Now Ode and Elegy Sings the Long Song (Full Album Stream)
My first forays into emo and screamo during my late high school years (and this will date me, whether it makes me older or younger) in the mid-2000s were confusing, to say the least. Coming from an extreme metal background, something so verboten was intriguing, but I never really found the right catalyst to form the connection between my music taste and the forbidden styles, at least, not until I stumbled upon an open-source file sharing website called the Sordo Music Archive (don't look for it, it hasn't existed for years).
Rochester, New York, ensemble The Pax Cecilia's Blessed Are The Bonds was first released sometime in 2007 (don't ask me or the Internet exactly when this happened). Pre-empting the "Pay What You Want" wave starting in the 2010s, The Pax Cecilia released the album entirely for free, both digitally and physically, and it was met with acclaim for its forward thinking music (I first found it on the Sordo Music Archive using a genre tag like "screamo/Modern Classical" or something akin to that). I was curious. It just didn't make sense to me on paper. Somehow melding emo and screamo's radiance and open-string jangling with a chamber ensemble's texture and depth, The Pax Cecilia's unique, progressive music generally falls under the "art rock" tag when discussed online, but it really was more than that. Blessed Are The Bonds' unique scope–this middle ground between historic Art music, modern emotional hardcore, and progressive rock–led to an interesting listen, one which has followed me for almost 15 years (wow), but just as suddenly as this particular album gained steam, The Pax Cecilia completely disappeared.
It wasn't until a random memory popped into my head that I thought to look up The Pax Cecilia on Facebook. Maybe they weren't gone. Maybe I missed something… and there they were. The page itself wasn't very active; a post here, a link there, but not much. I was disappointed, but kept an eye on it just in case. One day, seemingly at random, member and page administrator Kent Fairman Wilson started a cryptic series of posts. Was it new material? Was The Pax Cecilia still around? It was too vague to tell, and it wasn't until just a few weeks ago that the mystery Wilson had woven began to take shape.
In so many words, The Pax Cecilia are done, and from the ashes arose a new and even more ambitious project. Long live Ode and Elegy. A long-form post-metal, emo, screamo, choral music, and chamber music project, Ode and Elegy's eponymous, single-song debut draws upon Wilson's previous musical incarnation's ambition and increases it by orders of magnitude.
Across its 55 minute length, Ode and Elegy is a beautiful debut, pitting arco-bowed strings and full choirs against a more traditional "rock band" setup and utilizing a complex, through-composed structure to maintain a progressive momentum. Though not necessarily a traditionally heavy affair, Ode and Elegy's "grim and sublime" music is cinematic in scope, looking at a much broader musical spectrum than its preceding project. Gone is the idea of the "individual song," instead replacing neo-traditional structure with a classically-inclined and scholarly, leitmotif-based form.
As Ode and Elegy progresses, so does its emotional content and weight. Beginning with a fragile birth, the album–Wilson's "opus"–takes on more and more, becoming complex and navigating the grey area between emotions. Though expressing sincere and vivid emotions like sadness, pride, fragility, and so on, it's in the space between these feelings that Ode and Elegy truly shines. A truly complex album, Ode and Elegy capitalizes on the time in which it occupies and blossoms as it moves forward. Though there are smaller, band-oriented climaxes which occur across its running time, it isn't until the very end that all these ideas–this structure, these obscure harmonies and emotions, these textures–culminate in moments of pure sonic glory. The Pax Cecilia are dead, long live Ode and Elegy.
Listen to Ode and Elegy in full ahead of its February 1st release and read a statement from Kent Fairman Wilson below.
From the artist:
Some time ago, I began to lapse into dissociative episodes where the world was gone from me. All things I loved and knew were of my invention, and I would not see them again. It was unbearably lonely, devastating. Though these were just faulty firings of the mind, I came to see that they are a concentration of what we all face, in the slow passage of life, as creatures aware of mortality and selfhood.
Over a decade ago it became my goal to capture this feeling in sound. I had recently abandoned the Mythos project, a far-too-ambitious conceptual effort with my band at the time, The Pax Cecilia, and was navigating some challenging emotions in my personal life. I fixated on the work of Arvo Pärt, and listened to nothing else, for years, convinced that those same sacred impulses could find expression through something faithless, something bereft. Into this scene came Harold Taddy, a long-time collaborator with the Pax, who championed my vague notions and, together, we began to build toward what felt grim and sublime.
I work slowly. Process had to dictate what this would become just as much as any lofty preconception. Something that began in sonata allegro form now looks more like the movement of a film or story. Leitmotif became boiled down into textures, instead, and what themes recur, recur as passing familiarities, like almost-gone memories. As needs arose I pivoted my trajectory–writing workshops, vocal lessons, orchestration guidebooks. Where my inadequacies were too glaring, I relied on far more talented people, which accounts for the forty performers credited here, as well as the dozen other individuals that contributed to engineering and visual art.
I would probably still be working on this–my one musical opus–if the inner voices that sought validation didn’t finally outweigh the obsessive and doubt-filled ones. As it stands, I consider this a flawed but complete vision. It is the music I wanted to exist in the world, and I am hoping that it adds something to it.
–Kent Fairman Wilson
Follow Ode and Elegy on Instagram.