MIDNIGHT SUN “Midnight Sun” C32 (20/20 Records and Tapes)

Of course it’s going to be reverent if it’s recorded in a church. Thus unfolds Midnight Sun’s self-titled tape, the fruits of an improvised performance by Mr. Midnight Sun himself, Stephen Strohmeier, at Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at Strohmeier’s hometown of Baltimore. (Go Orioles! Well, not recently.) Hunkering down amidst the pews, making his way toward the nave, eyeballing the organ, Strohmeier takes it all in before responding to the solemn atmosphere with even more solemn playing. (I imagine it’s the organ, but I can’t be certain without more information.) Calling on the Anglican traditions, which fold in bits of Roman Catholicism, Strohmeier truly plays “in church,” pumping the chords, full to bursting, to the rafters high above his head, where the scent of long-escaped incense smoke finds refuge from the censers.

As such, high worship meets the longing human soul, that philosophical entity reaching ever outward in search of meaning and relation. Where some search for it in God, others peer beyond what a cabal of humans has defined as the pinnacle of enlightenment, beyond and into the equally inexplicable and magnificent cosmos. It’s here that Midnight Sun merges the two ideologies, warping and confusing the divine and melding it with the great mysteries of physics. The four pieces illustrate the struggle for understanding and significance, pitting the listener against their own natural emotional responses and challenging them to open new mental avenues toward comprehension.

This is not normally what I get out of church!