If this were myself in some past, at a low point, following a long extended time of exhaustion, Wymond Miles’ Under the Pale Moon could have easily become one of my favorite records. It would have been an artifact, a center for an orbital process of exiting the unending, a gateway to an escape process that requires an album to be more than an album to the listener. It would have been a thesis for what a friend once told me during one of these low periods, paraphrased to, “pop songwriting is one of the hardest and greatest forms of art.” My low points are littered with memories of emotive heft contained within the ecstatic universe of four minutes and thirty seconds or less. These have shifted with age and changing self identities — Bob Dylan, The Cure, Patti Smith, Elliott Smith, Ben E. King, Otis Redding, Spacemen 3, and so many more — all of these distinct voices that carry a listener through their atmosphere, catastrophic images, to a physical sense of unending and desire. They become like Walt Whitman wrote: “The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,/ It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it.” For those who devote their lives to music (listener or performer, no hierarchy between either), it is that which we dedicate our lives to, which we deem so pure, that gets dragged endlessly through the space of our own daily filth. That we then try and clean both ourselves and our favorite works is a process of distance and time. But when the emotions fall beneath us or become more undercurrent than over, these artifacts, these songs, become mimesis for the emotions that were once involved. We fell through them, we think through them, and then we study them.
Under the Pale Moon carries an enormous amount of emotional and existential weight, yet it doesn’t sound like the process of acting on impulses. If anything, it exhibits the fine essence of song craft, containing each song’s individual mood against different echoes of similar themes in songs both before and after. There is a commonality between “Pale Moon” and “Singing the Ending” in their thematic aspects, but the two songs sound nothing alike: both have different structures, different sounds, and different atmospherics. Each song has its individuality, but not breaking that of the following song. And it makes sense. The strongest pop albums move like a collection of short stories read as a novel. The work is able to both fragment and conjoin, embody and disembody. The guitars, shakers, and bass lines are all placed precisely and carefully. Passed the resonating sounds that start “You and I Are of the Night,” the guitars have alternating moments of “You Really Got a Hold on Me” soul hits that interchange into less jagged movements. It’s an album of details that retain commanding their attention over the ensemble.
Understanding that Wymond Miles was encountering his own period of grief while making the album, it is/isn’t surprising that Under the Pale Moon has moments of playfulness. (The best example is opener “Strange Desire.”) It would be extremely artificial for me to extrapolate Miles’ grief from the album into some form of analytical theorem; likewise, consolation is best found from the song/album rather than the artist. I don’t believe that the heavy aspects of the album are directly correlated to Miles’ own grief, even though (as indicated by the link) his grief was channeled into making Pale Moon. In any case, the listener doesn’t become closer to the artist through these attachments, but that’s not the point. The connecting element/relation that draws us to these works occupies a personal element that’s more id than ego. While containing more personality of an individual (Miles’ solo work is a different creature than that of his usual band The Fresh & Onlys), Pale Moon is the work of conflicting reality with escape (creation), both the negativity and positivity that create a work not unfortunately enjoyed for pleasure, more traditional principles of the id. This strange transformation of grief into the part of humanity that seeks pleasure is why some of the strongest works of art exist. The escape is not escapism, rather a part of being that makes sense not in terms of a rational/irrational dichotomy, but that of simple existence throughout our highs and lows.
Even though our heaviest times are dense with reflection, what draws us to satisfactions is based on pleasure, and it is from this drive that we undertake these albums/songs/artists that become part of our lives. It is a strange power that I have done my best to describe here, and it is the same kind of power that I believe Under the Pale Moon has.