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The mystifying 9th album in the Field Works series, Cedars combines cosmic Americana with Western ambient and Middle Eastern influences. Delicate layers of pedal steel, banjo, oud, and hurdy-gurdy ﬂoat atop looping guitar drones to create a soothing, atmospheric chamber where folk and electronic music coalesce. Set to Arabic and English poetry, the song cycle examines some of Earth’s most iconic and ancient forests, revealing our complicated relationship with the natural world.
For this special dual-language release, Field Works producer Stuart Hyatt has assembled a supergroup of musicians, poets, and artists. The album is narrated by Youmna Saba and H.C. McEntire. Instrumentalists include Marisa Anderson, Fadi Tabbal, Dena El Saffar, Danny Paul Grody, Bob Hoffnar, Tomás Lozano, Nathan Bowles, Alex Roldan, Youmna Saba, and Stuart Hyatt. Renowned illustrator María Medem brings poems by Todd Fleming Davis and Youmna Saba to life in the accompanying full-color Risograph comic book; and longtime Field Works collaborators PRINTtEXT design the packaging. ✪
LYRICS 1. La’āli’ She spreads her arms blocking the embracing light threads to reflect the dimmed spark of light that floods and then gets buried in her dark wings She guards a tired person, sick with pain stuck on her feverish forehead Fearing that Gilgamesh’s descendants, after visiting the moon and draining Mars’ resources, have polluted the rays of the sun She wipes off her forehead the pearls of efforts dripping at the bottom of that tall, eminent, towering, magnificent tree The guardian of a thousand years’ old dormant secret that lays in the confines of its heart This loyal, sincere, truthful heroine fixed up the pile of sand, where a girl laid down her body, and bled her emotions as a nectar for the earth 2. Thāk-al-yawm I always dreamt of that day Where I abort with no pain or fear everything I held inside Of worries, shame, hesitation, hidden words, forgotten feelings, suppressions, grudges, infectious sighs, universal myths and what I heard inside of me and what I heard from the inside of me and what I heard and everything inside of me all my limbs, and their regular pulses, and their clumsy, spontaneous, aging beats that count their years but trip and fall backwards to square number one back to that day 3. Badron wa Qina‛ To that day and its night and the howling of the wolves and the full moon Images appear in front of me and disappear a hundred images a hundred and one image a hundred and two images pour down in a second I follow their rhythm and I fail because of a fear that wore on its face the mask of love but it is fear weighed by illusions 4. ’Arāha Slow inhale Chest and ribs Broken breath She looks up one last time She spreads her arm to touch the ancient earth and descends gradually into the labyrinth of its compassionate depths Its hugging, forgiving, peaceful, understanding depths Looking for a saving breath Looking for a breath 5. In‛ikās I dive into a darker darkness I rise and I fall and I rise to fall to elevate stubbornly towards a darker darkness I lose my skin and my hair and my liver and I float in an emptiness that weighs me down with lightness, the lightness I’ve always sought I see her I hear her fluttering wings that hug me She flies and rises and falls to draw the limits of my grave I see her In this heavy lightness in this light heaviness She, that appeared in between the repentant branches, protects them from the sun’s piercing cacophony She protects me And I see her 6. ’Aylūl September bid farewell to his last days and surrendered his sky to Orion The planets that would transform her delusions into light He (Orion) stood at the highest point of her sky He looked at her She looked at him Night has fallen and its creatures are asleep Life surrendered for some moments for life 7. Ar-raḥīl It seems as if the sun is softer today It seems as if she realized the burden of her last moments, before she leaves 8. Ḥalaqah ’Azaliyyah The loud shouts of the cities resound The stones, the walls are shaking in the mold Under the weight of those that got stabbed From the back These are the revolutionaries Aborting injustice and sorrow Guarding the dream in the bosom Of the eternal stars Here they are above the celestial branches holding onto each other Here they are at the core of the earth as tangled roots As threads that draw the path of a star And link the story of a heroine to the secret of a girl to your voice as you talk to your night to your voice as you call your sky to the voice of an enchantress as she spreads her arms to hold you to hold me in a moment that is fleeting that is vanishing that is eternal 9. The sharp smell of cedar In afternoon shadow, the sharp smell of cedar opens as the girl walks the far pasture, unmown in more than a decade. Fallow and left to become fertile, young cedars have begun to take back the land, feeding waxwings who fly through their limbs and grow drunk on the tree’s blue fruit, a soft glow fermenting beneath their skins. 10. Before we’re born Before we’re born we all live in water. The ancient forests the first people knew, who bore all life, were felled by the girl’s ancestors when they sailed across the ocean in ships built of cedar, thinking God bestowed all things upon them. They didn’t believe the stories of spirits who lived beneath bark, who spoke in spring storms when cedar fronds quaked, or how humans, as they rot back into the world that made them, become grass and goldenrod, a sapling looking up at an infinite sky. 11. The scars of recent history The girl only knows the scars of recent history: Fifty years since the last of the coal was stripped, traveling back in time, layer by layer, descending a shaft to bring darkness to the surface. And now: without any shame, we construct machines that can make a mountain disappear, no regard for the memory or souls of trees. 12. In the gloaming In the gloaming, before night reaches the cedars in the pasture, in May’s new warmth when her father plows the fields, the smell of copper curves along her grandmother’s spine, and the old woman takes a crow’s feather from a chest made of cedar. Like an aging river, she tells the girl how cedars share their long lives, joining us to water and sky, providing passage through the body of this unnamed country. 13. Drowning in a sky of cotton Especially on the hottest days, the girl has trouble catching her breath, drowning in a sky of cotton. When the dust in the hayloft fogs the air, and the chemicals her father sprays on the fields linger, or in the rain of dried leaves the combine sends toward heaven in September, the world, as we’ve remade it, settles in her chest, and her mother brings an inhaler to her mouth. 14. Each year Each year the girl raises a cow to sell at the county fair, throws hay down the chute, carries water to the trough. In the heat of the day she opens the gate. The cow wanders a worn path to the river to soak. After her chores, she follows the tracks, coming over a knoll to see a cedar shaking as the cow’s hind quarters rub and bend the branches like a stiff comb. 15. In the floodplain In the floodplain, hidden by a drapery of willow shoots, sits a giant cedar stump. Afternoons the girl and a friend make a nest in the decaying center, circling their bodies to follow the coil of the tree’s past life. Only a portion of the sky can be seen, and they pretend their clothes are green flowers, skin the gold of aspen leaves in October. They eat wild strawberries at the beginning of June, lips red with sugar. The air fills with the fragrance of honeysuckle, and the girl stands to sing, Let everything that blossoms, blossom! 16. The pasture The pasture is mottled by the shadows of clouds passing. The cedars, erect and alert, look like a children’s choir practicing: chins jut and mouths chant the words of a song that calls for light to come, for soil to offer what it can, for rain to fall when it might. The girl begins to sing, too, but instead of folding her hands in prayer, she strokes the cedar’s fern-like fingers, remembering her mother’s hands rubbing her back, her father’s goodnight kiss on her cheek, hallway light a sliver on the floor, and the sound of the trees growing in the dark as she sleeps, bones stretching, each waking four inches taller.