Nicholas Szczepanik: Dear Dad
Goat Eater Arts / Basses Frequences

Perhaps the most well-known case involving a letter written by a son to his father is the one Franz Kafka wrote to his father Hermann in November 1919 and that eventually was published under the title Brief an den Vater (Letter to His Father). Just as Franz's gesture allowed him to confront indirectly a figure he regarded as tyrannical, there's some hint (in the track titles, at least) that some similar dynamic permeated the relationship between Nicholas Szczepanik and his own father, as evidenced by the son's own words: “When I was a child, my dad asked that I write him a letter. I felt it to be a confusing request because I was still living with him and saw him every day. Looking back, I guess it was his way of getting me to talk and to allow him to understand who I am, but I never managed to write it. Many years later and after much thought, I realize there's so much I need to tell him now. This is that letter; it says much more than any amount of words ever could.”

Of course, Szczepanik's ‘letter' isn't fundamentally textual but aural, with Dear Dad, recorded in fall and winter of 2009, a fifty-minute work comprised of two sections, the first titled “Part 1: When I'm No Longer Afraid of You,” and the second, “Part 2: Forgive to Forget.” The first piece is the towering one of the two, a thirty-seven-minute monolithic drone that emerges from silence and ever-so-slowly builds into an awesome roar. Ten minutes in, the hum of electrical wires and organ tones dominates; five minutes later, the intensity noticeably escalates when a tsunami-like wave advances, and it's from this moment forward that one's advised to strap oneself in as Szczepanik cranks up the volume and density until the sound mass resembles a seething, torrential blur within which all manner of sounds seem to be struggling to be heard. A minute before it ends, a glorious melodic flourish brings it to a climax, after which a rapid decompression sets in. The second, ambient-styled setting is the more placid of the two, as it drifts serenely for thirteen minutes and provides a soothing contrast to the first's shattering intensity. All else aside, one wonders what Szczepanik's father would have to say about the release.

May 2010