Marisa Anderson/William Tyler, "Lost Futures"
Given that Anderson and Tyler began working together a few days after participating in an event commemorating David Berman, it is not a huge surprise that their guitar instrumentals have a Bermaneque feeling; making myth of the American landscape with moments, as the late poet sang, "when the here and the hereafter momentarily align."
I hope you will enjoy reading Berman references, but if you simply must have a review relating Lost Futures to lockdown, pandemic, climate catastrophe or protests, there are plenty out there.
The opening track here, "News From Heaven," is a version of "With News From Heaven" from Tyler‚Äôs New Vanitas album. This immediately nods to Berman who at times saw answers from God in everyday life. Anyone who has seen the Silver Jew film of a 2006 tour of Israel (including William Tyler) will see Berman weeping and attesting to religious faith. Sadly, by 2019‚Äôs "Margaritas at The Mall," he is lamenting "no new word from God," and that faith seemed lost. I say "seemed" with no great confidence because no one has ever reported back from the other side.
Lost Futures is the best album by either Anderson or Tyler, full of artistry and respect for tradition but not easy to pigeonhole. I am not always certain who is playing, but Anderson seems to be the dominant force. If the duo were buildings, she might be the historically and structurally impressive Grand Central Station with Tyler a more modern glass skyscraper mirroring her image and shining with reflected light. All that to say they work perfectly together. Their music impresses with natural composition and collaborative skill to the fore, but it also offers a place of refuge, the kind which Berman alludes to on his Purple Mountains song "Snow is Falling in Manhattan":
"It‚Äôs blanketing the city streets/And the streets beneath are fast asleep/Songs build little rooms in time/And housed within the song‚Äôs design/Is the ghost the host has left behind/To greet and sweep the guest inside/Stoke the fire and sing his lines."
Purple Mountains is certainly the work of a person struggling with staying in this life. Maybe that struggle is not what Anderson and Tyler mean by their standout track "On The Edge of The World," where they are backed by Gisela Rodriguez Fernandez‚Äôs violin jabs and the click scrape rhythm of Patricia V√°zquez G√≥mez‚Äôs quijada (the jawbone of a donkey, similar to that with which Samson slew a thousand men). Or maybe it is. With his treatment-resistant depression, Berman seemed to feel better for getting his feelings out in creative expression. And he took seriously the words of St Thomas - if you can bring forth what is within you it will save you, but if you can not bring forth what is within you it will destroy you. There is enough hope "Something Will Come" and faith "Pray For Rain" in Lost Futures that it feels less about dead ends and much more about gifts and choices which reveal themselves slowly.
In one of his last interviews David Berman spoke of leaving poetry after one collection because being a poet felt like sketching on a frozen pond somewhere in Wisconsin where no one would ever read. He said he felt lucky to have become a musician and songwriter, likening this to someone going to law school who really had always wanted to be an FBI agent, and then became one. That one collection of poems,¬†Actual Air, sold around 20,000 copies but perhaps Berman felt the human connection, or lack of it, meant more. The Anderson/Tyler connection is a good one and hopefully they will record together again. Lost Futures is lovely, fascinating music that steers clear of sentimentality but never fails to register emotion.