There are many very beautiful moments here; I would suggest that along with “O True Believers” and “The Cloud of Unknowing” this is one of James Blackshaw’s best albums. Tonally, listening to this record is akin to standing in a very beautiful garden.
In terms of form, the instrumentation on this album is looser and more sparse than in Blackshaw’s previous work. He predominantly employs a nylon string guitar and piano throughout the songs; the nylon string suits his compositions extremely well, especially on the second and fifth pieces, “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” and “We Who Stole the Dream,” the latter having a Brazilian sound that is very beautiful.
As for subject matter, it seems as though the titles of the songs and the title of the album – all of which are derived from the work of science fiction author Alice B. Sheldon, whose pen name was James Tiptree, Jr. – become plays on words: “A Momentary Taste of Being,” for example, might be a pun in which a person escapes depression into a state of hopefulness for only a brief time, but tragically returns to it.
From interviews given so far about the album and from the sadness of the songs it is apparent that much of the music seems created in response to an extremely difficult period of time in the composer’s life. But it is also clear that from whatever the nature of this sadness was Blackshaw was able to express something very beautiful from his experience of it. I remember reading a passage by a philosopher once who suggested that a poet is a person whose lips are shaped so that their cries create beautiful music, and that it is brutal in a sense for the audience to ask too much of the poet for this reason. At the same time this quotation expresses that it is a dreadful truth that much of art that is worth considering is rooted in sadness.
This manner of sadness seems to determine the tone of the recordings; so much so that the listener can hear Blackshaw’s measured breathing through his guitar mic, and hear how much the music seems to be affecting him. There is a feeling of resignation throughout – even a brief few notes, like the harmonics Blackshaw plays for only a second at the 5:12 mark on “A Momentary Taste of Being,” demonstrate great despondency.
I’m not aware of many people who have such an innate understanding of musical structure as James Blackshaw; he has so much talent that he can do things with art that most others simply cannot – to me this is the definition of genius, and within contemporary music I believe it is a highlight of every year to have a new release by such a brilliant musical poet.