Some Writing Surrounding my Album

I put out a new album recently. Digging through my old documents, I found some writing that led to what some of the songs became, and a couple other musings. Posting them here feels good, so I’m doing it.

On Barn Burning

Old, dried Grey wood
A friend’s basement, herbal cigarettes
Stuffed marlin on the wall
Cold winter drive, coniferous walls

Green-shrouded basement,
we tried smoking today;
the basement stinks now

Warm, dark orange light,
A barn up in Caledon
Probably burning.

More Body

I am writing about my body.
Hang tense, with flashes of burst cell walls,
explosions of white chalk behind my eyelids.
My feet lie limp, my lower half sinking into disuse.
A great pool opens in my midsection,
an ugly willingness to drop.
My face hangs stern and my head pounds
in strange agony. My eyes twitch behind lids
and put pressure on my brain.
My breathing is uneven and my spine
pulls to the left.

An Image:
[Twelve Black Beetles, bottled.]

Konica C-35

My Konica C-35 was given to me by my Dziadzia. He had it since the 1950s and photographed a lot of people through it. He wasn’t an “art photographer,” but used the camera more for documentation of our family. Other Veterans, neighbours, loved ones; he was more interested in preservation than creation. When he gave me his binoculars, I came to the realization that he’s someone who based his life on experiences, on witnessing the world as clearly as possible. In contrast, I hardly leave the house these days, let alone take photos with the camera.

Monday February 29th, 2016

I hear the clinking of keys hanging from the ignition. My father tells me that people don’t pull over or remove their hats for funeral processions in the big cities anymore. Ahead of us, cars peel off the road to let the hearse pass; their drivers’ heads bowed. Light falls briskly against the mossy green lawns of St. Catharines around noon. My stomach drops a bit as the car lurches through potholes in the old roads, I’m brought back from a daydream to the moisture on my face and the strange weight on my chest. The car carries the faint smell of dried coffee and engine grease. I don’t mind; it’s a lot like being at home.

On The Funeral:

Grey with wind-blasted dew
We follow the old neighbourhood roads
through St. Catharines.
Opposing vehicles peel off the road
in a display of arms opening as ticker tape,
letting us pass.
The beetle-black of the hearse
an indicator that someone great is gone.

At the graveyard:
we step into the hellish cold
of a leap year, wind whipping our faces.

I haven’t seen my father cry since I was very young.
In his words, “he was a true gentleman.”
A poppy driven into the wood of the casket
breaks through him.
A flower from the bouquet blows to my feet,
I place it back on the lid.


Some Writing Surrounding my Album

Track By Track: A Death Over The Radio

Jonfrid Eliasen Photography

Next from Coldform is A Death Over The Radio.
I started this song while in the backseat of my parents’ car on the way to see my great grandfather who had recently turned 100. It started with the raspy “respirator” synth sound and the various piano melodies, and was left as that for a little while.
I later started sequencing drums, and ended up using a lot of samples from a brush kit because I liked how fluid they felt. Underneath, the rest was essentially basic dance drum patterns.
I tried playing this one live at the release party for my first album World Makers, but it just didn’t seem right; something was missing.
I took the tune to Jesse Manou from Other Families to lay down some electric guitar. He gave me one mean take, and that’s what you can hear in the finished song.

A lot of time passed, and I had moved to Montreal for school. My Great Grandfather died and I started to think about what the song was really about. I got a message one day about the account name for one of my other projects from someone named Súsanna Herálvsdóttir. She wanted to use the name for her own project, Dóttir (pictured). I gave it to her, and discovered that she had the most lovely voice.
I sent her the instrumental to muse over, and after a few months she gave back the recorded vocals. I remember getting really excited upon hearing them for the first time- I immediately called Astrolope and told him to come over and hear them.

A lot of time and small mix revisions later, and the song was finished. For me, this was one of my favourite songs off the album and marked the first time I collaborated with someone I didn’t know in real life.

Listen to A Death Over The Radio:

Stay tuned for the process behind the next song; Yourself Open!

Track By Track: A Death Over The Radio

Born and Buried on a Leap-Year


Today we buried my Grandfather, Mieczyslaw Czartowski, or Mike. He was born on February 29th, 1924 in a small town in northeast Poland which no longer exists.
Because of his birth on the strange date of February 29th, technically he was only 23. In reality, he was 94.

At the start of the Second World War, him and his family were taken by the invading Russians to a logging/work camp in the forests of Siberia where he laboured until he was liberated and joined the Polish Army in the Soviet Union in 1943. His father (a Polish military officer) was arrested by the Russians and taken to an undisclosed location before they left for Siberia.
He went through a lot during this time; having served in a few countries of Europe and more in Africa. He survived Malaria, a shattered leg from a plane crash, various strange skin conditions and wounds from shrapnel at the Battle of Monte Cassino where he was an ambulance driver.

He once told me how he coincidentally picked up his wounded childhood friend during that battle, and made an attempt to save his life in going through and behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, his friend died before he could reach safety.
Another story told of how he found his father at a rehabilitation camp in the Middle East, and neither of them recognized the other; Mike had grown into a man, and his father was shrunken from malnourishment. They became very emotional when they finally did recognize one another, as it had been 3 years since they were separated.

He loved to tell me of how he managed to turn a truck around by drifting on a narrow, single-lane roadway in the desert without leaving the pavement- much to the surprise of the captain who was evaluating him in his attempt to become an ambulance driver.
They became good friends after that. I managed to interview him extensively about his life a couple years ago, and I recount that he mostly loved to tell stories about cars. He was really proud of his driving chops.

I believe I am at the age where empathy has fully set in. I’ve not felt so sad at a funeral before, though I have fortunately only had to attend a handful so far. This man taught me what a good joke is and how friendly sarcasm works. He taught me a lot about patience. Through his trials and sacrifices, he taught me about appreciating others. He was an example of empathy and how small we really are. I thank him for that.

Happy Birthday Dziadzia, I miss you already.

Born and Buried on a Leap-Year