The songs on The Cabin Project’s fifth album Decenter stream like a soundtrack to a movie about a life that could be anyone’s. They ground us in gentle crescendos and the vast fullnesses of orchestral sounds, punctuated by restful measures that wind down like grateful breaths.
The name, Decenter, asks listeners: What is “center?” It beckons us to eradicate and thereby expand our ways of understanding—to centralize experiences outside our own—and it conjures a call for political dissension. Within an intimate soundscape, Katie Sawicki’s lyricism challenges harmful traditions of abusive privileges over resources and power on the record's title track:
“Complicity is what we’ve grown / similar is how we love / Built up on the bones and roads / of generations come before / Too many versions of riots past / too many failures to try to act / You no longer get a pass for intent / and I no longer get to drown out the impact.”
Zanny Geffel’s percussive container for each song holds listeners in a steadying but varied flow of alternating beats and bursts. Her drumming narrates a feeling of ongoingness that is solid as the ground and intrinsically stimulating. Geffel transforms into a healer-beast of heaviness in some moments, while pausing in sacred simplicity for others.
In a similar way of holding space, Kelly Clifton’s reverent, methodic bass movements carry the heartening “unfolding” feeling that continues to distinguish this band.
The penultimate song, “Treelines,” feels like the building of a new life, after a tumultuous loss of the old. When someone plays a stringed instrument just right, it conjures a spiritual cocktail of drama, beauty, passion and peace that pours itself directly into the soul. Jean Mastaler completely nails this feeling with her violin. She closes Decenter’s last song, “Old Growth,” with trellises of notes like the calls of many birds on a new day. Perhaps these moments, these delicate flourishes of sound, represent what’s possible at a freshly pruned center. The question we are left with is: Will we choose the courage it takes to shred our overgrown ways?
Decenter can inspire activity back into the parts of us that have become disconnected. It comes around to embodying the feeling of building a new life, after the tumultuous loss of a prior one. It propels a listener to go outside, look everywhere, and honor the beauty that is inherent to all life, not excluding its processes of pain, loss and challenge. Whether we feel we are beautiful or not, The Cabin Project always reminds us that life is, and that we are life. For a fiercely alive call to responsibility, for a sun-shining-through-pine-forests, it’s-gonna-be-okay (and-it’s-still-beautiful-when-it’s-not, so-long-as-we-keep-giving-our-best) kind of mood, you ought to give yourself the gift of a listen. It will remind you to make more gifts of your life.