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Victory at Sea : Carousel

REVIEW: Victory at Sea: Carousel
7.28.2002 by Esther

Victory at Sea: Carousel [Kimchee Records, 2001]

Three words? Push and pull.

"...lean your head back, try and relax, hold on..."

Mona Elliot sings these words with smoky urgency during the song "Carousel"; the drums slow to a patter of raindrops on water and her voice lingers. Then, the drums once again build to a frantic pitch, crashing and colliding as if horses were creaking to life and rapping their hooves against cement, as if waves were rolling water to froth, dragging you under, taste of sea salt and dust in your mouth.

You gulp water. Claw your way to the surface. Gasp for air

Victory At Sea's music is pulsing, living, and breathing. It is like standing outside during a storm, letting water stream down your face and not caring how wet you get. Fin Moore's complex drum rythms and quick signature changes (à la Slint and Shipping News) intermingled with Mel Lederman's bass and the occasional siren's call of a saxophone, all swell and syncopate to moody perfection. Mona Elliot's voice ranges from rich black coffee to salty astringency: if it were a colour, it would be the colour of water at night, dark but slippery with light, darting blues and greys flickering just below the surface.

Elliot sings of change. And memory. The cover of the album is a blurry black and white photo of an old broken-down carousel. Sometimes memory is obscured, smoothed over by waves, but other times it is trampled up in a cloud of dust leaving us once again raw and bruised. My favourite song on this CD is "The Blizzard of '78", with its nostalgic chorus "it was the last time I remember us together." I've played this song compulsively over and over again, mostly because it makes me remember memories I've never had, the buzz of antennas and electric lines, an intense mixture of sadness and yearning for happier times.

Victory At Sea does what I like best in music - it makes me feel. This isn't an album to quietly slip into your CD player. Carousel drenches you in emotion, it numbs and drowns.

"...this was our history..."

The sea has frozen over, so you tiptoe carefully on ice. But between the cracks, water still bleeds through.

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