I planned to divulge about Dirty Beaches‘ last album in a pragmatic fashion. One that would make you anxious to listen and appreciate what Alex Zhang-Hungtai has created before ending any releases under Dirty Beaches all together. Instead, I decided to trash that idea and confess how I really feel.
Truthfully, most of the time I wish to turn off my lights and close my eyes to the world. I wish to only see dark. Or maybe, in a lighter sense, only notice what lies directly in front of me-so I can digest it. Overstimulated, I am constantly looking. Turning a head at this, at that. Noticing, observing, but what the hell am I actually seeing? Pictures of places I have never been, but only wish to go. Pictures of people I have never met, and people I try so hard every day to forget about. Pictures of friends I haven’t talk to in years, but don’t reach out because their images are always following me and all I can do is “like.” Images on billboards, magazine covers I don’t read, labels all over my 5 dollar energy bar, nutrition facts on my bottled water. It is too much, and I just want to see in black and white. I just want to close my eyes.
Stateless to me is closing my eyes. It is breathing in brisk air and actually paying attention to the long, drawn out exhale and hearing it. With each track no shorter than 7 minutes, Stateless is a droning collection of songs challenging us to sit and listen. An album of musical poetry. It is shutting out one sense to fully tune in with another.
I would have loved to write about this album sooner. Well, actually that was the proposal, but I wasn’t ready. And although still feeling rather unseasoned to the tracks, there is a certain amount of sinking in they have done and I am better acquainted. This four track album is a doozy and unlike Hungtai’s past singles such as “True Blue” or “Lord Knows Best,” his 50’s rockabilly, crooning guitar sounds a little easier to swallow-Stateless is different. Cinematic in every sense, it is hard to understand what is really going on underneath all the layers and layers of synthesizer, saxophone and viola. But, to understand it, isn’t the point. Rather, it is to feel it in a way, as a part of your bloodstream. Synth beats oozing through capillaries, as souvenirs. A reminder of things and places you’ve seen and experienced, people you’ve connected with, fear you’ve confronted, anger that’s been overcome, and love you’ve given and lost along the way and every single beautiful and ugly thing that makes up this funny planet.
“Life is weird.” I often use as an ‘easy out’ phrase or an excuse for unexplained, or awkward circumstances, but I do really believe it to be true. People are peculiar and happenstance is not real-just kinetic, cyclical anomalies triggered by randomness. In listening to Stateless, we are transported into Hungtai’s world and his experiences, relating them back to our own. It is no coincidence that we are connected to him just by listening.
I entered “Pacific Ocean” into a search bar and in 0.19 seconds 49,800,000 results appeared. Being the title of the third track off of Stateless, and also a massive body of water, you can bet it was not the first thing to pop up, but page after page of searching, it exists somewhere. We are all somewhere and Hungtai encourages us to look around and pay attention. To experience that somewhere and take notice, whether the feeling is of connection or isolation. Have you submerged yourself completely or do you feel the absence of community, stateless.
“Time Washes Away Everything,” a hefty fifteen minute closer to Stateless is Hungtai’s final lesson to us. And if within listening to the prior three tracks you’ve felt confused and surrounded by nothing but repetitive drones, at least remember this: nothing lasts forever, even emotion. Your anger will eventually dissipate, your love for something will eventually fade, and even happiness and sadness come and go. Somehow underneath a dreamy, moody wave of synthesizer, Hungtai speaks the truth- time as a healer of all things. Shit, I may feel completely different about this album by the time you are done reading this…