Nearly unheard today, songwriter/poet Jimmy Crouse was most active in early-90s Wilmington, DE. Crouse’s recorded output? A singe 7-inch, The Myth of Lummox, and an EP, From Hell to Breakfast, which stalled out as a test pressing. But from the few recordings that were made, bumming barely-clicked on YouTube, Crouse’s voice reaches out gently yet convincingly, a sound slowly drifting and shifting, a low key lonesome air.
Behemoth Conundrum is Jimmy’s music, a blend of recited and a cappella poems, often joined by far-flung and unmet collaborators. This is new material. Rich Pell, who directed and arranged the project, began following Crouse’s work over 20 years ago, drawn by how the music “kind of stops time and almost squirms against the prevailing tempo of the world,” Pell says in an email. Rich and Jimmy began corresponding; Jimmy began sending over new music, poetry for solo voice. After much correspondence, they have yet to meet in person.
Rich added instrumentation, or would send files to friends to accompany. Rich: “I learned to hear the subtle twists and tensions and releases that were in the these sparse songs. I began playing with them on an 8-track recorder and tried to find ways of incorporating other instruments. I quickly learned that if I approached them as if they were unfinished songs that I was supplying the missing music to, they would sound terrible and insincere. But if I approached them as complete ideas, that had already defined their own intentions, and followed them wherever they went, then there was something new that would happen.”
There’s a haunting, human magic to the Remote Cathedral project. Crouse’s poetry is a fragmentary scaffold of prepositions and phonetics, cryptic and mournful. With it’s long sustains and slides, his voice mirrors the slow rise and emotive descent of a steel guitar. The choir of collaborators is a strung together sacred harp, adding beautiful tone to what is a beautiful story.