It’s hard not to listen to Desire without imagining Fortunato Durutti Marinetti has seen the present when it was the future.
There was a point early in our COVID-19 quarantine when it felt as if everyone’s new favourite pastime was reading meaning and significance into movies, music — really just about anything — that was conceived pre-pandemic. Though “Seasonless”, the first song on Desire, was merely a month old by the time the craziness started, its lyrics are enough to suggest Fortunato Durutti Marinetti is a modern-day Nostradamus. Its prescience is eerie: “Days are going by without shape or form / so what season is this that brings / this sinking feeling?” As the listener’s guide on his website suggests, it’s survival season; and like the rest of us, Marinetti is making his way through our new reality by cautiously pondering the past, carefully maneuvering through the present, and optimistically postulating on the future.
Desire (Marinetti’s first release under his own name since bringing his previous project, the Pinc Lincolns, to an end) is a finely rendered record that surrenders to the unknown and unknowable. Like its accompanying one-take, album-length video filmed from the dashboard of Marinetti’s girlfriend’s car as the pair drove into a western sunset, Desire’s nine songs concentrate on a journey and not a destination. Joining Marinetti for this musical ride is a skeleton crew of collaborators featuring Sydney Hermant from Hello Blue Roses and guitarist Nic Bragg from Destroyer. Hermant’s delicate vocals on “The Bell That Doesn’t Ring” (which also features her flute work) are a pleasant counterpoint to Marinetti’s deadpan singing style, one that calls to mind Lou Reed’s drawl infused with Andrew Bird’s tenderness. Bragg’s playing brings a grittiness to the baroque-pop masterclass “Everybody Tells Me”, underlining Marinetti’s frustration with ill-conceived advice and feeling as if he needs to justify and explain his choices to others.
Desire is rife with lyrical nuggets that linger long after its songs are over. Whether through rhetorical questions best left unanswered (“After so much work, what have you earned?” on “Wordless Morning”) or observations both sad and true (“Where you find desire / you will also find a slow decay,” on “I Waited For You”), Marinetti takes a glam-rock-meets-chamber-pop-punk scenic drive towards the heart of our human condition without ever fully arriving at any answers. At its conclusion, Desire recognizes that its namesake emotion is the vaguest of all human feelings because it’s ultimately a stand-in for that which we seek and crave: love; affection; connection; community; relevance; worth.
Desire is vague because life is vague. Colours don’t instinctively stay inside the lines when they are on paper. It’s human intervention that keeps colours — and emotions — from running into one another. We keep our feelings defined and precise in an attempt to render order out of chaos. It’s hard not to listen to Desire without imagining Fortunato Durutti Marinetti has seen the present when it was the future, but it’s easy to submit to the album’s exquisitely cathartic ride. My head desires nothing more than for all this craziness to end, but my heart knows that surviving isn’t about getting to some future destination; surviving is waking up every seasonless day and consciously deciding to live in the present.