ALBUM: What Will Destroy You
ARTISTS: Kyle Morton
Album release date: September 20, 2016
Kyle Morton, lead singer of eleven-person indie rock band Typhoon, exudes the mien of an old, turbulent soul. His vocabulary is impressive, as is his sober obsession with death: words put flesh to the skeletons he perceives gaping just beneath the surface. “I have this grand scheme to remake Dante’s Inferno,” he says blithely to a philosophy professor in an interview. The professor chortles awkwardly. “In musical form,” Morton adds, smiling in a curious way. The professor barks out a few more indulgent laughs and then poses another question.
One can’t be sure if Morton is sincere to the point of naivete, or arrogant to the point of nonchalance: more likely he vacillates between the two (as we all do) whilst mercilessly second-guessing himself. Such is the artistic neurosis: but at least Morton has a disarming sense of humor about it, and thereby strikes the gold within the tension.
What Will Destroy You is the seminal solo effort from the Portland native. The sparse 10-track album comes as something like a hold-over for diehard Typhoon fans: such as these are bound to be chomping at the bit in anticipation for the band’s fourth album, which is to be released at some point in 2017. While elements of the ensemble’s textural brashness show up here and there in Morton’s record, for the most part it’s an austere, slow-burning set of lyrically-focused songs (woven through with a spoken narrative that starts off sounding sinister, dips occasionally into mellowdrama, and finally terminates with an open-ended sense of illumination).
Thematically it is a foray into the tensions inherent within erotic love, which cannot stand on its own when faced with death, and demands something deeper than the epidermal: which, as we know (er, sort of – what is it to know?), eventually becomes worm food. “Your eyes are prison gates, keeping me in this old house: but if I tried to go, you would not hesitate – I’m sure you would let me out. In certain moments I see through everything: you’re a bore, we all know it. Everyone has noticed that puppet string, still need someone to pull it . . . In the thralls of your indifference, I remain in my station,” he sings on the song Perverse Fascination, which strikes me as being an exhausted complaint directed at the utter unoriginality of lust: which, banal though it essentially is, nevertheless finds an eager and captivated audience in the recidivist heart of mankind.
Morton’s stance on religion and the transcendent remains opaque; yet an irrepressible hopefulness threads itself through his lyrics: a stubborn yearning that beyond the frightful “I” exists an immutable and dynamic “Thou.” Morton’s hopefulness is distinguishable from blind optimism by virtue of the fact that his has been a life circumscribed by suffering and sickness. There is a thirst for deeper meaning (should it exist) within the context of what is: how ought this life look? How does that impervious ought interact with that which is?
There’s something horrifying, even hideous, about these questions. But simultaneously, something liberating. “For a long time I wanted to be…anyone else,” admits Morton, during a stretch in the aforementioned interview in which the question of being and identity was raised. “A healthy person. [My illness] was the thing, I thought, that kept me from belonging – made me an outsider.” He pauses, his head tilted away from the professor, eyes scanning his shoes. “There are many reasons I’m thankful for my health problems, for having this monolith of death forced into my life,” he continues, “because it gives me the perspective of the ending. It turns up the volume on the things that are important.”