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Photo Credit: Bobby Bunny
In his powerful video, Martin Bisi stalks the streets around Brooklyn’s Gowanus canal in a red robe like a soothsayer on a mission, foretelling of what lies ahead in the wake of continued hyper-development and environmental degradation. Conceptualized by local activists’ group Voice of Gowanus (VoG), the procession of beach-goers and swimmers he leads symbolize how not only the Gowanus area, but everywhere, would be increasingly underwater with climate change as hyper-development runs unabated.
There is compelling backstory to ‘A Storm Called Ida’. Bisi’s famous BC Studio is housed in a landmark 1890 building, the old American Can Factory, where many independents have long thrived. (BC Studio spawned many of the best-known albums from the likes of Sonic Youth, Swans, Dresden Dolls, Unsane, Lydia Lunch, Cop Shoot Cop, White Hills, Foetus, and Live Skull among others – not to mention Bill Laswell, Fab Five Freddie, Herbie Hancock, Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker, et al – go here for the extensive discography.)
Bisi wrote the track following the hellish night of September 1st 2021, when hurricane Ida broke rainfall rate records, bringing catastrophic flooding as the already over-capacity sewer system collapsed: Hurricane Henri had broken previous rainfall records just eleven days earlier. Bisi and Tim Wyskida (of Insect Ark) were down in the studio during Ida, wondering whether one of the ancient brick walls would breach as six feet of water piled up outside; a feature of BC Studio is its sprawling subterranean live rooms and industrial-era high ceilings. Wyskida speaks at the video’s end of his harrowing attempt to flee that night. Not only did dozens of area artists lose years of their work, someone was later found dead, floating in the Gowanus Canal.
The backstory goes deeper still: Gowanus is undergoing a massive rezoning, and ‘A Storm Called Ida’ is also a metaphor for the devastating hurricane of gentrification coming to the area, and the toxic waste being spewed into the atmosphere as the ancient brownfield sites around the canal are already being ripped up (an independent study released in September 2022 chronicled the toxicity that the Gowanus project around the canal was already unleashing upon local residents, a plan that VoG and others long contended was pushed through without proper EPA oversight or planning.).
Amidst scenes of flood carnage, Bisi’s dark humor is yet apparent (as in his cameo in Dylan Sparrow’s video for ‘Black Mayo of the Gowanus’) as he leads a tribe of activist beach-goers, swans and local mermaids (local musicians and artists) around the neighborhood. Holding aloft a trident, he appears like an angry sea god compelled to walk upon land to do battle, warning ‘we’re running out of time / the planet bleeds / super storms / super droughts / super fires / super floods.’ Bisi’s anthemic guitar lines, paired with the resonant bass and synth work of Diego Ferri, create an atmosphere at once urgent and restrained. Guest vocalist Sara Fantry’s (Weeping Icon) soprano ethereally floats over the top; a modern day Cassandra, prophesying impending doom to skeptics, gives the track an airy, lilting grace. Oliver Rivera Drew’s drums provide strident swagger, adding percussion like heavy rain pelting the rooftops.
If that night of Ida proved anything, it’s the danger of rampant over-development in already overbuilt areas as climate change advances. In ‘A Storm Called Ida’, Bisi has masterfully illustrated not only a foreboding picture of things to come as ‘business as usual’ runs unchecked, but has also captured the mighty, uplifting power of a creative community under threat, united in their cries of ‘enough!’
The single of ‘A Storm Called Ida’ features guest singer Sara Fantry (Weeping Icon), Oliver Rivera Drew on drums, and Diego Ferri on synth and bass. The video is directed by Ego Sensation (White Hills). Martin Bisi releases the album Feral Myths on December 2nd. Preorder the LP
Martin Bisi’s record release show for Feral Myths is December 8th at TV Eye (with Live Skull, Norman Westberg, and special guests tba). Tickets
Weeping Icon’s Ocelli EP will be out November 18th via Fire Talk; release party that night at Alphaville. Tickets