One of the greatest strengths of art is its capacity to communicate complex emotions that we experience but have difficulty understanding. Art can reach beyond everyday language and thought and put a voice to the feelings that seem to escape words. It can therefore help us to grow in our understanding of ourselves and others.
Indie-folk singer-songwriter SellinSellySelline embodied this aspect of music in his first album in 2013, 검은 아이. His use of poetry, metaphor, and fables imply mental states and encourage deep introspection rather than force-feeding the listener one-dimensional messages. With just his voice and acoustic guitar he created a lush world with long, conversational melodies and creative harmonies.
His sophomore album, A Dream, Dead-End Sea, Waiting for the Wind continues the spirit of 검은 아이. Each lyric could shine independently as a poem and reflects creatively upon topics such as loss, longing, fear in times of change, and more. In them, SellinSellySelline vulnerably reveals his inner world; he paints us a picture of how thoughts and feelings travel through his mind, of how his settings influence them, and how he goes about dealing with them.
Similar to 검은아이, he uses metaphors and poetry to paint this impressionistic picture of mental and emotional states. Symbols run through the album’s lyrics like threads, namely dark and empty rooms, water and the ocean, and sunlight. The characters in the lyrics grapple with themselves in relation to these symbols, similar to the forces exerted upon us in our lives around which we are required to adjust.
For example, the narrator’s thoughts, memories, and regrets crystallize in dark, empty rooms, and he strains to comfort himself and confront them (“I quietly hum the little songs that even I don’t want to sing,” “I tell myself aloud, let’s not be afraid, over and over, at this dawn”). The sun painfully exposes his past (“scatter(s) them down without a chance to feel them”) in “Cloud Shadow,” chases and blinds him in “The Train of a Fugitive,” and overtakes the sea as it is setting in “A Humble Mind.” In each situation he adjusts accordingly; searching again for the safety of shade (“Cloud Shadow”), running away (“The Train of a Fugitive”), and scrambling to find a way for his “foolish mind” to sleep when the sun is gone (“A Humble Mind”).
Through the use of symbolism and poetic imagery, SellinSellySelline crafts poetic, breathable emotional landscapes which pertain mostly to natural elements, bodily sensations, and thoughts, as opposed to narrow emotional descriptions. He describes what happens in these landscapes and some of the narrator’s thoughts, but leaves it to the listener to relate to the narrator in a personalized way and to materialize an interpretation through introspection.
Compositionally, SellinSellySelline’s music is more complex and flavorful than your typical vanilla indie-folk fare. The harmonies and melodies are distinct, blending the musical languages of jazz (lots of seventh and ninth chords), folk-rock, and classical together. Although the music is gentle and full of singable melodies, SellinSellySelline doesn’t shy away from dissonance and chromaticism (“The Room of a Novelist,” “Cloud Shadow,” and “Humble Heart”) in order depict the mental and emotional aches described by his lyrics.
However, it is difficult to be fully immersed in the album without an understanding of the lyrics. The songs run on the longer side, each about four to five minutes, and can be repetitive. Without knowing the meaning of the lyrics, a crucial aspect of the album – the lyrics and the ways in which the music weaves itself around them – is lost. I therefore encourage you to take time to look at the lyric translations that have been provided by SellinSellySelline’s friend Sehee.
SellinSellySelline’s music is packed with soul, wisdom, and poetry. It’s a revitalizing breath of fresh air when you’ve had your share of one-sided love songs. A great reminder of the beauty of art, A Dream, A Dead-End Sea, Waiting For the Wind may help identify and provide insight into difficult and elusive emotions that we grapple with in our lives.