The first memory that comes to my mind is Adam playing “Breakneck Jane’s Fifteen Minute Escape” in Southeast Engine’s rehearsal space in my Athens, Ohio basement. He had just returned from a summer in Switzerland, where his parents were living at the time. Adam brought back a fresh batch of songs that were unlike anything he had previously written. These were songs that required the hero’s journey to acquire. As he played through “Breakneck Jane,” I was completely spellbound.
Shortly before Adam left for Switzerland, I encountered the writing of Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung after picking up a copy of Man and His Symbols at a library book sale. The book was mind-opening, especially Jung’s concepts of the unconscious and the archetypes. Adam and I had become good friends, and we would often discuss spiritual and philosophical matters. Before he left for Switzerland, I loaned him the book; it seemed particularly synchronistic (a Jungian concept!) as he was journeying to Jung’s native country. When he returned, Adam explained that he had read the book while staying with his parents and, combined with the Swiss setting, it seemed to play a role in capturing these new songs.
Adam had written some beautiful songs before his trip, but these new songs contained a mystery that only the unconscious can direct. Nostra Nova begins with “Voices from the Top of the Mountain” and “The Butlers and the Maids.” Both songs read like apocalyptic literature from some lost prophet’s vision of redemptive doom. But if the album opens channeling the collective unconscious, it proceeds through Adam’s own personal unconscious — each song glows with unique imagery and sensory detail that only experience and memory can provide. “Dusty Wing Spirit” unites fluttering moths with a voyage through the inner passages of someone’s body, while “Fate is Kind” links fake horror movie blood with avian transformation and, eventually, bowling. Despite the eclectic images, they all work together, communicating the same language dreams use to uncover our neglected sides of life. That dreamlike nature, paired with vivid sensory detail, has caused these songs to echo in my own mind ever since.
I must say a few words too about the music of the record. Nostra Nova is a testament to the talent of the Athens, Ohio musicians of the time. They gracefully arranged and complimented these songs in the production of the record. From the drums & percussion of “The Butlers and the Maids,” the Rhodes keyboard on “Dusty Wing Spirit,” and the awesome instrumental of “El Vuelo de la Paloma,” you can hear musicians working together to create a magical record. They bolster the songs and the sonic centerpieces — Adam’s voice and intricate guitar playing.
Over the years, I’ve run into people who love this record, and we get into discussions about the lyrics, the performances, and the artwork. In these circles, Nostra Nova is a classic record. It’s a record that continues to speak to those who encountered it and continues to reveal further dimensions. It’s encouraging to know that it will now find a new audience.
— Adam Remnant