Between Waves is a meditation on potential. It is concerned only with the before and after, recrowning those mundane moments as the precious and mercurial now. This album is not so much about about peaks and valleys as it is about expanse; each song is something small that’s been stretched apart and peeled back and coaxed into growth. Not in search of some eternal truth or life altering answer (there isn’t one) – just to look at the colors.
I went surfing once and it struck me that if you’re doing it right, you might be excited to see the next wave coming. But I grew up too far inland to feel the pull of the tides and I’ve never really felt at home in the murky salt of the Pacific. I just kept getting tumbled and crushed until my anticipation was the hue of fear rather than hope.
Eventually I decided to just stay out beyond the break, laying on my surfboard and ignoring my friend / instructor’s frantic exhortations to START PADDLING. When the gentle waves started to push me too far into shore, I’d paddle back against the flood of chiseled, salt-blooded Californians with whom the ocean shares some kind of tender inside joke that will probably never be explained to me. It was ok though. I just wanted to look for fish in the specks of sunlight. Then after a while I forgot to paddle out and I found myself on a wave headed for land.
I have no idea if Jimmy Lavalle, the mind behind The Album Leaf, had surfing in mind as he wrote Between Waves, (then again he’s from San Diego so like, probably) but the point is that waves, like all the moments we give names to, are brief and account for a rather small part of the ocean.
It’s the space between where time mostly happens. Between waves, we’re looking forward or back with anxiety or love or longing or dread or whatever. Maybe in the best moments we’re just looking down, contemplating the swirling present as far as the froth and kelp allow.
The water beneath us is always just sort of becoming an event. Sometimes we can ride the wave for a while and try to enjoy the exhilarating illusion of control. Or let it crash and tell everyone who will listen that the crush feels good. Or sometimes we go under and existence becomes moment to moment in a way that we somehow thought would be liberating, that we remember only as flashes of light and a terrifying rumble.
On this album, Jimmy LaValle has written a world where the wave never arrives. The Album Leaf has always excelled at unhurried ambience, but Between Waves is not remarkable for its lack of urgency – it’s remarkable because, like the White Rabbit in Wonderland, it is urgent without ever posing a question about where it’s headed and it is compelling without ever offering an answer.
There’s something strange and freeing about being able to poke at anxiety without fear that the fearful thing will ever actually materialize. Or venturing into hope without having to acknowledge anything to hope for. Let go of the sensation of waiting and you’ll feel the relief of having already arrived. Then you can start to look around.