Devon Church – Strange Strangers
Nothing is beautiful and nothing is ugly, everything is a mix on Devon Church’s Strange Strangers. Church wrestles with the search for meaning in a world that seems devoid of purpose over a series of neo-folk songs that combine a reverence for traditionalism with a sense of the beyond via off-kilter juxtaposition of imagery and ethereal sonic vistas that recall the big but casual orchestration, subtle horns and strings over fat bass and warm organ tones, of Lee Hazelwood albums.
Church’s deep baritone delivered in a laconic but engaging style reminiscent of David Berman (Silver Jews, Purple Mountains) is accompanied by his wife’s, Ada Roth’s, soaring harmonies throughout as if soothing Church’s pained longings. Strange Strangers is a spiritual album that leans heavily on Biblical imagery, but Strange Strangers is not derivative praise music – it is a collection of serious searching beyond the mundane in hopes that the sacred might still exist somewhere in the modern world. Devon Church wrote, performed, recorded, and mixed Strange Strangers with little outside accompaniment; the album was mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri at Black Knoll Studios and is out now on felte records – the limited edition Holy Teal vinyl is particularly lovely.
“This is Paradise (But Not For Us)” encapsulates all things that make Strange Strangers a boundless work of art. A tale of Adam and Eve’s dissolution of faith in the Garden of Eden, “This is Paradise” could easily be taken as an indictment of Church’s New York City base prior to his expulsion via a house fire or modern day America more generally. Acceptance and disbelief at their circumstances swirl in a waltz that evokes the constant roll forward of life as Adam pleas to God that he and Eve were simply naïve while a weight of the sadness that knowledge brings hangs over the affair.
…there’s plenty you can do with wood
I’d build a cabin if I could
Someplace where the trees aren’t filled with snakes
I saw a snake once in a tree
I swear to god it spoke to me
Said ‘I’ve got something you and your lady both should taste’
Well back then we were down to try
Anything, thought we’d never die
Never knew a fruit could make you feel this strange
Devon Church continues to describe Adam and Eve’s predicament in immediate detail that extrapolates to every human’s situation – we are dirty, we are tired, but we push forward in spite of destinations unknown,
Eve’s got grass stains on her clothes
I’ve got dirt all over me
We don’t know where this river goes
Still we follow where it leads
“Bored with the Apocalypse” appears as a direct companion of “This is Paradise” – a natural bookend that takes “Paradise” to its final conclusion as Kate Moss wanders a modern landscape devoid of meaning over a mellow swirling Brian Jonestown Massacre-esque passage that reverently recalls instrumentation from a bygone yet eternal sound.
She said ‘I’m so bored of the apocalypse
There’s no antichrist, just this anticlimax carrying on
Like nothing in the world was wrong’
She said ‘i’m so bored of the apocalypse
My heart don’t stop it just beats and skips
It’ll bleed out now, it just drips and drips
Til every last drop is gone
And nothing nothing in the world feels wrong’
“All Is Holy (A432)” continues to build on Church’s theme of displacement or off-ness in the world, the nothing seems right/nothing feels wrong sentiment that plays out across Strange Strangers as he references the concept that the standard accepted frequency for tuning a piano, A440, is actually a perversion of existence’s resonance that keeps us from connection with the spiritual all around us.
Devon Church’s Strange Strangers is a masterclass in songwriting and production. Each word and turn of phrases (written and musical) build off each other while referencing a wider world of symbolism and knowledge that grows deeper with each successive listen. Soothe the longing deep within you for a greater connection to the beyond by picking up a copy of Devon Church’s Strange Strangers today. https://devonchurch.bandcamp.com/album/strange-strangers