1: 20 February 2019
It’s difficult to convey the significance of home. These places are often unremarkable when reduced to space and material, indistinguishable from the buildings that stand on either side. Plain to the touch. Indistinct in aroma. Yet in the case of those houses that have assumed the role of home since childhood – such as the three-story apartment in suburban Cleveland that John Daniel (aka Forest Management) lived in from the age of four – these sensations act as the threads that bind the pages of memory. Simply brushing a wall with the fingertips can trigger a recollection of touching the same wall at the age of seven; then again at 12; once more at 16. Glancing into the kitchen conjures an amalgam of aromas from the various fond dishes throughout time. The home becomes an archive of living and remembering.
On the gaseous collisions of Passageways, I hear the panoramic complication of home: the fluid aggregation of nostalgia, attachment, curious sensation…even a guttural churn that resembles the expression of both love and longing. The feeling is ambiguous but overwhelming. Misery and rapture arrive as a combined wave, their harmonic hues melted into one. The warmth of circulating blood passes through veins of worn, cracked surfaces; an immediate bodily sensation fed through reams of attic box cassette. I hallucinate the presence of a choir buried beneath “Various Sources Of Light” (I’m still convinced that there are voices hidden in there somewhere), and hear animals leaping through the opaque mists of “Smoke Rising Out Back (The Gardens)”. I hear a momentary chord that reminds me of a past mistake. I hear a dissonant surge on “Love And Stillness” that strikes me as both the intermingling of visceral intimacy and the inner restlessness of grief. I hear buds of cyclical time within a vista of eternal change. Home, after all, is a paradox – one that is felt long before it is understood.
Occasionally, I’ll encounter records that feel so intimately autobiographical that they elicit no regard for me at all. There’s no sense that Passageways is projecting itself outward toward the ears of prospective listeners. In fact, the chords of “Blue Leaves” are definitely spiralling inward, like a cyclone that one could cradle within two hands, the crackling chords twisting upward only to pirouette downward again. Similarly, there’s a rumbling at the bottom of “Ageless Imagination” (forever reminding me of a train passing underfoot) that acts like a gravity anchor, trapping the murmured melodies within a kind of convection current that skirts the ceiling, plummets softly, then scoops upward all over again. All of these tracks form their own introspective cocoons. Yet this isn’t an act of defence against the outside; rather, these pieces feel so enrapt in their own sentiment that no energy is spared to contemplate expressing it to someone else. Passageways feels like a record that articulates for the benefit of the speaker. This is John Daniel murmuring to himself, and testing whether the resultant external sound rings true to his inner experience.
Take your pick. There are so many different individual melodies woven into the smear of that opening track, “Ageless Imagination”. Some of them are incredibly gentle, like using a finger to trace a message upon a lover’s back. Occasionally my mind will decide to grant one of them arbitrary precedence. It floats to the fore as the others sink back, and for a moment I’m unable to hear anything else. On the next listen I might drag an entirely different shape across the lights of consciousness, unsure as to why the chosen melody seems important on this occasion, yet witnessing it with irreversible clarity. In this respect – and in direct contradiction to my last review of this record – Passageways and I are engaged in lively and ever-shifting dialogue. The soundscape responds to my changing disposition by shuffling its depth of field. I silently broadcast my state of mind, and in an act of empathy, Passageways rearranges itself into a picture that my present temperament might understand. Without a doubt, this powerful effect is rooted in the record’s preference for insinuation and whisper. Sometimes the movements are so gentle that I am invited to mishear them. Drones trail off like abandoned sentences, and of course I can’t help but guide them toward my own version of completion.