Inspired by his move from America to London over a decade ago, Eight Gates was recorded by indie-rock singer-songwriter Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.) shortly before his passing some seven years ago. By its nature, it’s an intriguing and compelling mix of song sketches and more fully-realised ideas.
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Black vinyl LP on Secretly Canadian.
I fucked up. I asked for the wrong album. Well, I didn’t actually ask for the *wrong* album - I did request a copy of Jason Molina’s ‘Eight Gates’ to review, that much is true. Problem is, I’d got Molina confused with Damien Jurado. Damien Jurado’s a fine songwriter for sure, but his is a more day-to-day mode than Molina’s. Molina’s music stops you in your tracks, and I had shit that needed done today.
I doubt I'll be doing it now. Now I need time. ‘Eight Gates’ contains nine songs whose spectral qualities are made even more haunting for the fact that they come from beyond the grave - Molina passed in 2013, and ‘Eight Gates’ contains his final solo studio recordings. When ‘She Says’ begins with Molina proclaiming, with dry wit, that ‘the perfect take is just as long as the person singing is still alive’, you get positively spooked.
So this is an album of imperfect takes from an imperfect person, a man who struggled greatly in his final years. The imperfection is manifested by the fact that some of the songs feel unfinished - but maybe they’re meant to be that lonesome, that spare. Even at its fullest - the realer-than-real ‘Old Worry’, for instance - ‘Eight Gates’ is the sound of a person alone, declaiming the world unto itself. It’s the sound of fire on the horizon, of waning strength. Yes, its most unbearably poignant moments are often its most fleshed-out, but the quiet koans, sung in Molina’s fragile tenor, that make up much of ‘Eight Gates’ from the midpoint onwards only serve to illuminate those fuller arrangements.
In future, when I request an album to review, I’ll make sure it’s not one that’s going to break my heart.
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