As a man who craves solitude I can say that it takes a certain kind of person to be able to handle it whether it’s wanted or not. Spend enough time alone and an audible sigh becomes like a rhetorical question to yourself, you begin to think out loud nearly always, and when you’re having a bad day or really drunk things can sometimes get a bit hairy. You wake up to messages scrawled in a hand that doesn’t resemble your own, telling you things only you would know. And though I’ve chosen a more unoccupied life for myself, there are often many who do not, whose seclusion is forced upon them by some cruel fate. There are some who never make use of this period of isolation and others, like the UK based artist TK who performs under the moniker Tigermask, who uses his solitude to ponder the very means of existence.
TK was housebound for nearly a decade due to an illness, which he suffered from his late teens to his early twenties. In the spring of 2014 TK emerged from the cocoon of his illness and began to take an interest in music. His inspiration came from a box of records left behind by his older brother and a pirated copy of Cubase. As he slowly began to record songs, he was also teaching himself how to play the many instruments (guitar, harmonica, double bass, piano and violin) he used to record his first record Ovum.
In a very scant way Ovum reminded me of another holed up solo recording centered on isolation and illness, Bon Iver’s For Emma Forever Ago. After a brief opening track of a fly buzzing and some ethereal feedback we get “Womb” which begins with gospel hymn hums acoustic guitar pricks and a music box piano jingle. “I can’t go out/I can’t stay in” TK laments his dilemma matter-of-factly as cowboy campfire harmonica buzzes sweetly in the background. On “Vernal Interstice” TK again uses his beautifully spooky choir-like harmonies to great effect, making his voice sound ironically enough for his situation like many. Later on “Moon” and “Wide Eyes” he ditches these wide effects and becomes more personal, his vocals deeper as he sings, “Have I ever felt so alone?” before breaking off into a creepy whistle solo.
So much of what makes Ovum such a pleasure to listen to is its sparseness and silences. They resonate and often become a bigger and richer part of the song than the spare bits of instrumentation. Songs like “Bleeding Eye Omen,” “Leaves” and the six-minutes of static and tape hiss that is “The Demon in the Silence” in anyone else’s hands would seem like sketches at best, but this is a territory that Tigermask has known for a long while and he claims it as his own.
Ovum is intended to be the first of a trio of concept albums, which Tigermask intends to put out. Although two and three are not yet recorded I am already interested to see if there will be a progression to a somewhat fuller and more open sound to the next record, now that TK is able to live outside his own mind. For now though I’ll enjoy listening to Ovum in my self-imposed solitude.
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