An immense and absorbing mood piece, with Jo Bevan’s lyrical soul-bearing its deliberate and brave focal point.
“There has to be the chance for something to go wrong in order for it to be rewarding when it goes right, which I suppose fits the whole theme of this record.” – Jo Bevan, Desperate Journalist in interview with Underscore Part 3.
The post-punk landscape is perhaps not the first place to expect to find a concept album, especially not one inspired by the performance art of Bas Jan Ader. In some ways the living embodiment of an inevitably failed search for the Sublime, there is undoubtedly inspiration – on a metaphorical level at least – to the artist’s fate: lost at sea.
The album title takes its name from the intellectual Peter Ouspensky’s exposition of the teachings of Georg Gurdjieff on self-awakening and personal development; Gurdjieff’s philosophical quest being the integration emotion, body and mind. Such lofty ambition, and that of the hapless Bas Jan Ader, cohere to create an invigorating theme for this, Desperate Journalist’s third collection.
In Search of The Miraculous is an immense and absorbing mood piece, with Jo Bevan’s lyrical soul-bearing its deliberate and brave focal point. It is transcendent of standard genre; an assortment of hints and nudges towards anything between traditional indie (evocative references to “fraying jumpers”), post-punk goth inflections, to shoegaze washes of noise.
Mumuration is a battering of an opener. “I want to take you, like trains pass through stations” aspires Bevan, while her conspirators ratchet up the instrumental menace behind her. The heart of the album, Argonauts and Black Net are a dive beneath the brine to the deepest of fathoms, while the conceptual interplay between art and life weaves between Bevan’s confessionals, with Ader’s faltering quest towards the Sublime never far from the narrative. The band aren’t the first to hunt around purposefully in melancholic darkness but the rooting is interspersed here with positive emotions; a yearning for something better, a sense that – just maybe – this might be my time.
Lyrically, Cedars snapshots a woman caught between an ebb and flow of risk and reward. Bevan is not so much hiding from her hounds of love as pondering the choice of petting them or beating them off with a stick. As on the album’s second single Satellites, Rob Hardy’s guitar solo consolidates the emotion, with a beautiful less-is-more approach that is intuitive of Bevan; crystalline and highly affecting.
Jonatan rips off the roof to stare at the stars, unashamedly morphing its She Sells Sanctuary lead-off into relentlessly building neo-indie euphoric roar. Even the petty lyrical barbs feel unthreatening, as if to lift the protagonist rather than poke spitefully at their intended target. The yearning and anguish within emotes life-affirmingly; perhaps better to have loved and lost, despite the pain of picking up the pieces of one more disappointment.
Ocean Wave is a sandpaper rub, a short visceral epitaph for lost sea vessels which exhibits the band at their zenith. Helbert and Drowner’s rhythm section is precise and quirky, while the vocal sees Bevan at her maximum impact. The track retains concept while superimposing a uniqueness in the manner of its delivery; a polar opposite to a breathing space, sucking the wind out of the listener’s sails.
In Search of The Miraculous is a compelling, thoughtful, brave and direct artefact. It sets out to achieve the Sublime only with an implicit understanding that the intent of the journey is more vital than the destination. Desperate Journalist have shifted through the gears and chanced their arm. In that sense, even if only for now, hope has defeated fear.