At first, I will admit, I didn’t know what to make of this record. Experimental record and contemporary classical works are very much in my wheelhouse, and the lessons learned from ambient records and free jazz as well as time spent on the more fringe and experimental wings of electronic, noise and orchestral work tends to gird you with the skills needed to parse these often elliptic and evasive pieces. Beyond even this, I was also familiar with Claire Rousay’s work previous, having been an ardent listener of her material since roughly 2019 or so and even writing about her collaborative record with More Eaze titled An Afternoon Whine. (It is, in fact, still my regret I did not pitch reviewing their followup collaboration or the immaculate —-__—___ duo record More Eaze made in the wake of her collaboration with Claire Rousay, but alas, time is ever-fleeting.) Even still, despite these assurances, the first few listens of everything perfect is already here felt aimless to me, certainly beautiful but within the specificity and sense of presence and space and time that once marked for me the intimacy of Rousay’s work. Where before, her records had felt like sitting in a specific room in a specific house of a specific block in a specific city at a specific time of day, an intimate chronicle of placeness, I suddenly felt an alienation, like a fog bank had rolled over the compositions, leaving me senseblind. Yes, here a piano, there a cello, the scrape of the microphone recording found sounds acting as a percussive meld, but no physicality struck me nor epiphanic sense of revelation, no flower in the garden, no chair in the corner, no bare kneed poking out of khaki shorts as we sat cross-legged on the hardwood floors, nor any other of those specificities that once made her work so luminous to me.
Then, like many things, it seemed to slip in through the back gate. I found myself returning to the record again and again, first in attempts to think what it all possibly could mean and eventually just in quiet meditation. It soundtracked time with my mother and time with my partner as we both read in bed; it soundtracked idle and busy moments at work as well as my longing gaze out the window on traffic-laden drives home. I would stare out the window at neighbors playing in the common yard as the orchestral and synthesized swells ebbed up like currents of water beneath the sounds of ruffling paper and water on a sill. There is a moment early in the record where someone speaks, stops, clears their throat, begins again, but never quite gets the full sentence out. All of a sudden it struck me how this was a record precisely about those almost-moments, like the space between words. In writing programs and workshops around the world, you will find the same repeating advice to use specific words to capture specific feelings, to be precise and thorough and avoid muddied words like “almost”, “perhaps”, “unless”, etc. But this presupposes that there exist already perfect, ideal words for all things, that in the division between two near-identical words there is not enough space for a unique experience or object to exist that cannot be documented with language, a sentiment we know is wrong. When we feel the wordless swell in our hearts in the confused tumult of life, never necessarily breaking the wave of either sorrow or joy but instead simple confused ever-turning raw being, it is not wordless because we have failed to name it but because it is a feeling that evades names and slips like a fish dragged up by hand from the sea from our attempts at clean categorization.
everything perfect is already here feels like watching your seven-year-old child through the gap of the back door as they stand in the backyard, doing nothing, light streaming through the small shaded window above the sink which is stacked with just a few too many dishes. These are the almost-moments, elliptical and mysterious, which seem to burn into the flesh of our memories despite their absent action. Maybe at death you will remember the joys of sex and the terror of violence, but more likely you will remember these scattershot images of being bored in homeroom in the 11th grade or gazing absently onto the roof of a building out of your apartment window or a freeze-frame like snapshot of a memory of your eyes fixed on the clock of a computer at work at some random hour of the day. Once these resonances slipped under the skin for me, the record opened up and revealed itself as lush and full as all of her other records have. If anything, the increased consideration and patience of this record made that epiphanic moment feel more rewarding, like the moment of surrender when reading a book of poetry when you no longer try to parse every line and instead let everything wash over you, only to find the syncretic lines erect architecture in your brain that might not otherwise have ever existed. This is slow magic, subtle powerful stuff, not for the faint of heart but rewarding for those with diligence and, above all, patience. It’s experimental, after all; this is what you should expect.
Label: Shelter Press
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.