The ribbon in the distance

By Alex Mazey

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Out of the irresistible punk-melancholy of ‘Roses from Blood’ and the success of ‘Something Broke Inside’ arrives tAngerinecAt’s latest track, ‘House of Shards’. The track is a masterclass of dark-electro genre-bending from multi-instrumental artists, Eugene Purpurovsky and Paul Chilton, who appear both cool and kitsch in a recent photo taken by Ray Moody. 

Both Purpurovsky and Chilton are dressed in leopard print, my favourite print of all, but nonetheless, the likely antithesis of a garment Purpurovsky once showed me, a grandmother’s traditional Ukrainian shirt, which I observed at the time as something beautiful and intricate, something from a world that I would never know. I suppose Eugene and I became friends over a collective awareness, the feeling that something of this world wasn’t quite right, everything seemingly out of place, the world’s multiplicities floating like those ‘fragments that don’t match’.

In a recent interview with writer and director, John Clay, the duo was asked about the importance of rituals in their music; the concept forming as a captivating motif in the accompanying music video to ‘House of Shards’. Following Paul’s concise response on the abstractivity of words, ritual as a form of personal access, and so on, I became particularly interested in a response that followed, which is to say, Eugene recounting the childhood ritual of entering a forest every day at dawn. 

‘I had a favourite birch tree that I tied a ribbon to so I could find it.’ Eugene continued. ‘I called it “my sister”, hugged it, kissed and told it about all my problems, and cried a lot. Then I thanked it for listening to me and after this, I felt comforted and free. At this time, it was the only living thing that listened to me, and the closest “person” to me.’

It is said that tAngerinecAt’s latest release visualises ‘a haunting victory over trauma’. And yet the precise subtleties of this new track lay bare the implications, not of trauma necessarily, or even those critical elements of personal triumph, but the very act of having to carve a space for oneself in a painful world where it is ‘so hard to remember, to accept and smile…’

We enter into October with this release, and one cannot help but taste a chill in the air. Eugene’s voice can seem as strange as the fog that falls from a desolate mountain, whilst simultaneously retaining a sense of the familiar echo that calls your name. Perhaps tAngerinecAt’s strength comes from the result of a lived paradox occurring in real-time, with a sound that is both familiar and distant, a complexity that remains tremendously accessible, nonetheless, grounded by the palpable talent of the duo’s obvious virtuosity.     

It is, in many ways, a song of two halves, in addition, two people in conversation, having not spoken in years, for good reason, perhaps? The track takes a well-positioned turn at around one-minute-thirty, for example, Eugene’s voice-altering to demonstrate a powerful range of utterances that seemingly search for their own exit. There is a quiet irony to the lines ‘not into death / But just in the dawn…’ where the speaker acknowledges the requirement of a new day. A new day is also a new evening, another chance to put something of yourself to rest. 

The dawn, the sun rising on a child searching for a birch tree, is not to be confused with an exit. As a child, I would take great delight in knowing where the exit was, the green backlight signs that pointed the way out. Perhaps tAngerinecAt provide keys to another exit entirely, an entrance into their world where ribbons hang in the forest, reminding us of that interior presence within ourselves, existing somewhere as a spectre – a shard – and yet forever conjured away by expectation and prejudice.

‘House of Shards’ is, after all, a song about the reconciliation between the shattered parts that make up the fractured whole, music as the creative appeasement between shards and their prior forms, finding allegory in the multiplicity of selves that make up the tangibility of a single person, with a single mind. This is music as an extension into critique, of course, exposing the difficulty in living up to the cynical expectations of the neurotypical mind. Nonetheless, reconciliation with this world is a hard-won victory, and when I experience the music of tAngerinecAt, I like to think I am already there, spotting the ribbon in the distance. 

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Cover photo by Gavin Morrow

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