Video: Cassandra Jenkins – “Ambiguous Norway”
From An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, out now on Ba Da Bing.
It’s been a while since an album hit me this hard this quickly. I hadn’t heard of Cassandra Jenkins before Friday, the day An Overview on Phenomenal Nature was released, but I’ve been listening nonstop since then.
The album’s short. Seven songs totaling under 32 minutes and the last song is a seven-minute instrumental. So every moment is important.
“Ambiguous Norway” is near the end at track five, but it was the first Cassandra Jenkins song I heard. It explicitly deals with the subject of grieving that the rest of the album builds up to.
A little backstory is enlightening: Jenkins was set to tour as a member of David Berman’s post-Silver Jews project Purple Mountains, but then Berman committed suicide shortly before the tour’s first date. In “New Bikini” Jenkins tells us, “After David passed away / My friends put me up for a few days / Off the coast of Norway.”
“Ambiguous Norway” reveals what happened on that trip and it’s raw and heartbreaking.
No matter where I go
You’re gone, you’re everywhere.
That’s as eloquent a description of the early phases of grief as anything I’ve ever heard. And while I’m not privy to any personal details, the way Jenkins writes about loss suggests a more intense relationship than just a hired bandmember.
In an interview with Our Culture, Jenkins shares the story of meeting a stranger who tells her, “You know, in Denmark, it’s a very flat landscape, but we have giant cloud formations, they’re giant cumulus clouds. And we call them ‘Denmark’s mountains’ because we don’t have mountains, so we need to find them in other ways.”
Who knows how geographically or meteorologically different Denmark is from its neighbor to the north, but that stranger’s story ended up informing the lyrics of “Ambiguous Norway.”
Farewell, Purple Mountains
I see a range of cumulus
the majesties transmutation
The skies replace the land with air.
So even though, like a three legged dog, part of you may always be looking for what you’ve lost, there’s a chance you will find it in unexpected places. On the other hand, clouds are ethereal and ephemeral and don’t really do much for you. But I suppose if they provide a little comfort when you need it, sometimes that’s good enough.
Continue reading New Cassandra Jenkins video: Ambiguous Norway