‘I Dream I See You Hit The Water, I Dream I See You Change Your Mind’ is the debut album from Gallowglas. This album never had an easy time of it. Branded in difficulty, it’s been given added strength due to the trials it once faced. They have made it what it is, developing its tonal musculature until its music appears strong and stone-like, eventually rising in triumph.
Riding through the storms of discontent, disagreement, lost sessions and pandemic malaise and general disruption, the music is almost like a hard-won trophy, a testament to working things through, sticking with your creation even when things are at a stagnant standstill, and believing in what you’re doing. Ultimately, the music was worth fighting for, and that is a true victory. The knowledge that the final result was going to be worth it provided the fuel and the passion to get through to the other side.
The alt-rock outfit have placed duality at the centre of their music. Straight away, male and female voices provide the two opposing forces, one questioning and the other responding, one speaking while one listens, and the other listening while one replies in turn. Slow, gravel-like piano arpeggios lie in its mists and shadows, repeating while the song’s lyrics weave dark webs of sorrow and trauma, affected by a series of tragedies that the music is still struggling to process, let alone overcome. At times, it is raw and direct, with hisses and hums snaking around in the background, and a lo-fi, decaying texture is amplified as it emerges from its graveyard.
There is vulnerability in honesty. Mutual trust is needed. When drums enter, they give the music a real injection of strength and perseverance, but it’s few and far between. It’s music on the brink of giving up, close to unbelief. But something that was once broken has been able to stand again. The broken has become the unbreakable.
The poetic lyrics, which are especially moving on the seven-minute ‘There Is Nothing Flawless’, do just enough without going overboard and into excessive, flowery language, and they hit home with hard truths and sad eulogies…’as dead as stone…I am winter cold’.
‘…a grandiose, experimental and bruised sort of classical that won’t be sweet enough or keep its mouth shut long enough for the neoclassical types…treated like an outcast in the genre…it’s a crude, ballad-heavy breed of outsider music that just speaks to us’.
The music feels like it’s been kicked while it’s down, but there’s still a rustic kind of beauty to its surface. Pain is a necessity in this life – it can wither the spirit or it can be used to grow – and Gallowglas never shy away from confronting it. In a way, they choose to embrace it. Because what is the alternative, and is there even an alternative?
The music asks: are things beyond fixing? The heart can go through a lot, and the music has endured multiple levels of emotional pain. But it’s still ended up standing upright once again. It’s not about where it was in the moment, but where it finished. Yes, it’s different from what it once was, and the pain is never forgotten or wiped away – but still, it has survived.
But hope isn’t ultimately a part of their music – it’s too early for that. It must go through the process, go through the mire and the mud, and that’s where it currently lies. But there’s a strength in confronting the sadness and the pain – an inner strength, a forging in the fire, of steel and metal being fused to create a stronger and more resilient character. If ever an album was welded by fire and heartbreak, it’s this one. The stark lyrics, withered piano, and other fog-breathed elements all converge to produce a dark and affecting album with a real and undeniable emotional weight.
A pain or sadness that you live with, internalize, live through, learn from
Johan G Winther and another member who would like to remain nameless have also been joined by Nicola Madill, Sofia Nystrand, William Ryan Fritch, Peter Hollo, and Simon McCorry. With mastering from James Plotkin, and acting as one of the last episodes in Lost Tribe Sound’s Fearful Void series, IDISYHTW, IDISYCYM is a record of bruises, sunken, dissonant chords, and broken pieces, but like the most affecting music, birthed in its experiences of pain, using it as an outlet and a therapy. It’s also a record of truth, no matter how hard it may be to digest, and, as a result, it’s one of honour. The album is available both digitally and as a limited CD edition, which comes with eight pages of artwork by Jesse Narens.