Wes Anderson is an absurdist comedic film director most noted for films like The Royal Tennenbauns and Fanstastic Mr. Fox, but also for the quaint pubescent love story, Moonrise Kingdom. Herman Melville was a 19th-century sailor and author most known for his American whaling classic, Moby Dick. The combination of inspirations is indeed an odd one, but what else would we expect from an artist like Levi The Poet, most known for his organized chaos delivery of breathtaking, guttural spoken word pieces? That said, even this is a departure for Levi, whose body of work up to this point has been completely autobiographical, as Levi has created a rich concept album complete with a swirling and ethereal score provided by the talented soundmaker Alex Sugg of Glowhouse (with whom Levi has collaborated before).
Correspondance (a fiction) is a story told through letters between young lovers. The daughter of a hard-drinking whaling captain is brought on a long voyage, as her beloved is left on shore to build the couple's treehouse they planned together. Their letters are carried back and fourth via the girl's father's discarded alcohol bottles. Within those letters, the two of them shared their memories, experiences, and philosophical and theological musings. The setting of the story in a bit inconclusive, as references to more recent topics as John Wayne, baseball, and The Princess Bride don't seem to mesh with the obvious parallels to Moby-Dick (which is itself referred to at one point in the story). That combined with such fantastically coincidental elements as messages in bottles working as effective communication, and the story requires some suspension of disbelief in order to really get involved in the whimsical tale (if "whimsical" is the correct term for a tale as sobering and ultimately tragic as this). But thankfully, Levi taps into nostalgia and human emotion enough that suspension of disbelief is not difficult to attain.
Those familiar with Levi's past work will inevitably be surprised (probably pleasantly) at the inclusion of a true musical accompaniment to Levi's deliveries. With music to work with and to set the tone, Levi can rely less on portraying a vast range of emotions with his voice, and the result is a far less chaotic-sounding poet creating a sound far more accessible to the average listener than his music-free rants of Monologues. Indeed, going in with my ears bracing for a strong vocal barrage, I was tempted to be disappointed with Levi's relative mellowness. Thankfully, the work is too strong overall to be disappointing.
Correspondence does not disappoint writing-wise either. Opening with a tender barrage of fond retrospection in "Chapter One: When Hearts Are Large," the listener is immediately brought into the emotional plight of the whole story ("My love, when we first set sail and pushed off to sea, I stood at the bow looking backward, dry-eyed and imagining that the world, in all its color, grandeur and majesty, had been devastated by the same sort of flood I'd seen when I told you that my father was making me leave."). Loneliness, isolation, regret, and forgiveness are common themes for the album, coming in strongest in tracks like "Chapter Three: The Great American Game," and "Chapter Eight: White Whales Like Black Plagues" (the only chapter written from the perspective of the girl's father). But the album's finest moment occurs in "Chapter Six: Traditional Values Worldview," where the girl meets a mystic who, all too reminiscent of the shallow, conservative, evangelical stereotype, says "her feet were evil because they'd touched the ground, ears guilty by association because they'd heard the sound, with a mind, wicked, that wandered and wondered about music, sex, love and the men in the town below." The girl's response is the joyous high point of the album.
Alas, the conclusion of the story is a tragic one, although hope is still present in force. Levi may never be the most cheery artist you'll come across, but he is as honest, transparent, and realistic as one could hope for from an artist. Time will tell what type of response Correspondence will ultimately receive, but by all rights, it needs to get noticed. And this album contains all the tools necessary for it to do so; a compelling story, an emotive score, superb writing, excellent delivery, and thoughtful content. Levi the Poet has never been so easy to love.- Review date: 12/18/14, written by Mark Rice of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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