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The marriage of text and music, like other pairings, can be problematic. This is especially true in the spoken word subgenre, as is featured on Killdeer. The poetry of Nick Flynn haunts its way through “structured improvisation” conceived by Guy Barash, with Kathleen Supové on piano, Frank London on a very threadbare trumpet and Eyal Maoz filling in on guitar. Barash handles the electronic manipulations, and the product winds its way into ever darker places. Flynn, let it be known, has seen the darkness stare back at him, and his text invites you to look into the same mirror. Clearly recited, prosaic, brooding, even angry, the text does not appear in the booklet aside from two brief excerpts. When you hear the thoughts uttered in track seven, Poem to be Whispered by the Bedside of a Sleeping Child, maybe you’ll be glad. I was.
This makes one grateful for the music. London’s insinuating whispers and cries match the mood, a pale shadow of the shadowy poetry, while Supové’s powerful sparks draw our ears away from the poet’s voice towards some kind of brightness.
Still, this is essentially a textual work, fascinating and disturbing. I will listen again, because I know there’s redemption of a kind proffered by Flynn. The text takes most of my attention, and second listening might change that or might not. The text is why I hesitate, and yet recognize: these are powerful poems. Killdeer meditates on death, and on the demons that would have us wish it on someone else. The matter is dark, the music affecting.