Drab Majesty’s latest release is an ode to a tragedy barely covered by the press outside of the States. On the night of December 2, 2016, a fire tore apart the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, California, during a concert. The warehouse served jointly as a music venue and accommodation for an artist collective, despite the permit not allowing either. The fire is the deadliest in the history of Oakland, claiming 36 lives, of the fifty people present. One victim was twenty-two-year-old Cash Askew, a fellow artist with Drab Majesty on label DAIS Records. This new single, consisting of two songs, serves as a very public protest of outrage at the senseless deaths of thirty-six people, the majority of whom were in their twenties and thirties, but the youngest of which was only 17; the oldest 61.
An explanation of the lyrics to first song ‘Oak Wood’ (4:53) has been dutifully provided by Drab Majesty, as describing the “grapple with the existence of a god in a time of such utter sadness, hopelessness, and confusion.” The song is a departure from this year’s universally acclaimed album The Demonstration, rather a throwback to earlier material and those sad synth vibes. The repetition of the chorus beginning with the indignant line “Why in the world would a god take someone as young as a child?” strikes not just a poignant note nor matters of existential crises, but an increasingly common sentiment today.
‘Oak Wood’ is the first part of a true piece of art, a form of expression with intellect and emotion behind it. It is a fitting tribute to Cash Askew and the other victims of the 2016 Oakland Warehouse Fire.
For the second and final part, we have some cathartic respite in ‘Egress’ (2:55), as explained by Clinco, “I hope if only for a brief moment, the listener can wander and lose themselves within the sonic imagery offered in this piece.” It is a perfect example of a synth soundscape, complete with guitar pedals and distortion, a soundtrack of contemplation to the restless mind.
As a stand-alone single, the impact of Oak Wood is paramount. However, it has to be first understood in the sense of its origins. It is not light-hearted or even easy listening, but so startlingly profound for a project known for its eccentricities and questionable sense of humour. Ultimately, beyond anything, Oak Wood is a statement.
Released on 31st August 2017