When we pick apart the pieces of our past, and turn them over in our hands, they can feel weighted, worn, and weathered with the smog of perspective. And as we try to stitch them together, how do we navigate our own pattern when what we might’ve been taught is too binary, too black and white, a thread woven too tight?
On her new album Meet Me at the Gloaming, A.O. Gerber carefully grapples with the constraints she was taught as a child to reach for the flourishing that comes when we look past the black and white, and into the gray gauze of the in-between. “I was thinking about how damaging it can be to exist in that binary space of good and evil,” Gerber explains. “When we see everything in either/or’s, we lose the nuance and complexity that make life rich enough to be worth living.” By interlocking memory and imagination, Gerber crafts a gleaming future, where the light and the dark don’t just coexist––they create a new color entirely.
Gerber’s debut LP Another Place To Need (2020) garnered critical acclaim for its candid, orchestral ruminations on splintered relationships and the cage of overthinking. While that record took three years to complete, and saw Gerber collaborate with much of her musical community in Los Angeles and the Bay Area – including Sasami, Madeline Kenney, Marina Allen and Noah Weinman (Runnner) – Gerber stripped back the team for Meet Me at the Gloaming. Once again co-producing with Madeline Kenney, Gerber shunned the usual process of seeking constant feedback, and instead leaned into a more isolated process, later producing much of the record at home. “I found a lot of healing while making this record because I had to be the person to call the shots,” she says. “I realized that I can exist as a musician completely outside of other people’s opinions of me.” Recording at Kenney’s home studio on nights and weekends in-between their day jobs, Alex Oñate joined Gerber and Kenney on drums while Gerber also collaborated remotely with Megan Benavente on bass and Lauren Elizabeth Baba on violin and viola.
This somewhat secluded process serves as a mirror to the deeply introspective and thoughtful nature of Meet Me at the Gloaming. Here, Gerber explores her upbringing, much of which took place under the watchful gaze of a spiritual teacher who led her mother to completely uproot their lives, and move the family from Northern California to Southern Oregon. But this isn’t a scathing composition of redemption or revenge; instead, Gerber parses out her own history with care and grace. “It can be difficult to write about your childhood when you have a lot of shame around it,” she explains. “I wanted to approach it from multiple perspectives, to try to hold the complexity of formative experiences and relationships, and resist the temptation to over-simplify them.”
Through unwavering, underwater synths and gentle plucked strings, ethereal opener “Disciple Song” chronicles the hold this spiritual teacher had on Gerber’s sense of self. “Arbiter of my worthiness / Arbiter of truth / Make me into a melody / I can sing when you are through,” she laments over a patient, kaleidoscopic arrangement. It’s a taster of the more avant-garde sonic palette that permeates Meet Me at the Gloaming, where Gerber leans into her curious producer side.
On “Looking for the Right Things,” the production thrives under an electro-pop blanket, as bright percussion and sharp, vivid keys give rise to Gerber’s warm, velvet-smooth vocal. “I just wanna feel clean / I’m missing someone I knew once / Now she doesn’t exist,” she croons,
charting the push-and-pull between wanting to be good, and the seeming impossibility of it. We are always at odds with ourselves, and “Looking for the Right Things,” peels back the desire to attain this idea of goodness while reckoning with the reality of our humanness, and the beauty of our imperfections. “As much as I’d like to make relationships as simple as figuring out how to be ‘good’ and that being enough, it’s always messier than that.”
Later, “Hunger” sees Gerber pick apart the opposing forces of desire and restriction through soft-yet-persistent synths and cloud-reaching riffs. “I’ve spent so much of my life vacillating between these polarities, craving and negating,” she says. “Both states of being are a hunger for something, and I like to think there’s a reality where pleasure and accountability to yourself and others can coexist.” On the guitar-led gentle anthem “For,” Gerber wrestles yet ultimately welcomes the darker parts of her personality. Inspired by her experience with a struggling friend, Gerber admits that while we can recognize and see ourselves in another’s pain, we can also acknowledge our limitations in showing up for them, and how we may not feel able to help them through it.
Closer “Only Mystery,” brings Meet Me at the Gloaming full circle, as Gerber unpacks her complex relationship with her father. Leaning into the eclectic sonic landscape of the album, fluttering strings dance alongside finger-picked guitar, while diaphanous synths coat lyrics of loneliness and betrayal. “Asking where you were / In the years / I called our backyard home” she sings, pointing to her solitary experience as a child. “I’m tenderly trying to meet someone as they are, while carrying the baggage of a life and past disappointments,” she says. “It’s exploring that complexity; of looking at this person who I barely know and who barely knows me, recognizing that there’s still this part of me that just wants to be seen as good, as having done my best, and hoping that’s good enough.”
Meet Me at the Gloaming is certainly an album that pierces grief head-on but it’s not without hope or certainty. Like curtains strong enough to block the view, but thin enough to let in the light, Gerber is reclaiming the meaning of goodness, where the harsh overwhelming brightness is dimmed to a beautiful, iridescent blue. During the gloaming we are between two spaces, two worlds, two selves and it’s here that we can fully embrace everything that we are.
Let us remember how dark the beginning of the day is ~ Maggie Smith