Religion has always been a touchy subject for me. It seems to have no rhyme or reason but it is there. I was always afraid of having faith. Throughout growing into manhood, I’ve learned a different perspective on faith. Kierkegaard, a famous Christian philosopher, wrote a great piece in the foreword of his book Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. He discusses a woman creating an altar cloth. Kierkegaard said, “… She is deeply distressed someone should make the mistake of looking at her art, instead of the meaning of the cloth; or make the mistake of looking at a defect, instead of at the meaning of the cloth.”
Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights starts with Our Messiah Flying with the Clouds Towards Heaven. This track gives me chills everytime I hear it. Jarring feedback showers your senses. It feels almost unbearable until the clouds part and these noisy, bright synths cascade through the soundscape. The sounds play around your ears and this immense sense of grandeur fills your chest. If I I was to ascend to the pearly gates, I would expect this to be the soundtrack.
The album settles down into the next 5 tracks. Luma and Cherubim are great folk gospel songs that make reference to several biblical elements. It is quite the juxtaposition to the first track of the album and its progression. The listener certainly haven’t forgotten about the experience they had in the first song. But the singing of Bersain is so demanding of attention. The fuzz that is obfuscating his voice is a gorgeous but front stage portion of each song.
The album gives you something I like to refer to as “thinking time”. This allows the listener to catch their breath and reflect upon what they’ve heard before continuing. The interlude Kaiah’s Connectant Ville is a cautious cello that blooms into a full song as the tamborine and drums break out. Allowing you, at this time, to appreciate the beauty in the passion behind the project.
My, My, My and Your Baileys of Water start to pick up the pace again. This time with Bersain front and center as he performs one of the best vocal performances on the album on My, My, My. In the same vein of Luma and Cherubim, they are religiously themed.
On repeated listens, this is where I start to get nervous. I know that the dragon is coming. The noisy-industrial rapture will arrive. Bersain’s voice keeps enticing you along, but not because he is oblivious to what is coming. He is enticing you to embrace the lord in all his glory and all his strength. The dragon being an extension of the lord. Bersain’s lyrics often exhibit feelings of deep love for the lord. Bersain acknowledges things may not be perfect but as long as he has his faith in the lord, the lord will guide him and lay love upon him.
Then comes rapture, The Dragon on the Shore Beside the Sea. Inspired by Revelation 12, the song maintains this driving rhythm for the duration of its 12 minutes. It starts with this melodic rhythm before it slowly transitions into the noise. A thin layer of noise lays over the top of a loud, distorted, driving beat. A flute-sounding instrument screams and wails before the song eventually yields to the ever-present hissing which dissolves into silence.
Bersain has experienced the Dragon on the Shore Beside the Sea. He has lived it. The listener has experiencecd it, as well. He recorded the title track to conclude the album in his truck during a thunderstorm. A cautious, trembling voice floats on top of the sharpest sounding acoustic guitar throughout the project. Which adds this coat of sheen to Bersain’s voice. He is putting himself down in the presence of the lord, saying that there is no good in his soul. But the lord reaches out to him and lifts him above the seraphim lights.
When I listen to Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights, Bersain’s voice and lyrics entice me to embrace the love and warmth that he feels in the lord. When this record is on it is the closest thing that I personally have to a religious experience. I would hate that someone would listen to this and prematurely judge the value of this record without embracing the meaning behind the work.
Even Oxen are not afraid to mention their inspirations. If you like any of these artists/projects I highly recommend checking out this project:
- Animal Collective’s “Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished”
- Mac DeMarco
- Neutral Milk Hotel
- Albert Ayler
- Washington Phillips
- Sun Kil Moon/Mark Kozelek
Even Oxen is an experimental and indie project based in Texas. The project is led by Bersain Beristain. Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights was released in April of 2016. Find them on their bandcamp: evenoxen.bandcamp.com or on facebook under the name Even Oxen!