Tag Archives: Wrekmesiter Harmonies

Wrekmeister Harmonies on the Harrowing Inspiration for Their New Record

J.R. Robinson
J.R. Robinson, frontmane of Wrekmeister Harmonies. Photo by Katie Hovland.

When it comes to writing music, J.R. Robinson doesn’t just sit down and see where his thoughts lead him. The Wrekmeister Harmonies frontman tackles weighty topics the way a doctoral candidate would, examining in calm, measured detail everything from cross-continental examples of environmental decay (You’ve Always Meant So Much to Me) to Truman Capote’s infamous face-off with a Manson Family member (Then It All Came Down). All while playing host—conductor, really—to such esteemed guest players as Ryley Walker, David Yow, The Body and Leviathan.

In the case of this summer’s Light Falls LP, Robinson’s focus is on Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man, a harrowing account of the Holocaust from the chemist’s year-long imprisonment in Auschwitz. Not much is said over the course of its seven loosely linked songs; it doesn’t need to be when members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (bassist Thierry Amar, pianist/violinist/singer Sophie Trudeau, and drummer Timothy Herzog) are along for the ride.

When Robinson does speak, cutting through the album’s controlled chaos, his words range from a restrained cry for closure (“Where Have You Been My Lovely Son?”) to an unhinged howl against the inevitable (“Some Were Saved Some Drowned”).

“God, evil—they don’t exist,” says Robinson. “Darkness and light are very real. It’s what we do when surrounded by one or the other that counts.”

In the notes that accompany the record, Robinson says, “I wanted to sonically convey the idea of slow, creeping change. When I came up with the title I was thinking of how when daylight turns to night time it’s a very gradual process. You are lulled into watching this slow, peaceful sunset but then all of a sudden you look up and it’s dark.” Levi’s powerful words had a profound and troubling impact on the musician.

To bring things full circle, we asked the maestro of all things experimental and extreme to link several impactful Levi passages—and an additional selection, supplied by us—back to Wrekmeister Harmonies’ own deeply personal material.

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