Liner Notes

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Moss Icon // It Disappears

Released in 1994
Hand Silkscreened cover on reclaimed LP sleeve
First press on black
Favorite Track: "Gravity"


This is a big one. So big I avoided it until now. It is with great trepidation and qualification I name Moss Icon's It Disappears my favorite record. It makes my bristle to say it, like picking a favorite child. Every parent has one, but looks over their shoulder as they say it. What is a favorite (cf Experiment 1)?  I certainly haven't listened to it more often than dozens of other records. I haven't played it in a year. But to answer myself from a half decade ago, I don't think my declaration is disingenuous. I must carve out a new slot between play frequency and intellectual posturing for favorites.

This record, using a phrase my buddy Tim coined (perhaps stolen from my other good buddy Ryan, who almost certainly stole it from someone profound), saves me. And I don't mean it in the hyperbolic, "Music saved my life" bumper sticker wisdom. I've never been on the precipice only to be pulled back by a record. And while my life's course was certainly guided by music, it never needed saving. Music saved my life from boredom. It saved me from ever believing the world is devoid of beauty. It rescues me from despair. This record, and countless others, are a rope in a deep well. They implore me to climb out of the morass. I have no doubt I would still be here without music, but I wouldn't be the same person. Maybe I'm just being an asshole about admitting music did save my life, and that my beliefs can be distilled into a bumper sticker.

Moss Icon was a DC hardcore band in the late 80s. And they ruled. Their Lyburnum LP is best in breed. It's powerful and emotional. In high school, I had to read my favorite poem to the class. I read the lyrics to "Kick The Can." Their records were pretty rare. The only copy of their Lyburnum I'd ever seen belonged to my friend Jawsh, who plays in a great band called VHS now. I must have searched fifty record stores' used bins for their albums before finally tracking one down. When I got it, it didn't disappoint. I played it on repeat for a month.

Years later I finally tracked down a copy of their second record, It Disappears. It does not rock. Not even a little. Gone was the fury of youth, the aggression which echoed the aggression I felt toward an indifferent teenage world. What the fuck was this record?! Where was the fucking rock?!

I was severely disappointed. My love for their first record set an expectation of what this record should be instead of taking it for face value. I would put it on when I was in the mood to destroy and it didn't deliver. And I resented the band for it. The record sat largely unplayed on my shelf for months.

The B-Side has a live version of "I'm Back Sleeping Or Fucking Or Something," a ripper from Lyburnum. I would begrudgingly play the B-Side for the one track I could get into. And some late night, I let the record keep playing. The title track, and the only other song on the B-side, is an egregiously mixed, sprawling 15 minute live jam. And despite the awful recording, it's incredible. In a letter to Nathanial Hawthrone about Moby Dick, Melville wrote, "You were archangel enough to despise the imperfect body, and embrace the soul." He could see past the flaws in the work to the perfect soul underneath. "It Disappears" has a perfect soul. I discovered this album quite by accident. I heard it differently. As it hit the run out, I immediately flipped the record and listened to the other side. I was ready to hear.

Lyburnum tells of a man in trauma. His home has burned. His faith is tested. It is tumultuous and off balance. It Disappears is the soundtrack of a man who's found an earthly peace and repose. Even the anti-war "Memorial," is done with immense care and poetry, not anger and frustration. When I listen to this record, it calms me. It reminds me that chaos and ugliness can give rise to beauty and peace. I would sit in my room in the dark, put on headphones, and listen to this record in its entirety. I love it from top to bottom. The lyrics rescue me. And I won't bastardize them by quoting them for you out of context; they are too special for that. I don't know if Jonathan Vance found God, or love, or what happened to him between these two records, but the journey is beautiful.

I no longer think of Lyburnum and It Disappears as separate albums. They are a singular piece of art, told over several years. Expectations put holes in the universe. And mine almost caused me to write off what is now my favorite record.

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