Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Strange Maine and Inspector 22

I went with my family to Portland, Maine for the first time this past weekend. When we arrived, we walked along Congress Street and a little beyond, and were pleasantly surprised to see so many art galleries, little bookstores, and some terrific record shops, the best of which was a tiny dimly lit shop called Strange Maine. It was one of those serendipitous moments, where you suddenly stumble upon a concrete manifestation of all the things you had been thinking about lately. So here in this little store were a great stack of used comics, a random but admirable collection of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, weird underground magazines, lots of great vinyl, and lo and behold, a great collection of underground CDs in handmade packaging. The proprietor was a tall sleepy sort of fellow who graciously suggested some music, and I happily left the store with 1999 issue of the much-missed Ptolemaic Terrascope (including great interviews with Can and Stars of the Lid), a little plastic skull for my son, and the CD Inri by Todd Wesley Emert, otherwise known as Inspector 22,who hails from North Carolina.

Along the coast of Maine at a place called Two Lights there is a shoreline made up of huge sheets of metamorphic rock. There is an almost dream-like intensity to these formations, and they seem to stretch on forever around each bend of the coast. My son and I climbed down to the very edge where the waves crashed around us. Along the way, we stopped to inspect small tide pools teeming with brightly colored snails and other little crustaceans. My son was giddy on this huge expanse of stone to climb and explore.

Later, we went to eat and while waiting in line started chatting with another couple. Somehow the conversation moved to writing and then to religion, and the woman, Megan Don, told me about her work writing on the lives of medieval women mystics. Within the space of a few minutes we had communed on the idea of suffering, of coming out to the other side where there is not necessarily perfect light, but rather a diffuse kind of radiance that seems to reflect off other worlds, other realities.

Inspector 22 uses lots of religious imagery, and one gets the sense he might have a peculiar kind of knowledge about the mystery of these other worlds, but the music is delightfully raw and earthy in a way that keeps it humble. There's a little piano that actually gives the edges a little more dementia, and a barely tuned ukelele that could scare the children. It's folk music marred by pop. It's alone, but not lonely; far away, but not secreted away; sad, but not desolate; cracked, but not crazy; feverish, but not delirious; a little baked, but not druggy; visionary, but not outsider.

Through something a little like electronic theurgy, I was able to find a a web presence for what appears to the label that released Inri, dontrustheruin. Other than that, there is very little else I can tell about you about this strange but alluring CD except that there is something mighty weird going on up in Maine and I am grateful for having stmbled upon it, or led there by some other force, as the case may be.

--Inspector 22: Evening Seaside

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