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  • Talon Stradley

S1E3 - Summer, 2018

Hello, and welcome to Newton’s Dark Room. For those who didn’t know, we were on a bit of a break over the summer. The whole collective put in so much time and effort into the online release of NDR, that we decided to take a much needed vacation over the Summer.

Everyone at our base on Calisland packed up their clothes, cameras, and an instrument or too and left to go wander the mountains of Southern California.

The plan was to spend sometime searching for an old friend we heard might be in the area. Unfortunately, the search never really took off. The weather this summer was… rough. It ended up raining most of our time in the wilderness. And this wasn’t just a little drizzle, this was some pretty heavy stuff. It made it very difficult to blaze our own trails through the wilderness. We ended up spending most of our time in an abandoned cabin we found at the top of a ridge on the first day.

The cabin was meager, but nice. We were just barely able to cram everyone inside. The cabin was all one big room with one window. The window didn’t have any glass so we just covered it with one of S. Owen Sow’s painting canvases and hung it over the window. The thing got soaked, but S. Owen Sow used that to make an incredible water color painting. Sadly, the canvas was rather delicate from the wear of the weather. If you find a cabin in the woods with a canvas over the window, you’ll know we were there.

This whole ordeal gave people a bit of cabin fever. The whole point of this vacation was to get out of the house and explore the world a little, take a breather. In the end, we were all stuck in an even smaller cabin. It’s amazing what this proximity can do to people.

We have a very collaborative environment here, but sometimes it can be hard to have everyone work on the same project. There are so many of us, each with our own personal projects, so it is very rare to have one massive collective collaboration. Over the course of our time in the cabin, one such collaboration began to form.

I don’t know what it is about artists in remote cabins, but it brings out the ambitions in us. It all started when Sumpra Pepnia began singing a silly song about a jester in the court of a space king. Everyone loved it, especially the parts detailing the jester’s antics in low gravity. Before we knew it, everyone was singing along and adding their own layers. Someone else began singing another song about a forlorn princess who was in love with the lowly jester.

The next thing you know, we had an entire space opera.

It was about true love and destiny! It was about betrayal and the fight for a throne! We ended up scribbling all over the walls of the cabin. We had detailed maps and family trees, timelines, character sketches. At one point, S. Owen Sow painted a series of detailed images from the world across the ceiling. It felt like the sistine chapel. We all had it in our minds that this would be a grand story told across every medium we had in our possession! An entire year of NDR’s releases would all be apart of this world. It would set up the history, the different planets, detailed stories of the entire royal family line and, of course, the Jester just trying to survive in it all.

This kept us busy for a couple weeks. I doubt our ravings will ever see the light of day. That was the kind of idea born in a cabin and meant for its people. When we started slowing on this idea, we grew bored. We were still stuck in this cabin, we had already delved down the rabbit hole of our imagination. The first day after the space opera, we all just lied there. I don’t think a single person said a word all day.

On the next morning, S. Owen Sow suggested something for all of us. He asked how many of us have ever painted a self portrait. To his surprise, none of us have. He said a self portrait was one of the most important creations an artist could make. It gives us an intimate look into ourselves. Our subconscious self-image applied to the paper. We spent the rest of the day painting and drawing. It was another silent day, but much more productive.

You should have been there when we finished. The whole cabin felt lighter. We ended up hanging the portraits all across the wall, labeled them, and had our own little gala inside the cabin. It was exquisite.

The day after the portraits, the rain cleared out. While we didn’t have enough time or supplies for the massive trek we had planned, we did have enough to hike down the ridge back to the flats of the desert. We hiked for 24 hours straight, afraid the rain would come again. The days were very hot, but the sunset and night were breathtaking. The moon was so bright, we thought it was someone with a flashlight sitting up in a tree.

We made our own constellations that night. We also found Crash in the stars. It can be hard to tell, but we think he waved at us and we waved back.

Later that day, we took the ferry to our Calisland home. Everything was spotless. Not having thirty people living in the house allowed the caretakers to give it a deep clean. We were impressed, but I was worried. This was supposed to be a break for everyone at NDR. I didn’t want the caretakers to work themselves to death.

I found them lounging out by AI 4-82’s home. They were laughing and singing. I thought about approaching them, but thought against it. Who was I to ruin a good moment? I strolled into my office, out by the recording studio. It was comforting sitting back at my desk. I could here people bumbling around the house, unpacking, and setting up their supplies. The whole collective felt a buzz with new inspiration.

That’s when I noticed something. The cassette I usually kept inside my tape deck, an old collection of children’s songs from my childhood, was sitting on my desk, exposed. I looked inside the tape deck and I found, what looked to be, a blank cassette. It wasn’t labeled, it was a generic tape and it was half way wound up. I pressed play and that’s when I heard it. Singing. Music. It took me a while to place the voice, but I finally got it.

It was the caretakers. While we were all away, they took the opportunity to record their own music. It was beautiful, soft, and warm. They had recorded all the song at once, complete with a banter in between. It felt intimate and I fell in love with it.

I approached the caretakers and asked if I could release the music. At first, they were embarrassed. They never meant for me to find that, it was just something they made while goofing around at night. After some convincing, they agreed to let us release the music.

Folks, it is my pleasure to introduce to you The Calisland Caretaker’s debut album, When Away. These are the unedited and raw sounds from the cassette tape I found in my player. There are five complete songs total, four of which can be found on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and where ever else you get your music.

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