Music Reviews

Soul Whirling Somewhere

Hope Was


Hope Was charts the difficult territory of love lost between hope and despair, somehow crafting an album of breathtaking beauty from the soul-crushing horror of a relationship falling apart before your eyes. Michael Plaster sings his incredibly honest, vulnerable lyrics in a voice so overcome with conflicting emotions – loss, fear, regret, anger, but above all, love – that you want to weep, and not stop until he and his lover are reunited.

The overall Gothic ambiance of Hope Was fits with Plaster’s other Soul Whirling Somewhere recordings, but this one has more of an edge to it, weaving late-night insomniac radio static, ominous drones, and jittery percussion in with soft-strummed guitars and oceanic synths. These jarring juxtapositions are perfect for evoking the swings in the lyrics from morose self-hatred to blind, loving hope. For instance, the synths on “How to Hang Yourself” start off warm and enveloping, but Plaster pushes them a little off-key, showing how off-balance it feels to live in a world without your lover.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of outright gorgeous, gentle pieces here too. On “How to Bury Yourself,” slow, halting notes from an upright piano trace the tentative steps of a lost man who’s not sure if he can make it from one moment to the next, let alone through the long, empty days until he can see his former lover again. Nor is the entire album despairing (though much of it is) – the lovely, radiant synths of the instrumental “Sonora/Red,” for instance, feel like hope dawning with the sunrise, red and raw and new; a chance to begin again that almost sets your heart afloat in the crystal desert air. But then “Unsleep” comes, synths wavering between joy and sorrow as he sees her face beside him in the middle of the night, only to wake alone and realize it was all just a cruel dream…

This two-disc, two-hour set is highly recommended for anyone who just couldn’t bear to let a relationship go, no matter how painful it was to hang on; for anyone who has learned the hard way that when all hope is gone, the only thing that’s left is hope. Projekt, P.O. Box 166155, Chicago, IL 60616

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