Devon Church has shared a new single, “Flash Of Lightning In A Clear Blue Sky,” off his new Strange Strangers (out April 7th via Felte Records). In stark contrast to the earthy folk of lead single “Ephemera”, this latest offering features arpeggiated synthesizers set against acoustic strums – a widescreen, Lynchian take on baroque pop that recalls Church’s previous endeavor Exitmusic. On the single, he explains “I think the title comes from a Buddhist text I read but I can’t find it now. There is a lot of Buddhist imagery in this one. I wrote it on an acoustic guitar by a wood burning stove at a little rented cabin with Ada one night after I’d taken a very powerful but short acting psychedelic. I’m surprised now at how epic it became in the end, because it had very humble beginnings. Jesse Kotansky did another amazing string arrangement on it. There’s a bunch of stuff going on in it – like questions about identity and reality and emptiness – but in the end it’s a love song for Ada, about wanting her to feel safe and loved.”
The largely self-produced album sounds as if Apollo-era Eno had wrested the controls (and the handgun) from Phil Spector halfway through the recording of Death of a Ladies Man. The atmospheric elements of Church’s past productions are sublimated throughout the album, put into the service of tape-saturated vocals, combo organs and guitars. His voice, grown more confident and understated since his debut, still ranges from a laconic Lee Hazelwood hangover to a smoky growl, but it smooths out nicely on tracks like the intensely melodic and propulsive ”Flash of Lightning in a Clear Blue Sky.” The angelic backing vocals by Roth (who also co-directed two delightfully strange videos for the album) lend an aura of dreamlike lightness in contrast to the baritone of the album’s world weary narrator.
A sense of cosmic black-humor has crept into Church’s lyrics, which deal with a sort of bewildered pilgrim’s progress through various spiritual and material Bardo states.
Strange Strangers borrows its title from the Marxist eco-philosopher Timothy Morton: ‘The strangeness of strange strangers is itself strange, meaning the more we know about an entity the stranger it becomes.’ On Ephemera, Church seems to lament the mysterious unknowability of these objects of our deepest desires and fears, but he does so with defiant exuberance, his ecstatically strummed acoustic guitar threatening to go off the rails. “I was weary and you took me in your arms,” he sings to the other (a lover, a god?). “I couldn’t see you, but you held me like the light holds the dark.”
Photo Courtesy: Roeg Cohen