APRICOT BLUSH: WHERE BLEW A FLOWER, MAY A FLOWER NO MORE
Surrealistic folk ensemble Apricot Blush have given us their second LP with the epic, anthemic, Where Blew a Flower, May a Flower No More. One of the pillars of the Pablo Generation, Apricot Blush is the vision of Greenville-based songwriter, skateboarder, tattoo artist, and multi-instrumentalist, Jackson Wise. Wise initially wrote the songs to be featured on his debut, self-titled album without really intending them to see the light of day, focusing more on his work with Prozac Dreams. Encouraged by community support, Apricot Blush fleshed out into a full band of eleven rotating cast members, began touring consistently, and continued creating.
Like the self-titled debut, Where Blew a Flower, May a Flower No More can be viewed as a peek into Wise’s head. This time, Wise uses the Inuit legend of Sedna, the sea goddess as a vehicle for telling his personal story. What makes the Sedna myth so compelling from a listener’s perspective is that it has three different tellings. Through each track, we are able to work in which narrative is being drawn from at that time, and what the other versions have to do with each message in comparison.
Each version of the myth has a different reason for what is largely the same result. Sedna is sometimes a giant who attacks her father, the god of creation, due to a great famine. One instance has Sedna’s father give his daughter to a hunter who wants to marry her. In the last version, Sedna and her father are caught in a boat while the sea goddess causes a huge storm to kill both of them. The three stories share the main points of Sedna being the daughter of a god, having her fingers chopped off, being sent to the bottom of the ocean, and her fingers becoming all the different species of marine life. Because she is without fingers, Sedna is unable to comb her hair, and it dreads. The story goes that the sins of humans result in sand and debris getting into her hair. This causes a hatred of humans by Sedna, but humans need her and her sea life to survive. Her suffering becomes sustenance in this way.
The album works where the first part until “and embrace” is reconciling with Sedna and guilt. We are introduced to this with the delicate, stringy guitar over the crackle of a fire; positioning Wise as taking refuge from the cold Inuit winter and recounting the legend. Wise’s vocals begin the track, initially double tracked, and reverberating. The lyrics characterize the early moments of the album as set in an area without hope: ‘Then God peaked down from his perch as if he had anything to say. Oh sister, where have your dogs run wild? Oh sister, when will the wrongs retire?’ The reverb working in the vocal arrangement and singing saw begins an underwater element that will marry itself to the album. Water imagery and sound effects are prominent as a way to make the Sedna myth present.
I see “baro (trauma)” as the progressive crux of the narrative. This is the moment when the daunting quality that has lived in each track up to here is first quelled. Singing saw sets the tone for a track seemingly haunted by the first half of the album. Despite this, Wise urges, ‘take a breath, deep and slow/make it last-here we go.’ The lyricism here is still dark but tonally feels triumphant. Heaton concludes with a triumphant battle cry of a trumpet part.
The rest of the album continues from there, coming from a place of owning the past that has become a part of the developing present and having the strength to be something progress. “Childbirth, counting” celebrates the hope and reality of new things to come and works as the grandest moment and euphoric climax to the album. A summer guitar leads us into a symphony featuring industrial drums, and friendly singing saw. “Changing” works as a supporting reprise, beginning to provide closure. Lines like ‘with these bones that I carry,’ show that the real success from this trauma is carrying the memories of these awful times into a new headspace.
The album closes with “a flower reborn” and its confident reframe, ‘What do you know, what do you know of me?’ which resembles a victory lap to round out this journey. Perhaps my favorite thematic brushstroke of the album, Wise writes, ‘the suddenly seas splits the lies and the wake.’ While the message their deals with sleep, ere it works on a double entendre as the wake of an ocean. Wise is saying that the end of the album begins with the end of the sea. The message of the Sedna myth and the interworking of his life that have been mirrored in that myth are being left behind. The album leaves us in a place of deciding what to do next, as supported by ‘so I’ll ask you again-what do you know of me?’ Here, Wise reminds that he is defining himself in the moment: constantly changing, but constantly vigilant.
The album is an absolute triumph. It’s the kind of work where every time you listen to it, you take a little more from it due to the careful crafting and consideration behind each song. Every aspect of this album feels so fine-tuned. Everything about it is so thought out and beautifully executed. The best thing about it still is just the music. The conviction behind each vocal performance, the unique and occasionally bizarre quality of the singing saw and bowed banjo, and the satisfaction of the supporting trumpet and violin working together all at the same time is beautiful. Please try to catch a live performance from Apricot Blush (if not just to see someone mic up eleven people) and support them on Bandcamp via the two full lengths and a series of collages made to reimagine the album cover.