Eavesdrop & Elevate (2014)
by Erik Jarvis and Kelly Marie Musselman
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD EAVESDROP & ELEVATE
CLICK HERE FOR LYRICS
Erik Jarvis-- keyboards, guitar, bass, vocals, percussion Phil Smith-- drums, percussion, drum machine, guitar, horn
Michael Everson-- guitar, bass, vocals, guru Justin Carter-- guitar, vocals, percussion, bass, laptop
Caleb Neubauer-- vocals, laptop, magic
Leah Meyer-- violin, vocals Katelyn Kukoly-- violin Axelle Verboon-- viola, string contractor Mindy Dauner-- cello
Blake Deforest-- trumpet Pat Peters-- trombone Brandon Bakke-- alto sax, vocals Ben Eisenberger-- tenor sax
Sam Bertino-- clarinet, bass clarinet Christine Price-- flute
Johanna Murray-- vocals, resident artist Kat Jarvis-- vocals Kyla Jerousek-- vocals, merch Erin Higgins-- vocals
Derek Bird-- percussion Karalee Sutton-- album art, percussion the McMahon children-- vocals
Joe Lacina-- album art, merch, and a billion other little and not so littles
special thanks to Logan Reising, Jo De La Cruz, & Matthew Everson.
I imagine this -- imagine because I can’t be exactly sure, I can’t definitively prove it, or maybe I could, but I simply won’t [on principle] probe too far into the wide and sticky jelly jar of someone’s earliest years -- so I imagine this: when he entered the world in a country full of states, in the panhandled one, surrounded by earth as broad as a horse’s side and just as brown, Erik Jarvis was born with a concave chest. Like a bird’s nest, or a violin bow, or an open palm. The bend into itself was so slight, a mere whisper of a curve, but it was there all the same. I imagine one could pour two small tablespoons of olive oil onto his infant breastplate and watch the green-gold drops slide and shift and finally cozy together and settle in between his pale nipples, sloshing beneath his already cloven chin. I imagine Erik Jarvis as a bowl. I know no other way to think of him.
Each day, as he grew, Erik would ladle into his concave torso small things that caught his drifting attention. Like a magpie, he treasured the shiny and uncommon: trombone buzzes or slide guitar glissandos shimmered like loose change as he reached his little arms toward the bottom of a fountain. Like a bowerbird, he sought out the unnatural blue hues and timbres hiding in the woods around him: electronic hisses or the woof and wiggle of sub-bass tones rolled over his breastplate like Union Pacific freighters passing on thin metal track. And with each small splash, the stew thickened and deepened, rising towards the top of his sternum.
Kelly Musselman knew all of this the moment she met Erik. She saw his freckled, beaked nose and matted, hawk feather hair and instantly knew him as a child: his rubbery lips learning to whistle, his bouncing gait during walks home from school, his twiggy arms splayed out to make room for paper and colored pencils and sketches of barnyard animals. But she didn’t fear the indentation through his middle or steam rising from it. Rather, she followed its familiar outline with her eyes and introduced herself -- without a handshake, without irony -- as a poet and a muse. I imagine Erik, like a child opening a pudding cup and licking its foil top, giggled a bit at her candor. Like small aquarium fish darting between freshwater reeds, Musselman and Jarvis began to explore each other’s world with great speed and gaping eyes. They marveled at their companion’s work and were deeply affected by it: Kelly’s sonnets and villanelles turned down Erik’s shoulders, and his curling baritone spun her in small, tight circles. Soon, they began trading words and music, hoping to further build up and inspire one another. Erik began to use Kelly’s pieces as the lyrical base for his compositions, Kelly threaded in his musical ideas to finish the lyrics, and together they shaped and shined the music itself. Musselman and Jarvis were two bees, side by side, each molding perfect hexagonal waxen walls with acuity, carefully threading one into the other, one after another. “Eavesdrop & Elevate” is the finished hive, full of activity, persistently humming, and aptly shaped like an upturned bowl.
With the first worming note of his strained baritone in “Feels So Good”, Jarvis spills over his own porcelain edge. After decades of pouring in -- dirty pools of scraped CDs and warped vinyl, soft sprays of broken strings and crushed cymbals, and grimy beads collected from breath and spit and snot on a microphone’s mesh -- Erik finally pours some out. Strings cut across the dark and open sky, reminding you of the ochre flesh of Isaac Hayes’ bald dome. Saxophones, as if shaken from the sheets of Akron/Family’s filthy bed, thrash about and gasp like dying fish on a butcher’s table. The guitar stabs and draws some blood. The heat rises, the soup in that dent on his chest boils, and Erik, with a boyish grin, hands you a gnarled wooden spoon. You feel oddly obliged to slurp up what has fallen to the ground.
The album is a single tree, its roots splitting the Omaha concrete, grown and tended by many hands -- it is then made almost absurd in its own division, arbitrarily split like the opalescent sections of an orange’s inside. But by eating each section of the sweetly sour fruit, you begin to taste the influence of so many busy fingers. The swelling strings of Leah Meyer, Axelle Verboon, Katelyn Kukkoly and Mindy Dauner first pucker your mouth, then gently release your lips so as to spit out the seeds. Mike Everson’s slinking guitar is the bursting flesh, the juice somehow dribbling down your chin. Phil Smith’s drums pinprick each song like the tiny pores on the fruit’s skin. Yet the lyrics, provided equally by Jarvis and Musselman, truly shaped this sapling, wrapped it in thick bark, watered its ringed and wormy wood. Both artists share equal wonder and concern for the absurd: turkey sandwiches, flooded prairies, and a children’s choir all crowd together like soft and pink infant mice. And the music follows suit. It is half absurd, half scientific, and wholly serious.
Jarvis’ incredible compositional prowess truly emerges as “Teach Me To Swim” begins, with woodwinds and brass stepping about each other in perfect counterpoint -- yet this classical beauty is bracketed by anachronistic strains of Motown strings and choral call-and-response. The inanity of a cubicle is lent as much musical weight and consideration as the aimless love drifting by outside it. Swirling harmonic structures -- reminiscent of Schubert or Tchaikovsky-- and sexual metaphors about food trade blows in the same song. Musselman and Jarvis don’t fear being laughed at -- they fear not laughing at all. And as “Lady Tuck Me In” nears its end, as the percussion bubbles and squawks, as Jarvis squeals in falsetto like a drunk behind the wheel of a Dodge downing Pixie Stix, you begin to laugh with them.
Everyday, for a little while at least, when we shared a room in a house on a farm, Erik and I would run between the rolling corn and soybean fields of central Iowa. In that summer’s wide, heavy, ironing board heat, we would strip down to just our shorts and our shoes and take off with lanky strides onto mud-gravel-dust-dirt roads. We’d sweat and ache and holler a bit, and sprint the last quarter-mile back to the barn. Then, without fail, Erik would grab his favorite mug -- an oversized Avengers movie memorabilia plastic novelty cup from the Kum-and-Go gas station just off Highway 6 -- and slurp down lukewarm sink water in these fat undersea gurgles. And, inevitably, some would drip down his cleft chin, past his thin and crooked neck, over the huge thorn of his Adam’s apple, and onto his chest: pale as a Dixie cup, broad as his home state, and just as flat. Like a piano bench, or a casket, or an open palm. If you looked at it the right way, in the cloud-feathered light of the setting Midwestern sun, you could see the little hollow it made. On those evenings, you could crawl right inside his heart.
by Ethan Kenvarg
thank you for taking the time to check out Eavesdrop & Elevate!