Listening to John Congleton can be scary. The imagery — of "blood between my legs," of loving another "like a lion loves its kill" — can be horrifying. But the songs Congleton sings (from his album Until The Horror Goes) touch on what it means to be human, and what it means to face the fact that we are flesh-and-blood "temporary custodians" in vessels that will inevitably return to the earth and decay.
These are not songs to shock, but songs to remind us of our fragility, our faults, our instincts and what an extraordinary thing it is to be an ordinary phenomenal nothing — simply particles that unite and make us who we are for our brief time on earth.
Congleton has been on my radar for a long time: He's been my favorite producer and engineer, working on records by St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, Spoon, David Byrne, The Mountain Goats, The Walkmen and many others. Here, he creates haunting tension with just acoustic guitar, brilliant electronics from Jordan Geiger (Hospital Ships), and words passionately sung. This Tiny Desk set is a fine, albeit spare, introduction to a brilliant artist. If you find his take on humanity enlightening and humble, the way I do, give Until The Horror Goes a listen. There's nothing else quite like it.
- "Just Lay Still"
- "Your Temporary Custodian"
- "Animal Rites"
Producers: Bob Boilen, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Kara Frame; Editor: CJ Riculan; Production Assistant: Jackson Sinnenberg; Photo: Brandon Chew/NPR.
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