Review: Krotz Struder – 15 Dickinson Songs

coverI felt a Cleavage in my Mind —
As if my Brain had split —
I tried to match it— Seam by Seam —
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before —
But Sequence ravelled out of reach
Like Balls — upon a Floor.

A moment of epiphany, perhaps? A sudden subversion in long held faith, driven by an idea that barrels through the foundations of previous belief? I talk and think about streams of consciousness quite frequently, but I spend less time considering those ruptures in rational flow; the sudden dread of realising that I may have spent a life in the wrong, followed by a brief attempt at reconciling the new line of thinking with its contradictory predecessor. Emily Dickinson’s poem exists in the margin between the “before” and the “now”, encapsulating the shell-shock of obliterated assumption. Krotz Struder’s accompanying song is enacted by three acoustic guitars that try to negotiate the situation between them, with two guitars at the edges tussling for harmonic prominence and posing arguments that try to lure the centre one way or the other. The tune is grim, descending; a sinking sensation that pushes deep into the gut, unwilling to settle into a contented truth. As with all the pieces on 15 Dickinson Songs, I hear Struder climbing inside the poem and looking out, spinning melodies that channel Dickinson’s complex broths of contemplation, yearning and uncertainty, fluid enough to navigate the new moods that emerge as each new line spills out of the last.

They’re fleeting and intimate pieces. Amplifiers nestled in the corner of a small bedroom. Voices murmuring in an attempted balance between earnest confession and hushed privacy. The words are permitted to do most of the work; Struder’s voice swoops gently to carry the pensive curiosity of “The Western Mystery” into the sky, while the gentle guitar stagger of “The Diadem” – which depicts bleak weather as nature slumping into sadness and vulnerability – mimic the droop of withering flora. The songs are often over in two minutes or less. Struder runs through each poem once – occasionally returning to loiter upon a couple of lines, but ultimately content to allow each turn of phrase to be ingested in silence rather than through insistent repetition. I feel grateful for being permitted to peer into these nests of introspection. After all, they do not exist for me. They are inward gestures; the slosh of internal rationale, using words and fingerplucked strings to solidify fragments thought, and thought to further scrutinise the outward manifestations of words and fingerplucked strings.