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The Lobby | DICK SLESSIG COMBO - WICHITA LINEMAN (2004)



I’ve spent this last month in a sloven, tiresome haze with a potentially numerous sort of things to say, yet an infinitely limited quantity of ways in which I can say them. All the words scrambled for the sake of scrambling and the daze of it all crept inward within the brain with an inevitability you’d swear could be considered malignant. The medicines (although they were more like drugs within the past month if anything, rendering me an optimal consumer) of art and media started to run dry. They became the scribes, not me. There was no sense in documenting the words and experiences on their behalf thanks to my head passively denying the ability to scribe it all down, and the communication lines of my words tied up into Gordian knots – whoever unties it implants the world into their hands.


All the feelings went from soft to numb, then blind with mumbling apathy. More sense could be made through coughs in dense air than thoughts transferred to tap-happy typeface. I was originally going to write a whole diatribe about stress levels and Duk Koo Kim, or maybe even a review of Ten, though now I’ve found a greater solace and assignment. Only a few hours ago, I was alerted to the existence of a cover of Jimmy Webb’s rather pleasant Wichita Lineman, a piece that very much benefits from the songwriting tropes heralded in its period of the late 1960s when it came to short and succinct baroque portable pop batteries (around the same time, Nick Drake started taking names and forgetting them as sacrifices to his explorations towards the great within). The song would later be covered and ascended into country worship by Glen Campbell. The justification of the first paragraph’s existence is a result of what untied those knots.


The cover I was alerted to was not of Campbell’s countrypolitan mastermindings. I instead found a Herculean post-rock contortion of the song laid down by the Dick Slessig Combo, a trio consisting of Carl Bronson (bass), Mark Lightcap (guitar), and Steve Goodfriend (drums). Where Glen’s arrangement was prolonged only to three minutes, the Dick Slessig Combo crept in weaving fashion into the dream state of the song, extracting a celestial forty-two minute long meditative slowcore/post-rock/americana/ambient/psych-rock/free-improv masterpiece.


It operates with intricacy through simplicity, like a damn good photograph of the blurring rain in front of the silhouette of a bus stop. The ambience is coated in a varnish of perpetuity, permanent beauty and pulsation. This very pulse is the fuzzball of a core present in this piece, where a gateway into a higher dimension threatens to unravel and reveal itself as the light around it curls and twists in distorted servitude. I lied a bit about that lineup, because a keyboard is very much present in this song, a keyboard as subdued yet undeniably important as any other instrument. There’s no bold or overtly avant-garde approaches through the free-form extemporization that unfurls hideously throughout the length of the answer to everything; rather, we’re treated to mumbling reflections that are not reclusive by any means. These hushed recollections and cherished hindsights are present in every wall and every memory we meet, complete with a consolidated and interior drumming.


The synergy present between the keyboards and the guitar as they duet the formation of the central abstract together conquers the humming Americana that guides everyone through this song. It’s so simple, a long jam with little arrangement that builds off a pre-existing piece of music. But it’s the imagination and the inspiration behind the execution that matters endlessly, and this is especially present in the result. For once in my head, everything feels like it’s going to be okay. All the plasma in this little solar system is soothed into an unobservable and meandering formation, going everywhere with nowhere in mind and finding its destination in the vague meaning of peace. When the drums surrender their motions, the keyboard and guitar slowly grow quiet, the bass further soothes and pushes you into the clouds, and the sparse trickling electronica begin their shuffling along the stage of your psyche, the answer to everything is laid out before you like a blueprint that is impossible to read but easy to understand as long as you take an exhibition into yourself.


The knot that jams the head loosens. Your hands are no longer funeral drums, just hands at this point. When it comes to crying, all it takes is just feeling human. This cover clarifies one of my beliefs on music: it’s an impossible language buried in the code of all the universe that will eternally understand us greater than we will ever understand it. There’s no relapsing found within this song, just the peace of being. It doesn’t worry about whether you are awake or sleeping, it simply plays – it goes on, like everything does. If you wanna be even more sanctimonious, you can call it the transmutation of Wichita Lineman into a synecdoche encapsulating the very philosophies of nature itself. It’s a fun thought, giving a song that much of a legacy and subliminal impact.


Imagine you’ve slept and wept and whatever else in the same vat buried within the mantle of the Earth itself, the air conditioning being the only thing stopping you from boiling alive. The walls are cracked and cobble, and the only source of light comes from your hands. You hold a dim light as you navigate this room directionlessly, having no idea where you are headed no matter how familiar you are with the space you find yourself in. It’s a rut, an impasse, some may call it something more specified like an illness or a creative wall. You swear you’re gonna die there for all you care, but you know there must be some way out. So, you decide to unscrew the grill that covers the ventilation of the air conditioning and slowly crawl your way thousands of feet upwards, slowly but surely, to grass and sun. The difficulty of this escape seems full of suffering, insurmountable and still. But what this song embodies most is the moment that comes after having escaped, and finally being able to breathe unfettered again. The feeling of being blessed by the sun and moon as you enjoy the simple delight of just existing beyond that seemingly bottomless perimeter. You could just taste tranquil itself occupying the breeze that blesses your spent skin.


The celestial dimension this song occupies has carbon dating that secures the jazz-folk calms of 1969 Tim Buckley as one of its ancestors, the only two ancestors predating him being the calming hum of the galaxy’s geometry and wind itself. There’s faint recollections of the vocal passages of the source material projected onto the guitar in rare moments, but it’s a struggle calling it a cover as much as it is a complete and utter upheaval of the past inspiration. It does not cover, rather it reveals; it reveals the warm purple ichor that sifts along the nervous system of the cosmic web. This epic has no bombast to it, rather the underlying buzz that occupies everything.


Everything feels more clarified, the solution to all these innumerable ciphers and questions hinted at through something as simple as a mellow repetition that perches on the cusp of infinite knowledge and presence, yet its borderline omniscience feels more like a humble gift by something greater with the intent to transform the passage into an ambassador of an equally proficient tier. Whatever it is the ambassador of, we will never understand the source or the message – but it will always understand us.


It feels like a song that can be listened to at different phases in someone’s life and be appreciated in wildly different ways. This profound comatose environment provided by the reality-defying reformation of Wichita Lineman creates one of the greatest cover songs ever, and one of the most profound yet unknown impact events of this century. Do not let the length detract you: listen to it immediately.


In 2004, this song happened once more. The world replied “Shit, what now?”


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