Gavin Castleton's Home - By Volume

She goes on and on and on and on about love. But am I ever enough? Our Fold - She Goes On
Even Home's artwork is a deception of sorts; the red and the blue represent two sides of a lie.

Gavin Castleton’s Home

Created from within the storm, what at first appears a simple story of love gained and lost contains an honesty and a depth that most records can't even imagine. Author: on June 12, 2012
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One of the reasons I love writing about music is that it’s taught me how to communicate the most abstract of ideas. Sometimes, what makes sense in music only makes sense in music – it’s the whole dancing about architecture thing. But we try anyway to make sentences out of how notes and ideas collide in our favourite songs, because it teaches us to understand those feelings just a little bit better. Over the years since I started writing, I’ve built up something of what you could call an emotional vocabulary. Sometimes it flows onto the page from a really impulsive place; at other times, to be frank, it’s almost cheating, my dancing based around previous routines. But usually – and this is why I write – other people understand what I’m getting at.

Gavin Castleton’s Home, then, is the only album I’ve ever needed to express through somebody else’s words. What it evokes in me is different. The evocation is not particularly problematic from a purely descriptive point of view – awe, contentness, introspection – but even inside those three adjectives it’s impossible not to become tangled up in the analysis of this unique brand of meta-narrative. Home is a record I can’t put into words, because single words are not enough to encapsulate why it is brilliant; one needs a fully-fledged idea to communicate the stunning nature of this pop album, which is, in itself, a fully-fledged idea, beyond the point of “conception” and into the realm where an artist is working backwards from a truth they already understand and unraveling it as they go. Home is a concept album, sure, in that it has a story, but it wasn’t storyboarded or “thought up” like we understand most concept records to be, because – we can resort, now, to my friend Charlotte’s words – it entails the most ridiculous form of honesty.

The real-life plot goes as follows. In 2007 Gavin Castleton suffered a crushing break-up after a six year relationship, and as an exercise in managing his emotions he began writing Home in the vein of documenting his healing process and providing a crutch for equally heartbroken listeners. He then made an enormous fucking mistake in assuming himself stable enough to involve that same girl so as to hold two perspectives for the story, and in the aftermath of this… small error of judgment… Castleton became so torn apart that he moved out of the house the two had shared and spent three months sleeping on sofas and travelling New England working with musicians before mastering the album in 2009. Home, in all its “pop opera” glory, its influences eclectic and its hooks subtle, is the end product of whatever it was that happened in Gavin Castleton’s head during those five-plus months. It veers towards jazz, trip-hop, Coldplay, and numerous other ridiculous musical corners across its 14 tracks, but its musical stylings are the least of our concerns.

Where much art documents an instant or period of turmoil, Home is created from within the fucking storm, and then evaluated (by us, and by Castleton in time) from amid the carnage it caused. And all this, as an over-analysis of what is, brutally, presented in the form of a zombie-movie narrative. Castleton sets up his tale within the popular apocalyptic frame, only to set the stage alight at the very end and expose the entire thing as a sham. The game Gavin Castleton played in 2009 was one of deception – both of himself and of his listener, both accidental and deliberate. Nothing so superficially crude has ever housed anything this consciously (but only after the fact) layered; the mere fact that I’ve mentioned undead creatures will likely have you reading this with a strange mixture of skepticism and amusement. So I’ll say it right now: this is not a joke. Home is a masterpiece, and it isn’t (but still sort of is) about zombies.

And so, in telling a cinematic story only to announce it as a sham, he declares himself both a character and an observer. The final song is a twist of Hollywood proportions but more acute resonance. That song is “Credits”, and it changes everything about what Home could be or could mean to a person, colouring every passage a different shade of red. The gap between those shades is so narrow – the reds of anger, romance and pain all find their feet within the plot on one side of the screen or the other, and sometimes both. I hear so often that a record revolves around what people call “contradictions”, and they always mean a sonic juxtaposition of sorts. But Home is truly built on two sides of a wall, with its overall camera elevated to see both sides, and with an audible part of the artist on either side of the partition.

And all this means that the piece of art in the end has two meanings, two intentions, two angles. The first is the momentary, the involved, the blinded; the second, as he executes his about-turn and considers the value of what he’s written, is the considered, the enlightened, but ultimately not the lasting impression. The thing to take away from Home is that sometimes you can be wrong about your present situation and sometimes you have to shout everything you’re thinking to know which parts of it are real and which aren’t.

To paraphrase the man himself, sometimes there is no helicopter, no great escape, no screaming car ride, no supermarket, and no zombie chase. If this all sounds ridiculous, I’ve done my job; Home is the epitome of a very grand idea, the execution of a form of honesty I’m not sure I’ll ever come to terms with.

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