Like many of us, for almost two years I’ve dreamt about life outside of boundaries, without tethers. There are a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while and a lot of things I haven’t done in just as long. Sometimes, I barely notice. Most of the time, it’s the sword of Damocles just begging for any reason to finally drop. Music has been a continual respite from the fire and on this latest offering from the always excellent Lake Mary, Chaz Prymek and an all-star cast (featuring the likes of Yasmin Williams, Patrick Shiroishi, and M. Sage among others) pull back the curtain for a moment and let all the air rush in.
Prymek’s music always has this feeling about it that it can transform into whatever is needed at that moment. It’s like this potent, psychic elixir that can change its constitution for whatever ailment is most present at that moment. It’s music that’s tapped into a hidden vein of the connective ether where he’s able to weave these warm, spectral webs that meet us where we are. Once It’s All On the Ground is stunning in this respect because the edges are so soft, but the underlying feeling is so heavy.
Glints of light poke through tiny holes of a fabric cocoon one by one on the title track. I love it when the longest piece on an album is the first because the intentions become clear. Once It’s All On the Ground is an open book full of blank pages and Prymek’s emotive lapsteel memorials on the opener sing life into clouds of nothingness. A distant figure looms, but we remain steadfast in this morning glow as the drones expand and each lamenting note hangs for just a bit longer than expected. There’s an air about this piece that stretches into all the reaches of the album that quietly hums a reassuring hymnal, a voice whispering, “I’ll still be here.”
Feelings of estrangement and being found again come through loudest when Prymek is collaborating with his friends. Yasmin Williams’s looping piano contemplations cut through the resonant fog of “The Flowers Above You Are Blooming This Time of Year.” Restrained lapsteel swells climb across a backlit sky, the sanguine focus of the piano always pushing the movement forward. Tenderness blossoms into full-blown determination to find the way back to the downtrodden path. It’s a little melancholic but bathed in a diaphanous light. Each repetition is a dot on a map where the X is home.
Elsewhere, Patrick Shiroishi continues to make every moment in 2021 count, adding eloquent, lyrical stretches to the end of the enchanting lullaby, “Only Angels, No Masters.” Once It’s All On the Ground is a sonic world populated by fading ghosts where we can take what we need and leave what we don’t. There’s no such thing as emotional baggage in this world, there are just traumas and worries we haven’t processed yet. When Shiroishi returns on closer, “My Sweet Pup,” there’s joy and relief flooding through his layered saxophone flickers. Buoyant piano chords lift Prymek’s bright guitar plucks into the bright day ahead, Anna Wilson’s wordless vocals beckoning us. Once It’s All On the Ground is an album stitched together by grief, loss, catharsis, isolation, and the resplendent delight in surviving to see the sun again.
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