Vanishing Voices - "Crystal Peak" (The Morning After)
The image on The Morning After’s album sleeve has a bit of that lush, tactile aura that Jon Wozencroft obtains so consistently on his covers for the Touch label. At their best, those cover images enhance the music’s often atmospheric qualities, but this picture tells a different story. The delivery van tooling down a single lane road in autumnal woods radiates a definite Blair Witch Project vibe, and the names that self-appointed jam band Wooden Wand has given to the three spontaneous jams encoded upon the CD offer as many plausible scenarios why those kids couldn’t be allowed to come out of the forest.
“2029” opens with a persistent bass line around which all manner of spooky sounds gather and disperse; detuned guitar, murky tapes, and wordless vocals make it the witchiest of the lot, but that could just be a dodge. Google the number and you get a lot of hits about how on April 13 of that year, Asteroid MN4 will streak close enough to earth to light up the night sky but will not score a hit. Don’t believe everything you read—maybe that’s just what the government wants you to think. If everyone knew the truth, which those Blair Witch kids might have found, they’d all be banging on the doors to the bunkers and bomb shelters, and there’s just not enough room or canned goods for the great unwashed. Maybe that moment where the guitar comes in, chugging like Sterling Morrison in a mellow mood, corresponds to the point where those who knew too much had to be gently dissuaded from sharing the news—forever. What, you doubt me? Why don’t you prove me wrong?
“Crystal Peak” raises the issue of who’s likely to be around and equipped to survive topside after said apocalypse. You can keep your tin pot militiamen; my money is on the meth cookers. Think about it; they’re already tough, mean, and accustomed to not eating much. This track furthers the Velvet Underground vibe with liquid guitar notes that weave through the fiddle drone, echoing drums, and unidentifiable rumble with the confidence of the one man with a transparent scarf at blind man’s bluff tournament. Of course, meth labs don’t last because they let just anyone who happens upon them get to go and sing to the narcs. Those kids just had to go, man; nothing personal, it’s just business.
But what is that truck carrying, anyway? Might it be the latest addition to that rural “Weapons Cache?” If the sounds on this track are anything to go by, it’s quite an operation. Sure, there’s some sort of pseudo-shamanic yelping and clapping in the foreground. Yes, it’s kind of annoying, but that’s what we need to do to scare away the locals. Those big, echoing, mechanical sounds in the difference tell the truth, and we all know that the truth must be protected by a bodyguard of lies. What a shame that those poor young people were never found. We’ll never know what really happened, will we? Do you need a lift back into town? Yes, I think you do. Here, let me help you into the van. And Mr. Langley, would you be so kind as to invite that English guy with the camera to step into the vehicle too?