My Family Goes On Without Me

“There have been things that have haunted me for most of my adult life, it was time to say goodbye to them”.

My Family Goes On Without Me is a personal record, music that tenderly and carefully stitches up the raw, open lacerations that seep from the open veins of life. As the music settles in, it does its job in healing the wounds that the past leaves behind. Tranquil drones come to take away the pain, the torture and torment, of a past incident that still somehow has a bony grip on the present, has still found the room needed to distress the anxious mind.

Caught In The Wake Forever is the ambient, slow folk project of multi-instrumentalist Fraser McGowan. His ambient lights are safe guides in the dark, and the guitar eventually comes to brighten the cautious drone. A piano comes to offer some company, guarding the guitar against the looming attack. The soft, cushioned ambient drone of ‘Riverside House’ is a stable retreat, glistening with the cool tinkle and clink of metal on metal, chiming like a natural harmonic in its prime. There isn’t a single threat in sight as the drone’s underside throbs with the warmth of circulation. It isn’t long before the blissful beginning starts to fragment; the stumbling, intermittent drone has picked up a virus somewhere along the way and has now succumbed to the dreaded, dark trouble that has afflicted the healthy tone of adulthood. It heralds the arrival of a cloaked figure, a hushed, surfacing stranger that has no right to be here. The jaded voice comes to break up the droning harmony, and it takes with it the life of the drone until only the sound of running water remains, washing over the track, cleaning the streets.

Hooded figures appear as apparitions, cloaked in the note’s black dress. The clothes hang off the skinny figure like a note in a mid-air bar of music. ‘I Will Always Let You Down’;

The softly strummed ‘Forever Children’ is tanned golden in its light acoustic sound, and with the shushed, introverted vocals comes the nostalgic image of youth. The strummed rhythm could reflect the rhythmic, metronomic movement of a vacant swing in motion, swaying to and fro in its local haunt; the playground where we spent so much of our time. Minor chords bring about an unexpected sadness, but the major resolution helps to shine some sunlight into the park.

My Family Goes On Without Me is an album of transition, acceptance and moving on. McGowan knows when it is time; as such, My Family Goes On Without Me is his finest album to date. It ebbs and flows, choking in the throat with emotional honesty. The raw lyrics are all the more beautiful for their sad longings. McGowan’s music is unflinching, which you don’t normally find in ambient music. It’s sentimental without crushing the music under the weight of a million roses, but its sobering, too. It’s thoughtful music, a place where the sedate strums cast slivers of pale light onto the strings, illuminating the past.

Arpeggios, played with a little tremolo on the side, are picked one at a time, giving a lovely, spacious feel to the music. These are real songs; they speak of truth, struggle and resilience, even though the light bend and gentle surrender of the plectrum on the strum’s follow-through suggests otherwise. The strums are strong and muscular – and they have to be – because they don’t just support the song; they hold it up with its rhythmic stability and sensibility, standing and fighting in the struggle. Despite the strength of the strumming, the music stays light, melodically thin and yet anchored to the ground by McGowan’s deeply philosophical lyrics. Statues of emotional pain and long lost love continue to bleed. ‘My Thoughts They Turn To Dying Again’ is the sound of light and darkness, its never-ending battle. My Family Goes On Without Me is painted with subtle melancholia. Ambient music specializes in this kind of atmosphere, but the sadness, you feel, is necessary: it brings solace.

The ghost still roams.

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