Type: Song / March 2015
Written in a burst of exploring new ideas in the leadup to recording and releasing In Skeletal, Arc was another piano based idea, but something alot looser and reliant on a production. There was no suitable live band setup at this time to flesh out ideas and I had to visualise and build around invisible ideas much more.
Also another song in two parts, the first half is built around a vague piano riff before dropping into a little Bflat mini chorus. Such was my beginner level of piano playing that I just loved finding that Bflat. It sounded great and was a short lift from the repetitive grind of the verse. Originally there was a whole other part of the song prior to where it now starts that made it through to recording but the needs to make everything fit on the vinyl (and in this case, dropping something pointless) saw it disappear.
The second half, dynamically building is classically the kind of thing I tend to write. A simple right hand melody with different chords dropping around underneath is another route one method, but a successful one in this case. The eight chord structure helps it not become to grating. The final looping coda was something that was especially pleasing and needed at the end of this lumbering song of weird dynamics.
The thing is, this song only really, fully came together in the studio. Some fantastic drumming at the end, the dynamics of the first half with the drum pattern switch, the bass work and OF COURSE the appearance of Emma Pollock made the song what it is. It was always difficult to pull of live because all those things needed to be spot on.
Lyrically and thematically, it was and is a complex thing. Arc was a word of the time, with shared universes all over the place. Every narrative format had large overarcing narratives. My own songs, musically at least, seemed to be more arc based than traditional song structures.
There are a few arcs questioned within this narrative, one core one being life in a town, in a city, in one place. I saw younger generations coming through within my own social and cultural circles. Full of life and optimism to make great changes. I would never be that person, telling them “you’ll see!” but I couldn’t help it crossing my mind. But it wasn’t me who had some dark fate in mind, it was these “others” (appearing across the Invisible Anchor record) who would inflict their fate. And each crushing of the spirit, is it an ending, or the beginning of something better? Or worse?
The pay off being that at least an arc, at least a story whether it is good or bad, has movement. At least something is happening. Maybe that is all that matters? Within the narrative, whether it’s Marvel or Star Wars or our little lives, it has to keep moving.
That’s the fear. The sickly feeling that the arc – your arc – is closing. That your usefulness is reaching it’s end. You are not needed. Or you have lost the spark. The motivation, the determination. Maybe you just got tired. Or you’ve been super-ceded. But even on the treadmill, if you’ve spent your life there, you have to fear it ending.
The second half of the song sees that switch. With one thing left behind, do we need to create our own narratives? Is there one outside the small boundaries we’ve lived within? The arc becomes and ark – that sacred place to carry something precious – and begins to explore the idea of parenthood.
So this song turns out to be me balancing up the ideas of becoming a parent, and those fears. It was not something that was actively on the cards at the time but it was taking place within these social circles. I’d long held the idea that 1) having children is something you do when you’ve run out of ideas what to do with your life and 2) your greatest achievements only occur prior to parenthood, and you only need to look at most major artists or sports people to see this.
Yet, if the arcs have closed, the narrative strands of your life are diminishing as people leave, as things naturally come to an end, isn’t this an option? The song becomes a dialogue between opposing points of view, some yearning for old times and the peace and security. Some feeling old, some feeling young due to action or inaction. The feelings, the unknowns that this thing – this theoretical person growing inside you – could bring. Is this the new and perhaps final arc of our lives?
On paper, it appears to end on a negative tone. But really it brings the focus back from the imagined and to the couple. The two people. Their potential dissolution and disappearance. It might be an arc that they won’t survive. Maybe they have run out of ideas. Maybe their greatest days are behind them.
The song is a journey through that point of observation, looking for a pathway forward as a result of all you have experienced. “Breathe for me, in skeletal” ended up being a call back to the In Skeletal EP when the song appeared on The Invisible Anchor but was in fact written around 10 months prior. As an EP title it refered to being the bare bones, unhidden truth of the matter, but here it’s a more specific image of a skeletal embryonic child and the passing on of some torch – breathe for me, I’m not needed any longer.
They’ve got a plan for you, an oblique path to purity and back.
Your bright young soul – an antique mistake – it will bend and break and disintegrate.
Mold it in the old town. Held on under ‘til we all drown.
Is it an ending or a beginning?
Here comes the next wave and the next and the next…
At least an arc has movement. At least an arc has…
Drag the bones out of my skin
and bleach them in the blood of all I ever believed in.
The timid war cry. The sigh and ask why.
A century of defeat. As sentries we repeat: “Kill in kind, kill in kind”.
Whitewash the walls, wall up the graves.
We were chosen, I see you choking.
That sickly feeling that the arc is closing.
At least an arc has movement. At least an arc has…
I’m growing old, don’t leave me.
Take me to avenues;
midnight rain, windows ajar.
We shed the past like fashion.
Keep in my orbit where hearts belong.
Don’t change your style, our day is done.
Stop on the axis, collapse the moment.
I’ll see you on the other side.
Take me to Old Country.
I’ve found a way there (still it grows).
I feel so old (forwards not back).
An arc, an ark, an arc.
It was just a phase (this is what I want).
We’re changing now (I feel so young).
Breathe for me, in skeletal.
Honey it was sink or swim, then we dissolved.
The atoms in us break apart, the end begins.
It was sink or swim, then we dissolved.
The atoms in us break apart, the enemy within.