A largely anonymous four-piece from Springfield, Massachusetts, Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean released their debut album, Decay and Other Hopes Against Progress, in 2017. Tell Me What You See Vanishing and I Will Tell You Who You Are is their third release, a desolate EP.
Consisting of only three tracks, TMWYSV is certainly an example of quality over quantity. While it only has a playing time of just over 20 minutes, this EP should not be underestimated. From its opening track, the gritty Death Cab For Cutie cover “I Will Possess Your Heart”, to its wonderfully dreary end, TMWYSV is atmospheric, dark, and hopeless. Crushingly fuzzy guitars and deconstructed vocals occasionally give way to richer harmonies, like in the bridge of “Out, Brief Candle”, or the unnerving, fragmented guitar noises that can be heard at various points throughout the EP.
Those listeners familiar with Death Cab For Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” will recognise the bassline almost immediately; however, it’s not dreamy and calm, it’s grimy and aggressively distorted. This interpretation of the track is threatening where the original was gentle, crushing where the original was buoyant. The airy vocals of the Death Cab For Cutie version have been twisted into bone-shaking screams, but the lyrics are still very clear – ‘I will possess your heart’ takes on a whole new, disconcerting meaning when it’s being ferociously yelled, over and over.
“Out, Brief Candle” is easily the most diverse track, on which guest vocalist David Bello sings a delightful contrast to the earlier harrowed screams. ‘There is sickness in this water‘ allows the listener a fleeting sense of relief before a shrieked exclamation of ‘An apology in/Wretched turmoil‘, followed by one line, repeated over and over: ‘I will lose control‘. Regardless of weather and condition on any given day, this track makes me feel cold and hopeless, like holding a bird with a broken wing.
Liking this EP makes me feel like I’m a messed up human being. Surely no one should enjoy such laborious misery as is present on “Genesis of the Daffodil”? I feel myself slumping under this weight, but in a very welcome way. Halfway through this track, the feelings of desperation and hopelessness reach new heights (in a singularly wonderful way), and leave me aching for a heartbreaking guitar solo to reduce me to a despondent heap. Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean tease the idea of this with some beautiful, sustained guitar notes, but miss this opportunity to give their listeners a lethal dose of sadness.
However, “Genesis of the Daffodil” manages to perfectly capture a numbing sense of isolation in a clean section featuring just one lonely guitar. When the whole band come in again, and the vocalist screams about corruption, solitude, and darkness, I feel my chest is breaking open to simultaneously welcome this bleak onslaught and purge myself of it. The last few minutes of this track are so crushing, so dark, that I feel like my field of vision is narrowing, that the music is slowly paralysing me. As an intentional anti-climax, the album finishes with disintegrating guitar noises, the drums losing high and low end, distortion increasing, self-destructing, collapsing in on itself.
On the one hand, it’s a shame TMWYSV is so short, because what’s on it really is gold, in the most depressing and annihilating way – but on the other hand, any more might just drive the listener insane with hopelessness. It’s an extremely satisfying listen if being crushed by your own failures is your cup of tea; I, for one, found great amounts of masochistic enjoyment in this EP.