Tuesday 17 September 2019

In the garden of unearthly delights

Lovers of dark things will find beauty, and a peace of sorts, in 'Garden Of Beasts', Candice Gordon's debut album

Candice Gordon's debut album was 'inspired by the Holocaust and Syria'
Candice Gordon's debut album was 'inspired by the Holocaust and Syria'
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

In 2012 Dubliner Candice Gordon decamped to Berlin where she felt almost immediately confronted by "the ghastly recent history" there. She wanted to understand what "could drive people to evil".

Her debut album, Garden Of Beasts, is an exploration of "the human animal, generally inspired by World War II and the Holocaust. I became obsessed with it, and the war in Syria was on my mind as well and it all felt very close and present, unlike the Holocaust that I learnt about in school, which was them and there and way back then".

The album title - a follow-up to her 2013 EP Before the Sunset Ends, produced by Shane MacGowan - was also inspired by the park in Berlin, Tiergarten, and by watching a documentary called The Human Animal.

"The name evokes archaic and almost biblical sentiment," she says.

In the same way that you wouldn't listen to a PJ Harvey/Lou Reed/ Arcade Fire album, or watch a movie by David Lynch or look at a painting by Frances Bacon if you wanted to be put into a chuckle-some mood, I wouldn't advise listening to Candice Gordon before a wedding or a birthday party or an event that required you to be in especially bright and breezy form.

Tomorrow, for instance, is, as Candice tells me, "a fatalistic song about lovers at night, not knowing if they will survive until the next day. It's one of the more romantic songs on the album, a waltz, with some contrapuntal rhythms introduced towards the end to heighten a sense of unease and fear". Candice says she was trying to imagine what it would feel like to "be caught up - helpless - in the midst of war".

Take the song Freedom, a Beautiful Illusion. It was inspired by the Hans Fallada book Alone In Berlin, which affected Candice in no small measure. As such, she wanted to create "this picture of total desolation, a desert beneath an all powerful, overbearing sun".

"The song is like a dirge, the verses are woozy and weighted and then the chorus is this epic revelation with a soaring orchestral arrangement."

Throughout Garden Of Beasts, there are many references to the question of freedom. Freedom, a Beautiful Illusion "contemplates freedom on political, societal, and personal levels".

Unsurprisingly, another song, The Laws of Nature, questions, she says, "our freedom of will or whether we are pre-programmed and slaves to our circumstance".

Similarly, Hive Mind, Automaton, was inspired by seeing "predictable patterns of behaviour on my social media feed; gullibility and groupthink, which gives me major heebie jeebies".

"So," Candice tells me, "I wanted to address it too." She emits a chuckle. "You might have gotten the idea that this album is really bloody dark, and heavy in tone and themes! Every time someone tells me it's 'dark', the tiny little sad trombonist on my shoulder goes 'weh-weh-weh'. Of course it's dark! Intentionally so! But I hope those lovers of dark things also find some beauty and even a catchy hook or two in it too."

Still, at the end of Garden Of Beasts comes a peace of sorts, with In Golden Dreams. "After all this struggle and trauma throughout the record," she explains, "[the song] Goddess of Mercy grants a baptism, a cleansing, and we find ourselves reborn, in a sort of heavenly, dreamy space.

In Golden Dreams is a love song to the sun, which earlier, in the desert of Freedom, loomed as a death sentence," she says. "Now it softly caresses us and is loving and life-giving."

And what of Candice's real life?

"In my real life, In Golden Dreams is inspired by wonderful memories of travelling through the Croatian coast... sleeping in the forests... eating figs off the trees... and falling in love for the first time."

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