Dylan Wright's queer folk music traces the seams between love and violence

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A still from the video for Iron Gates
  • A still from the video for "Iron Gates"

Two men kiss in the video for Dylan Wright's song "Iron Gates," but that's not the queerest thing about it. The local singer-songwriter throws both "gay" and "queer" into his Bandcamp tags right next to "folk" and "acoustic," which prompts the question: If "queer" is a genre, what does it mean? This year has seen high-profile releases from artists all struggling to come up with an answer, from Perfume Genius's industrial glam to Owen Pallett's violin-streaked angst to Arca's dysmorphic glitches. All of them shudder against musical form just like queer identities bristle against the social form of the heterosexual family. Dylan Wright's resistance is a little more subtle—his debut solo album, As a Ghost, folds love in with death, tracing the parallels between devotion and disease.

The queerest thing about "Iron Gates" isn't the kissing but the blood that streaks it. A couple travels to the countryside in sepia. They hold hands, they kiss, they skip stones. It's an idyllic scene—until one man takes the axe he's brought with them and starts hacking into his lover, who's laid himself down willingly for the slaughter.

This intermingling of desire and violence can be found in plenty of queer love stories, from Brokeback Mountain to Mulholland Drive. When your identity is seen both as a target and a threat, physically realizing queer desire comes loaded with danger. "Iron Gates" literalizes that danger. It's a beautiful—and uncomfortable—short that helps make sense of Wright's use of "queer" as a genre tag. Watch it below.

Dylan Wright's As a Ghost is out now on Bandcamp. He plays Wang's Bar tonight.

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