Apollo Ghosts
Living Memory

by Jim Di Gioia

October 7, 2019

Living Memory is a dense and deeply moving treatise on death from the resurrected Apollo Ghosts.

One recent autumn day, there came to be a new album by Apollo Ghosts called Living Memory. It was unlike any Apollo Ghosts album you might remember. Where punky guitars once played footsie with brainy pop melodies, undulating instrumentals built from stoic chords and ambient humming now haunt Apollo Ghosts’ arrangements. Living Memory is the result of a year’s worth of solo music-making by frontperson Adrian Teacher. It is a dense and deeply moving treatise on death, drawing heavily on Teacher’s experience watching his father succumb to Alzheimer’s disease in the same way that Western Red Cedar trees in his home of British Columbia are dying from prolonged droughts attributed to climate change. “Once you notice a dark orange, dead cedar tree,” he says in a statement about the album, “you start to see them everywhere.”

Memory and kinship are interconnected themes explored throughout Living Memory. Recognizing that the slow, systematic death of cedar trees directly impact the kinship networks of Indigenous people (and that climate change itself is a result of colonialism), Teacher draws a parallel to watching his father — his own kinship network — slip from him through an irreversible force that he’s helpless to stop. “Many of the songs are expressions of some of my most vivid memories of my father,” he explains. “If I can give those memories form, maybe I can relive them, engage with them, set them aside, and then appreciate the time with my father still left to me. Maybe, when my memory also fades, I can at least listen to the songs for a reminder of my memories of him.”

Written and performed on “a free spinet piano [Teacher] found on Craigslist” that he admits he doesn’t really know how to play, Living Memory is most captivating when songs like “Campground Philosophy” flips the script and uses pop and rock motifs (like a slick little guitar riff) as the accents atop amorphous arrangements. Like memories themselves, Teacher’s songs suggest outlines and shapes that are at once familiar yet foreign. All proceeds from Living Memory go to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (a nationwide charity dedicated to protecting public land, ocean, and freshwater) and the UNIST’OT’TEN Legal Fund, ensuring that these songs, these expressions of Teacher’s memories of his father and his reaction to climate change’s devastation, will themselves help to create new and lasting memories for generations to come.

Jim Di Gioia

Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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