Basking in The Shadows
by Loy Bernal Carlos
BEN KYLE'S ROMANTICA: ABOUT THE MAKING OF SHADOWANDS AND THE DEBILITATING DISEASE THAT THREATENED THE ALBUM AND HIM.
photo by Tony Nelson
The cool breeze during a rainstorm that finds its way through an open window, swirling over your skin, following weeks of baking air under the scorching summer sun. That first sip of hot chocolate after traipsing around the city on a wet, snowy day. That relief you get when you put on your house clothes, finally unbound, after an entire evening of being stitched stiff in pretense inside a gown or tuxedo.
Or that split second sense of serenity before falling asleep when you’ve turned off the television, lights, put down your phone, and the tumultuous waves of charged energy are suddenly lulled to calm in the darkness, like waves retreating at low tide. That song that plucks you from the crises of the present, and delivers you back to some episode of a distant past, tucked neatly in your repainted, refurbished library of recollections, where all but the good is forgotten.
Romantica’s Spring-released album, Shadowlands, hits you with the same sense of soothing comfort as these, one with such grace as almost to seem frail yet, contrarily, possess enough might to block much of the noise of the outside world and the caterwauling within. From the opening hymn-like notes of Let The Light Go Through You to the last spriteful strums of Shandy Bass, its good energy permeates the air, like the rousing smell of fresh homemade apple fritters and bold coffee on the first morning of a long overdue vacation.
Without a doubt, Ben Kyle, the Minneapolis alt-country slash Americana band’s frontman slash songwriter, speaks with a timbre of weariness, not altogether surprising considering the withering he has endured within the last several years before, during, and after completion of the album.
To him, greetings as mundane as “How are you and how have things been” are loaded questions that necessitate nuanced responses with several explanatory parentheses. For when you’re about to cross the wall that separates “things are worse” into “things are better,” one can choose to focus either on the ever-looming darkness behind or the light just beyond your reach.
“I’ve been through some very deep shadowlands in my life in the last few years, and this material comes out of that experience,” Kyle explained, adding, “I feel like a lot of the content of this record is about the fruit of the darkness in life.”
Indeed quite a few shadows, there have been since Romantica released its EP, Control Alt Country Delete, a surprising fan favorite released in 2009 that took a day to be written and recorded. For some other followers, it’s been almost a decade-long wait for the follow up to 2007’s critically acclaimed America, listed in Paste Magazine’s “Best of the Decade.” A dispute with its former label, changes in the band’s lineup, growing families, and a debilitating disease were significant roadblocks that stood in its way. But for the 36-year old Belfast-born Irish-American artist, there was another, more subtle but all important factor–time.