Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
When Dave Davison arrived in Rock Island a few months ago, we were in the middle of a winter that seemed to beg faces for beards - for those good and thick beards of pioneers and pelt traders. The lead singer for the Chicago band Maps & Atlases and now the genius behind another incredible project he calls Cast Spells, had a beard that was long and drawn out, stretched down to the middle of his chest in a curly, frizzy, obtuse and disorderly triangle. There was hair everywhere and Davison could have been easily mistaken for a woodsman that would have been standing just outside of the frame of an ancient Ansel Adams photograph of a treacherous range of rocks, with a gnarly walking stick in one hand and a knapsack full of baked beans and a canteen strapped to his aching back. Alas, he was indoors and nowhere near the barking wildness, though the music that he sang into our can and the songs that he played within the walls of the gourmet pizza parlor downstairs later that evening seemed nestled with the all kinds of chilly air and the repercussions of time spent in cabins, dark isolation and crashing on the hardened floors of pure and lumpy black dirt. Davison tends to think about things in a manner of how they affect the balance of everything - of what it means to be in this life, in that life and how any actions might send ripples through the common cartilage, rocking everything just slightly or devastatingly off its base. He takes us into the woozy escapes of a mind that wanders here and there, but ultimately finds itself stuck in the stampede of such crushing proximity to so many others and a reliance on needing everything to fit together harmoniously. A song like "Potted Plant" is a great example of the forces in collision, of a man of nomadic nature still trying to fit into some kind of domesticity that will keep him on a sunny windowsill. Then again, there's also that streaming feeling that running away from it all and returning to the backwoods isn't out of the question. He sings, "Let's forget the big cold buttons let's see what we can track through with warm boots/And with shock ivory helmet eyes we'll watch storming through keyholes in your living room/And that's where we'll listen to the chatter of our inner architecture/You swear that photosynthesis is never an intention of a selfish sun/And that all the months that start with 'J' should be replaced with under represented ones/That's when you'll enlist the animals to join your cause and to begin a hunger strike/And for all the crops to scream eclipse and hide until the management does what they like/But since you've endorsed this spectacle there's not much left for me to say to you/Until recently it seemed all of the wrong things had eluded you/That was until you wanted me to/Topple all the fences in your neighbors yard." Davison sends us into a world that feels as if it was originally given to us in such a different state, but there's an innocent belief that it can be rearranged to be a likeness of its previous self once again with a little doing. It feels as if we've added all of the extra coats of paint, built it into a disgrace that could be much simpler, could be much prettier. We slide a hand figuratively into his as we listen to Cast Spells and launch ourselves out the door and down steep grassy hills at reckless speeds, knowing that it's likely we'll spill without time to get our hands out in front of us to brace the fall, but we'll spring back up, comment with a chuckle about the deep green stain on our knees and elbows and continue to follow him - recklessly.