I am riding a train, chugging through life’s sweet and savory journey. After I take in the orange glow of the setting sun, I glance down as we roll over a rickety bridge.

Gazing at the subtle waves on river rocks below, I notice a single bird. He is bleakly alone, until we are ultimately connected by the chugging train’s hypnotic mechanical output.

This is the image I have conjured up in my mind as I listen to A Severe Joy’s 10-song eponymous CD.

A Severe Joy is Jose Ayerve (clever anagram), former frontman of the local band Spouse. His new solo project is a departure from his past guitar-driven rock tunes. He has gone underground through masked image and musical variety — yet is exposing himself so brutally in lyrics.

The linkage among these songs — other than the automated music stemming from the driving dance beats, guitars and keys — is Ayerve’s subdued, layered voice echoing and warbling the fallible human condition. The juxtaposition of machine and man is stunning.

In the second track, “Falling Apart in Reverse,” Ayerve displays all the machine-driven music mixed with tender truths of love, mortality and a yearning for unification. “All we want to do is hang on tight to our bodies/ Is my body still your body?”

I have to admit, I became still when I heard “Here Lies Our Pulse.” Lulled in by its evocative lyrics, I sensed profound grief through a loved one’s death: “I only meant to capture you, and what was left of who you were was absorbed into the ones you loved.”

The only complaint I have about this CD is the incessant high hat clinking within the drum loops in the foreground of the recordings. After a short time it became a bit menacing to my ears, but I was able to overcome and hunker down to listen to the crux of it — the experimentation, the raw intention to release anguish, and the willpower of an artist’s instincts to entertain and enlighten.

Kristin DiCara-McLellan is a local freelance writer. She can be reached at:

[email protected]


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