Afterlife on Earth
8 Track, LP (2012, Independent)
There’s an eerily quiet mastery to Gareth Edwards’ songs. It’s a quality familiar to anyone who remembers his mid-1990s-to-mid-2000s band, Sandro, or his like-minded solo guise, The Holy Rose. Now the settled-down Brisbane father is recording under the name Corners, and has followed up last year’s Buried Under the Street with an immaculate second album. It would be miraculous enough as a feat of delicate singing and probing lyrics, but Edwards also played every instrument and recorded, mixed and mastered Afterlife on Earth himself. Oh, and it’s available for a mere $3.50 download.
So why aren’t you listening to it right now? Granted, even once you’re acquainted with Edwards’ trademark approach, it takes time to adjust to the combination of serenity and naked despair in his songs – but their profound beauty certainly helps you along. Afterlife on Earth opens with ‘Soldiers’ Babies’, which is gorgeously low-lit in every aspect: from singing and guitar to minimal drums and faint keyboard. More priceless reflection and quietude follows in ‘Stumbling’ (“I’m stumbling into 40”) and the rippling ‘Ghost World’, neither likely to shake the slow-core classification of Sandro and Edwards’ other work. Even when he lets loose with the word “fuck” on the former, it’s with uncommon poise.
Other songs nod to both the Brisbane suburbs (‘Brendale’) and the songwriter’s native Western Australia (‘Skull Rock’), but Edwards has a way of making his lyrics feel like shared experiences. There may be a world-weary weight behind his clean and true voice, but just about everyone can relate to the endless driving and needless drinking he references in his lyrics. If that sounds depressing, it’s depressing in the manner of Red House Painters: warm and nourishing.
Despite the album’s sustained hangdog vibe – “I am terrible company”, Edwards confesses on ‘White Sigma Blues’ – there’s no overstating its perfectly realised vision. It’s hard to imagine a vocal song much slower than ‘Tends to Machine’, but in the course of its nearly eight minutes, he fleshes out his own little universe. As protracted as the song is, it would work well even as an instrumental, as proven both by its soft saxophone opening and the breathtaking final stretch.
Something of a modern Chet Baker, Edwards’ voice conveys such a sighing purity that any sadness taken on board from Corners is strangely welcome. When he promises, “Gonna be a long drive”, towards the end of Afterlife on Earth, it’s exactly what you want to hear. The longer the better, in fact.
by Doug Wallen