While Sleep is Sleeping: A Review of Evening on Earth by Colonial Skyway

While Sleep is Sleeping: A Review of Evening on Earth by Colonial Skyway

(Submarine Broadcasting Company)

Released January 14, 2022


Review by Weirding Batweilder

If you’ve even tried to fall asleep under an orange sky, you know what this music is about. And if that is the case, well by the time Keylapes — the second track on Colonial Skyway’s new album — hums into view, your mind will have overtaken your sense of physical presence and replaced it with a memoryscape of nights along the river in view of the eternal flame alight over the chemical plant, the long way home through barren highways and empty fields besotted with heavy machinery, and the recognition that just before 4am, almost anywhere on Earth, you can find yourself the closest your awoken self can ever get to being alone.

I’ve been listening to Colonial Skyway since the September 2020 release of Landline — a seeming musical capture of electricity and muffled communications traveling aboveground over fields of agriculture and the people who ploy away not ironically nestled in homes among the acreages of historic, but long discounted, war, blood, commerce, and reinvention. There are specters of old debate and gossip there, but wrung out by time and the producer’s craft where only the mechanized charge of transmission across wires remains — a palimpsest of ghost speech ever calling and ever hanging up on itself, hoping that this time the phone goes dead.

Evening on Earth, by contrast, captures the world parallel to that world. Here, rather than vestiges of communication electricity, we get the weight of elephantine machines barreled and stacked upon one another from the dry salt of the plant floor to the exhausted evaporate of gas high above the monstrous chemical towers — their mirages glimpsed by passengers half asleep staring out window seats as the commuter bus descends along the river, streetlights under the branches of trees seeming to twinkle, and the flight attendants strapped in and prepared for landing.

By the time we come to the penultimate track — Fourth Selector Stepping — we’ve been wandering the cavernous complex long enough that the aural monolith we’re about to come upon is something that we are somehow prepped for. It is as though, all this time, we’ve been engaged in a ritual, an initiation. And therefore finally, in the final track — After Dark — (and I like this because it is not After Darkness or Upon Light, it is “after dark” like this whole ordeal has been a vision of Juan de la Cruz) we are either reveled or eviscerated in the presence of the reveal — which, Cohen told us, “isn’t worth a dime.” It is something beyond the chemical balance, beyond the commerce and commuting, beyond the plausible deniability that we invoke upon ourselves every time the morning comes. And the hum dances along the edge of your dream, only dipping out just before the heartbeat rushes the panic back in and you wake to a knowledge that you’ve just forgotten something important.


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