Music by Jason Hoopes and Damon Waitkus
Lyrics by Damon Waitkus
I was on Novaya Zemlya all night. It’s this long thin island North of Russia, same spine as the Ural Mountains. There’s nothing there, just sort of raw, rolling tundra, scrubby evergreens in the valleys. You could feel the ocean out there somewhere.
I was there with a friend. I’d just met him but we got along pretty well. We had it in our heads to walk the entire length of the six-hundred-odd mile island in one day.
It was cold. We had basic provisions, big heavy parkas, but not a great command of what we were doing. By 2:30 or 3 we were already losing the light. Around 4 O’clock it started to snow.
There were more people there than I expected. It wasn’t exactly populous, but we did pass through these little villages. At least one of them must have had seven hundred to a thousand people living in it, mostly in these squat, forest green quonset huts. Very light haired, skinned, quiet voices, thin little braid of a gene pool.
On the map we’re using, Novaya Zemlya is marked almost entirely in yellow, meaning that it’s Norwegian territory. That’s totally inaccurate, it’s Russian, but that’s our map. Only as you go farther North, higher altitudes, at first just the tops of mountains, are marked in this neutral grey color. I’m kind of curious about this so I ask my friend “what do you think that means?” And he says “Oh, I think that means that those grey areas are unclaimed: you know, that’s a little island of land that’s so inhospitable that no one goes there, so there’s no claim to be had.”
As I’m looking at the map, the farther North we go, the farther down the mountainside this grey territory leaks, until there are just islands of claimed territory. And then ultimately, at the top of the island, the whole map is grey. And that’s where we’re headed.
DW – voice, piano
EP – violin
KM – bassoon
JH – electric bass
JG – drums, bowed percussion, accordion
Josh Packard – cello