Souvenir Driver – A Dangerous Crossing

A Dangerous Crossing is the newly released album from Portland’s Souvenir Driver. The title references a Nietzschean quote that states that ‘Man is a dangerous crossing’. Phew, what can it all mean?

‘Man’ plays a pivotal part in the sequence of nine tracks. From the outset the narrator of ‘Haze’ is “…working for a broken man…” and elsewhere the existential ennui is thick, as singer-songwriter Nate Wey adopts a range of first person perspectives to explore the sometimes grotesque, sometimes subtle weirdness of modern culture.

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Each of these tracks is long. Songs are given space to articulate themselves. An exception to this rule is ‘The Answer Is Yes’. A kind of punctuative glitch-track that’s more soundscape that structured song. This noise introduces the next track ‘Lonesome Prairie’, which is perhaps the closest track to the bands’ previous (self-titled) album.

Tonally, things feel darker. Progress through the landscape that Wey and his band offer is mistier. Instruments pass through pedals, and most rough edges are removed. Guitar effects especially reference moments of shoegaze, and the genre in which Souvenir Driver was first known. Here though the band extend themselves, not through force, or self-conscious contortion to void their own roots. Instead there’s a sense of a band interested in enquiry, evolution, and the pursuit of the authentic self.

Tracks bleed into one another. And the expanse of the album is ambitious. Wey appears to explore the interdependence of things. “Who Are You” is a track with a question mark. Is the narrator speaking to himself when he asks “What have you done?” Guitars crash, distort and dissolve like a floor that’s fallen out from beneath a moral high ground. It’s compelling stuff. It’s in tracks like this – where the full band simply expand, breathe, and have fun in the darkness, that bring the peaks.

Wait, let’s not overlook a moment like ‘Outer Space’ which sounds like a man dislocated from his environment. There’s a sadness to Wey, and his measuring of the ‘different things that we feel’ as he explains how another person sending him into outer space. Again, the motif of a man analyzing his emotions rather than experiencing them is offered. There’s a celebration of affection here, but even love feels dangerous, and likely to separate the inner from the outer worlds. Souvenir Driver pursue the purity of the original thought – and it’s no easy occupation.

Closing the album is ‘Glass Slipper (The Queen)’ The track quickly establishes pace, (nice bass line) and continues for almost nine minutes. There’s a sense that, instrumentally at least, Souvenir Driver can release the charge that has been gathering in everything that went before. Hypnotic, certain, and seductive it’s a track like this that underlines the motivation for the an album like this. Souvenir Driver is interested in archetypes. ‘You have to see it to believe it’ sings Wey. And that’s basically the point. There’s reading about life, experiencing stories through art, and living vicariously through these tales. And then there’s the enterprise of being actually alive, inhabiting our own selves. The glass slipper, the totem for the things of aspiration and fantasy, is a tight fit.

With each album Souvenir Driver explore the authentic self, and with each album Souvenir Driver are evolving to becoming an ever-improved version of themselves. It’s appropriate to cite the Taoist adage: ‘First we become a master, and then we keep practicing’. Because Man, indeed, is a dangerous crossing.

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