It's no secret that Denton's Robert Gomez is one of North Texas' true artisitic treasures. Currently, he has a few irons in the fire that prove as much. As he tours with Sarah Jaffe as her guitar palyer, he's also released an EP that is as unique of a concept for a record as local music fans are likely to come across this year. It's also a beautifully epic collection that stands alone, regardless of concept or length.
Severance Songs consists of five poems selected by Gomez from the 62 offered in Robert Olen Butler's 2006 prose collection Severance. As the title suggests, each poem (all of which are 240 words in length) relates the final flashes of memory that present themselves in a given brain after the head its contained in is beheaded in one way or another. In the hands of Butler, these dramatic flickers are haunting and stirring images that could be so random as to be simply boring, but are from that in the original book, as well as on the EP.
Thanks to the work of director Andy LaViolette, the poem and song have a stunning visual companion as well. It's tough to watch the video without wondering what images and thoughts would occupy your own last few seconds of consciousness.
Out of the dozens available, Gomez had a specific strategy when selecting the poems that he would attempt to interpret.
"Butler's "Severance" poems span a great deal of different time periods," Gomez explains just a few days after the EP's November 6th release. "And I found the ones set more recently worked the best for adapting them to song. Among these, I tried to pick poems that were markedly different from one another."
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For a gifted writer such as Gomez, the temptation to write his own post-decapitation flash sequence proved to be less strong than the poems he worked so meticulously on.
"I was actually going to write my own Butleresque severance poem to put to song," he says. "Unfortunately, just to realize these five songs just about killed me -- pun intended -- so I never had a chance."