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Mythless, the maximalist yacht-metal project by Fang Island founder Jason Bartell, has a new album. “We EP” marks a transitional and complicated time for Bartell. In contrast with the universal grief brought by the pandemic, for Bartell, a period of intense personal strife came to a close just as COVID began. “My divorce was finalized a week before lockdown,” he recalls, “it was this surreal sort of sensation of my internal world opening up just as the outside world was shrinking down.” With his day to day life confined to a tidy pen of about four square blocks in Brooklyn, Bartell found the mental space to grieve the closing of one chapter, while transitioning into a new and uncertain future. “Gaining a sense of closure about my personal pain during a time of much more consequential trauma for so many really left me with newfound clarity and gratitude for the community I found, for my partner(s), for the love I have in my life.” Mixed in Providence, RI by Seth Manchester and mastered in Brooklyn, NY by Heba Kadry, drums by Greg Fox (ex-Liturgy, Zs, Guardian Alien) and rich instrumentation performed and layered by Ryan Seaton (Callers, Open House) cultivate a relentless and feverish drone. “I wanted the instrumentation to have a feeling of controlled chaos,” Bartell notes, “a hyperactive sort of bed for me to drape these deceptively simple, hopefully beautiful songs on top of.”
The writing process began in the early stages of the pandemic, with Bartell sending Fox rough sketches for songs. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Greg’s playing, and in those early weeks of lockdown I thought I may never step foot in a studio again. So when he was posting about his home recording set up it seemed like a good moment to reach out and work with him.” The three-song EP comprises three approaches to the love song: the internal, the relational, and the universal. EP opener “Dreadless” starts with an unedited voice memo of the vocal sketch that would ultimately become the song it precedes, signaling a desire to be vulnerable and inviting intimacy. The crudeness of the intro serves to heighten the distance between inspiration and production, as the recording urgently blooms into bright, technicolor life. “Dreadless” reveals Bartell at his most personal to date, melodically navigating a new terrain: self-acceptance.
The following track, “Voidless,” looks outward, taking a more grandiose approach: it imagines a psychedelic interaction with a higher spiritual entity, laboring towards describing the indescribable. The lyric “forever new” becomes a sort of mantra, the repetition expressing an acceptance of the unknowable aspects of love and time. EP closer “Glossless” compresses back down to earth, delivering a straightforward yet untraditional addition to the love song canon. Brassy and lush, it presents a euphoric ode to the feeling of true connection. “I’ve never really written a love song for someone — I think I’ve always been too afraid—there has always been something sort of hubristic feeling about it to me. This time, the immensity of the feeling and of this particular connection compelled me, and I wanted to honor it. Too often I’ve not said a thing or taken action out of fear, which is something I’m working on overcoming. This song felt like a true and important thing for me to make.”
When it came time to finish these songs and make them what they are, “Everything that came out was love. Beauty was important to me—I wanted the songs to be pleasurable, if a little complicated. There had just been so much grief, personal and global, and I needed to learn to live with it, to move towards the fear, instead of letting it consume me. I think once a few cracks formed and a little light got back in, the only thing I was interested in expressing was love.”