The first time I heard Daniel Glen Monkman’s music, I sensed there’s something spiritual and restorative that happens when he creates. At the time, after hearing just the one song, I had no way of knowing just how deeply and profoundly that power was permeating his creative output. But a few weeks back, I got a major case of the chills when, out of the blue, Monkman reached out to me and shared a preview of “Vibrant Colours”, the first single from his new project, Zoon (which is short for Zoongide’ewin).
Introducing “Vibrant Colours” to the world in a post on Talkhouse last week, Monkman shared his story of courage in the face of the unforgiving and unrelenting illnesses that eventually claimed his grandparents’ lives. Monkman draws a connection between his grandparents’ illnesses, his journey to the “rock bottom” of substance dependency, and the moment something inside him gave him the strength and conviction to rise again and find redemption through music.
“One thing I remember clearly about my grandmother’s dementia,” he writes, “was that whenever my mom played guitar with [his grandmother] she’d regain memories. That powerfully impacted me and caused my obsession with music, because now I truly and genuinely saw it as a tool to heal.” To me, it sounds like music was a gift passed onto Monkman by way of his grandmother’s spirit — from one generation to the next, across one plane to another.
“Vibrant Colours” is truly light-as-sound: a melting kaleidoscope grounded by Monkman’s voice, deep enough in the mix so as to blend seamlessly with the instruments. Though he sings about memories and melodies slipping away, about how deteriorating minds find it hard to distinguish between what is real and what’s a symptom of their illness, he’s never mournful, never angry. A repeated line, “Can’t tell if this is real”, rises above the surge of instruments, and it feels as if each recitation helps Monkman recognize that his grandparents’ story didn’t end with their deaths; their spirit and influence in his life continues on and are made manifest through his music.
Zoon’s “moccasin-gaze” music hits some long-dormant pleasure centres for me, the same ones that publicist Darryl Weeks and I bonded over many years ago. Though we never got to meet one another in person, through email, social media and the occasional phone call, Darryl and I often discussed our shared love of 80s and 90s UK indie rock/pop. It didn’t matter whether it was Madchester, Brit Pop, straight-up dream pop, or shoegaze; if it came from the UK between 1984 and 1999, I was all in (as I suspect Darryl was as well). So it’s no real surprise that I’m drawn to the swirling guitar signatures of “Vibrant Colours”. I could live in its looping guitars, distant drum machine, and cascading waves of reverberation forever.
Darryl regularly reached out to share an exciting new band that he thought I’d appreciate and enjoy, and more often than not he was right. Listening to “Vibrant Colours” for the first time, I was overcome with emotion knowing that, prior to his unexpected death in February 2019, Darryl was working with Monkman on getting his music released. I literally burst into tears imagining Darryl’s excitement at hearing this music. I’m certain he would have enthusiastically reached out to let me know about it as soon as he could. It gives me great comfort to think that what compelled Monkman to DM me the other week wasn’t a what but a who; that from whatever astral plane his spirit resides right now, Darryl is still working his ass off making sure Monkman’s music and I connect. One dreamy “moccasin-gaze” message received loud and clear, my friend. Thank you, and I miss you very much.