Belong: New Orleans Mirrored
- Words: Cameron Macdonald
Though Michael Jones and Jason Mark (the duo known as Belong) finished their debut album, October Language (Car Park), a year before Hurricane Katrina hit, they can still hear parallels between the New Orleans of the aftermath and the record's sprawling waves of guitar and synth noise, which often threaten to swallow the listener whole. "I agree [that] a fellow New Orleans person can listen to it and be affected [knowing it was] created by people who live in New Orleans," Mark says.
In reality, it wasn't too long ago that there were blue tarps covering nearly every damaged rooftop and FEMA trailers parked all over the New Orleans suburb where Jones and Mark record. The pair initially met through a mutual friend while hanging out at a bar. Mark (who also records as Turk Dietrich) is a seasoned electronic music producer who works with Telefon Tel Aviv's Joshua Eustis in the group Benelli, while Jones is frank about his more minimal resume. "I was in a bunch of bands that never made it out of practice rooms," he reveals. "Every band I was in always broke up."
According to Jones, Belong's early work was "a lot more noisy and dronier," but the duo eventually added melodies and basic chord changes into the ether they created from digitally manipulated guitar, synths, and Mellotron flutes. Listening to October Language, one imagines sunlight cracking the sky and burning away the ice across the concrete. Jones recommends listening to the record, as one of his friends does, while watching a TV with bad reception. "[Listening to us] is like staring at a fractured old picture and trying to make sense out of it," clarifies Mark. "You know that there is a pretty image there but it takes a little while to see [it]."
Belong left New Orleans for Atlanta by the time Katrina hit their home. "We thought we would be briefly there and then come home," Mark explains. "But every day, it got worse and worse–we were in a complete daze; we couldn't communicate well with each other. It was the weirdest week of my life." He talks about traveling through the eastern part of the city a few weeks after the storm passed. "It was probably one of the eeriest things I've seen in my life," he says, recalling the sight of a five-mile-long waterline.
Despite its New Orleans origins, Jones hopes listeners don't consider October a Katrina-inspired album. "We're making sad, but hopeful music," Jones explains. Mark chimes in: "There is a degree of melancholy but with a light at the end of the tunnel."
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