Magnitude is everything. The poetry of How We Lived is in how tales of human woe are swept into the streams of greater atmospheric change. Cosmic change, perhaps. Matt Finney’s spoken account of a wretched family car journey is difficult to inhabit. Yet when set afloat upon Heinali’s rivers of shimmer – a sort of curdling of apocalyptic choral sigh and stretched-out starlight – they also become the visceral signifiers of a much larger, more devastating event. I’m caught between the throes of human experience – the immediacy of cold tears clinging to cheeks, of daily lethargy and resignation – and the drones that run like hairline fractures upon the rim of the universe. The collapse of human relationships, the dwindling desire to live…these may well be symptomatic of an entire world on the verge of eruption; yet if this is the case, then we are but microbial casualties in the death of something much more significant. And thus, wry prophecy glints upon Finney’s cracked passages of spoken word. Just as optimism drains from Finney’s depiction of the world around him, a divine force emerges to vanquish the world completely.
“Everything’s drenched in blue,” Finney mumbles during the album’s final track. The hush of his words threatens to slip into the hiss of the tape, as he recounts a dream of an interaction in a kitchen that may or may not have happened. Even when liberated to the imagination, his version of events is dismal. He doesn’t crave a time when life was better. Perhaps those memories have long since perished. Instead, he’s left clutching hazy visions of relationships amidst collapse, just as helpless in the prophetic awareness of retrospect as in the naivety of the present tense, fated to experience a life caving in over and over again. He slips beneath Heinali’s waves of synthesiser and fizzing feedback, the currents of which are far too strong to overturn. Within this bristling dissonance – this low-frequency hum, this croak of vocal erosion – is the inexorable flow toward oblivion. I can listen to these four tracks as many times as I like, yet I am powerless to change the fate that meets them. In fact, it’s the very same fate that meets us all.