Indie, Portland, Oregon band Typhoon released their fourth album, “Offerings” on January 12, 2018. “Offerings” is the scintillating follow up to Typhoon’s 2013 critically acclaimed album “White Lighter”. Admirers of Typhoon’s prior works are acquainted with the band’s complicated arrangements and careful orchestration. The intricately woven textures of the band’s output are made possible by the full utilization of their plethora of band members. Their music is an artful combination of rock orchestration, strings, horns and lush production. They inhabit the same orbit as fellow travelers Frightened Rabbit and Arcade Fire. The easiest personification of their output is more equals more.
Typhoon’s eponymous debut album has been characterized as experimental with lashings of esoteric genres like sea shanties and Eastern European folk music in the mix. With each new release the band has evinced a more cohesive sound and thought line. The over all emphasis that has informed their albums has been a preoccupation with mortality. Kyle Morton, Typhoon’s founder, main vocalist, and songwriter is the nucleus the band revolves around. For a full band member list I refer you to the band’s website and Facebook page to credit each of the current 11 members’ contributions correctly.
Morton has described the context Offerings as such, “It is recorded from the perspective of a mind losing its memory at precisely the same time the world is willfully forgetting its history”. So a fun romp through unicorn clouds the release is not. Instead Offerings is a cinematic concept album for those looking to engage their brains; it is without a doubt an armchair, headphone listen. Morton along with his Typhoon band mates swings for the fences on “Offerings”. They risk failure by taking on a painful topic, individuals losing sentient thought as they age, while attempting to avoid getting bogged down in bloated self-indulgence. What results is an astonishing, heartbreakingly beautiful recording.
The entire album is Morton’s take on the eternal quandary of why awful things seem to arbitrarily happen to individuals. The randomness of suffering is madding. The first four tracks are the strongest role out of Typhoon’s questions about this phenomenon. Morton is thematically going where few bands or artists would dare to go, and the band produces a spellbinding creation.
Morton gives the listener a heads up on the first track Wake. He is signalling that what will follow will be something other than the usual musical fare. He uses the chilling statement “of all the things that you are about to lose, this will be the most painful”. Thus begins the hegira of the narrator who is drowning in his memories while he experiences the pain of losing each memory forever. With its stark atmospheric accompaniment, Wake sets the table for the forthcoming drama conveyed by a shutter fall into oblivion. The track Rorschach continues with the narrator trying to get his head around his diagnosis and his denial; there must be some mistake, this can’t be happening to him. This track is confrontational in sonic with its guitar-centred rock feel. On Empiricist, the clue to the song is contained in the title. Captured is an attempt by the narrator to square the concrete and linear with that which can never be made so; in this case the unravelling of his sentient thoughts and memory. The dirge-like sonic along with the iron lung/breathing machine sound effect convey all the growing fear that is being encountered. What is so arresting is the song’s ability to relate the experience of the antiseptic clinical that parallels the erasing of memory. Anyone who has had the misfortune of suffering from a long-term disease will recognize the inhumanity that is ultimately faced in medical treatments where emotion and individuality are quickly eliminated and one becomes simply a body. This song is both utterly brilliant and horrifying.
As the listener continues on through the album it becomes clear that as the narrator begins to surrender to his situation he is becoming less and less scared because he no longer has the ability to sense the loss. This growing ambivalence is in direct contrast to his loved ones who are suffering increases as he incrementally slips away. This occurrence is seen in the track Algernon which uncannily captures this reversal of burden. The narrator is desperately attempting to identify family members if only to provide them with some comfort. This is in contrast to any real internal desire he has to continue the useless effort to remember.
In Unusual you can sense his gradual acceptance of the inevitable in the lyric, “this brave new world is going to take some getting used to.” This message is conveyed with an initially swirling gentle sonic that morphs into a more uptempo track at the end. Remember is a pop-influenced track with an acoustic guitar beginning that ponders how the brain decides to select what to remember or hold on to the longest. My favourite track is the aptly titled track Chiaroscuro, which is by definition the painter’s dealing with light and shade. Here the family is playing the part of the painter dealing with the shadows that are growing with the painful wasting away of the narrator. This achingly beauty ballad conveys that the fear and suffering has now transferred to the loved ones who can do nothing to stop the narrator from inching nearer his mental absolute zero. The raw and dramatic Ariadne displays how the wife of the narrator has morphed from his wife into his nurse. An ersatz Stockholm syndrome takes place with both the wife and the husband becoming hostages to this misfortune. At the end of Ariadne, the chilling beginning quote of Wake is repeated like a curse that has now completely unfolded. The final track, Sleep suggests the final resolution to this excruciating situation has arrived. However, Morton and the band do not leave the listener off the hook. Instead, Sleep is a 12-minute long track that in places echoes the stages of the sleep cycle with a dream, deep sleep and subconscious sensory sections. The song is epic and frightening as the muffled indecipherable sonics at the end seem to indicate the arrival at absolute zero where the memory is gone. The finale is terrifying and also extremely thought-provoking as the listener is forced to face the possibility that this fate stalks their future.
Typhoon with Offerings releases an album that is not for the faint of heart. It demands to be heard in one sitting to gain the impact and intent of the recording. The arrangements for the songs are brilliant in conveying the theme without getting in the way and totally serve the intent of the endeavour. At various times the lyrics, emotions and solemn beauty shook me to my very core. The most arresting song for me was Empiricist with its ability to capture the unreality of being a disease sufferer trapped in the unavoidably dehumanizing clinical world. The album can seem a little long in spots but overall it is a remarkable journey through the unthinkable as it palpably conveys the horrific unravelling of one individual’s mind. Offerings takes a number of listens to fully appreciate the rich textures and meanings offered up by this album and will haunt the listener long after the album has ended. Typhoon has shown significant guts in creating this recording. Offerings is for lack of a better word, astonishing.