Trevor Sensor’s recently released second record, On Account of Exile Vol. 1, rings with an anguished defiance. Telling tales of those living at the extremes of existence, his voice burns with a brow beaten tremble – but like the flicker of a campfire flame lit in the darkest of woods, he keeps the demons at bay, fusing Americana, folk and blues to find beauty in the embers of broken dreams.
The Illinois’ singer-songwriter holds the world hardened voice of someone well beyond his years, and while there are few who can channel the dusty gravel of Dylan is his prime quite so well, Sensor can also capture the crushing heartbreak of life’s cruelest limitations. And whether it is on a whispered refrain or screamed over cinematic backdrops, there is always a palpable truth to his words.
We spoke to Sensor to gain some insight into the influences that formed him. Here’s hoping an On Account of Exile Vol. 2 is not far away.
Three favourite albums:
Steely Dan – Gaucho
I’ve only recently become acquainted with the Dan. They’d always hovered in my field of vision as some mysterious band I bumped into on FM stations, but never took much account of. Finally I sat down with Aja in full one night and was absolutely blown away. ‘Why aren’t more records like this? This sounds more like the future of recorded music than anything today!’ I then gnashed my teeth and shook my fists at the 21st century in my drab apartment as I dove through the rest of their discography. For some reason, Gaucho struck the deepest for me. Glamour Profession is true intellectual sleaze of the catchy LA night, while Third World Man is a melancholic dream that speaks to the eternal American outsider. The kicker with these guys is they sold millions of records making this kind of music—something that would never happen today. Somewhere in America, Donald Fagen is sneering in the dark.
The John Coltrane Quartet – Ballads
This is an essential record for me. It’s accompanied my mornings for over five years now and is my most treasured vinyl in my collection. While I love My Favorite Thing, Giant Steps, and other classic recordings of Coltrane’s, Ballads was a real gateway drug into jazz for me. So it’s always held a special place for me—it’s a record you can dream to. It doesn’t grovel for attention, but quietly becomes a part of you in a way I can’t really put into words here. I find myself humming the melodies to most of these numbers when on my walks or sitting in the silence of a rainy night. Everybody should listen to this album. Give jazz its due.
Scott Walker – Tilt
Listening to the later Scott Walker albums is like watching a Tarkovsky film. It’s idiosyncratic as hell and demanding of its audience, but rewards those who really take the time to give a shit. The Modern Situation being that art has become over-commercialized, rounded out by corporate politics and sensibility, it’s become harder and harder to find music that solely seeks a spiritual, individual expression. Tilt is exactly that, and exists so much within Scott’s own individual spirit that it sounds like it could be made today. It’s impossible for it to be dated it seems. It belongs to no era, movement, or past trend. It’s solely Scott Walker—that black abyss from within himself that he sang from. Tilt is a shining example of the worthy ideal I try to progressively realize within my own work. Something that really displays the world the way in which we individually find it—works that try to get at a true sense of the human condition of not only our day, but for all human history.
A strange and surreal biopic of Britain’s most famous prisoner, Bronson fused the brutality and comedy of life in a way that’s so engaging it’s hard to turn away. Tom Hardy is phenomenal in the role—he owns the screen with his physical presence while also delicately giving the audience insights into the almost simplistic, deranged reasoning behind his acts of violence. Bronson views prison more freeing than society. His animal nature more at home in an arena where extreme physical expressions of man against man are expected, if not almost encouraged given the depictions of the atmosphere of prison life. Bronson is like watching a ballet—the climatic sequence of our questionable hero covering himself in black paint, fighting officers naked, acting as a one man Dionysian festival in the modern day.
Sun and Steel – Yukio Mishima
I’d already taken up weightlifting by the time I came to this book, but it reaffirmed my thinking on the mind-body connection. For both Mishima and I derived our insights on his Will to Health philosophy from the same source: Ancient Greece. I’ve read most of Mishima’s translated works (The Sea of Fertility Tetralogy I highly recommend), but this book specifically gives us greater insight into this complex, Postmodern character. Mishima recognized that, despite his success as a writer, he lacked a major element in his life. He had overdeveloped his mind, the Apollonian side of his Being, while his body (the Dionysian side) was underdeveloped and in disuse. To reaffirm life for himself he said he needed to leave his ‘dark cave’ and embrace the sun. He did this through physical exercise such as weightlifting, boxing, and kendo. It can be argued that this is something the modern individual struggles with en masse. Our Apollonian side is overdeveloped and our Dionysian side malnourished. Our strivings are solely aimed towards comfort—we shy away from the trials and pain that come with a true sense of personal and spiritual growth. We partake in Self-Preservation instead of Self-Overcoming. We subsist as consumers, and because of that we are spiritually dead. We have no worthy ideals to live for.
A song that is important to me:
Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy
You can’t beat the blues, and you can’t beat Muddy Waters. This song alone slaps harder than almost anything that’s come out of the 21st century. It’s all attitude—it’s full of life, it’s got body and stank to it. You only get that out of mastery of your craft, and actually being out in the world living the day to day. That’s the thing about the Form that nobody understands—it’s not about the notes played on the guitar. It’s a way of life that’s being projected through music. That’s when music really shines—when life can really be felt through it. It’s an intuitive thing. You can’t theorize or tinker away in the studio to get at it. You just gotta feel it and be it. That’s what makes this stuff last—makes it timeless. You listen to Muddy and his band get after it, and you can just tell that these were some bad motherfuckers that really spilt their their blood and soul on the killing floor.