voice eventually emerged at the surface:

“I hear their silent screams, their dark faces painted on the back of my eyelids. Be not afraid, be not afraid…”

In my dreams, I trekked through crisp wilderness, greens and browns offset by spots of melting snow — a maze that ended in the crash of waves weathering stone. As I wisped around with no apparent purpose, my view was briefly interrupted by the clanking of pipes and replaced by a dark red thickness bubbling up from a small drain in the corner of concrete.

Too cradled to decipher reality from muddled brain waves, I turned on my other side, regaining sight of the horizon.

I-IV released March 12, 2017; follow the project on Bandcamp and Facebook.

asphodal meadows

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