I chuckle at the thought of Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen or Marcel Proust writing a masterpiece about lunacy, love or life only to have their asses handed to them on a plate by a headline. The death of a moth used to enthrall. It can’t compete with a skimpy thong and massive melons.
Danh Vo, The death of a moth, 2011
Lauded as "NYC's best songwriter" by The Village Voice last year, Brooklyn-based Zachary Cale softly blends elements of folk, Americana rock, and blues. His grainy, yet comforting voice and poetic lyrics are immediately reminiscent of an early Bob Dylan, while his acoustic strumming draws comparisons to Leonard Cohen and John Fahey. In his most recent track, "Blue Moth," which is premiering below, Cale sings about someone who dances with death, deciding to return after a glimpse of white light.
"'Blue Moth' is based on someone that saw their end, but after a moment of clarity was wise enough to circle back," he explains. "The end that I'm alluding to isn't explored fully; I wanted to keep it open. Most of my songs are like that, they never completely spell it out."
As Cale tells his chosen story through lyrical musings such as "like a moth to the flame," the track could perhaps be compared to a musical adaptation of Annie Dillard's short story "The Death of a Moth." In the story, Dillard witnesses a moth slowly burning to its death, trapped within the confines of melted candlewax. Although Dillard's moth is crucified, it's reborn, acting as a wick, allowing the candle to live on. In a similar way, Cale's helpless moth nears the flame in the first verse, and in the second, a surfer rides a wave to shore, because "at the edge of the void / I call out." The moth and surfer both live to see another day.
"Blue Moth" will be included on Cale's fifth studio album, Duskland (August 7), and as Cale says, "Every character in the album can be traced to this song. They've all been to that place...beginning with a downward spiral and ending with a resurrection."
Inspired largely by American myths and folklore, Cale aims to transport listeners to a sparse landscape throughout the duration of the album. "I tried to evoke the spirit of Western films, using sounds that suggest landscape to capture something that's bigger than the person in the song," he explains.
To do this, Cale's guitar is pared down and he lyrically explores human nature and growth, often looking toward other's experiences, instead of his own, as heard on previous records. "The songs are allegorical by design, so it was necessary for me to project outside of myself to get at the heart of the matter," he says. "But to say that I'm not in these songs would be untrue; every song I write has me in it somewhere."
DUSKLAND WILL BE RELEASED AUGUST 7 VIA NO QUARTER. FOR MORE ON ZACHARY CALE, VISIT HIS .
The Death of a Moth, by Annie Dillard
The sense of a human presence that animates a personal essay is surely one of the most beguiling literary phenomena, for it usually comes across in so familiar and direct a voice, seemingly without effort or contrivance, that it’s easy to believe I’m hearing (or overhearing) the author of the piece rather than a textual stand-in. Listen to Montaigne tell about his near-fatal fall from a horse, or Virginia Woolf about the death of a moth, or James Baldwin about his sojourn in a Swiss mountaintop village, or Joan Didion about keeping a notebook, or Vivian Gornick about street-life in New York City, and you will hear such distinctive voices that you too might refer to the persons in those pieces by the names of the authors who created them, as if they were one and the same. And in a sense they are, given the self-referential status of “I” that’s entrenched in language. A personal essay does, after all, put one more directly in contact with the thought and feeling of its author than do other forms of literature, if only because personal essayists speak in their own name rather than through the fictive characters that inhabit the work of novelists and playwrights.
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