Premiere: Mothlights Shares New Single “Kelartic”

Dec 15, 2022

By Caleb Campbell

Photography by Juli Santizo


Mothlights is the new slowcore project of DC-based singer/songwriter Rishi Gupta. After spending his teen years in the punk and post hardcore scenes, Gupta transitioned to making folk music under the name Kindred Wings, and is now returning as Mothlights. Gupta’s latest efforts find him taking influence from slowcore luminaries like Low and singer/songwriters like Julien Baker and Elliot Smith, weaving them together on his forthcoming debut, Walking The World With A Leaky Umbrella.

The record first came about during an intensely creative period for Gupta, inspired by the feverish events surrounding the George Floyd uprisings, COVID lockdown, and January 6th insurrection. The project came together as a way to confront and explore the meaning of the moment. As Gupta explains, “Looking at the wave of reaction gripping the world, I tried to express the melancholic stuff I felt so that I could find militancy in the mourning.”

Today, along with announcing the record, Mothlights is also sharing a new single, “Kelartic,” premiering with Under the Radar.

As a song, “Kelartic” is intentionally disorienting, ramshackle, and beguiling. After opening on a dizzying sound collage of crashing noise, proletarian anthems, and smashing glass, the track gives way to a dreamy folk aesthetic, tinged at various moments with overlapping vocal layers, freeform jazzy melodies, and pounding syncopated drums. It offers both aural beauty and shapeless chaos, with wisps of melody echoing through the din to create an overwhelming sense of melancholic longing. Meanwhile, the lyrics meditate on language, dreaming of the words to describe the apocalyptic present moment: “I wanted to tell someone/Write a new language just for the end/With syllables sweet/Letters that crumble like buildings.”

Gupta explains of the song’s inspirations:

If you peer through the mist of some specific web search results, you can find a blurry webcam video of some old eurocommunist named Risyart Vendtaur singing the Internationale in Kelartic. He constructed the language entirely himself: lilting, proletarian, lyrical, and triumphant. Meant to be sung. Both the website to learn it and the man himself have vanished, save for some elegiac posts in scattered comments sections and blogs. What a loss. I found myself thinking about lost languages a lot as I wrote ‘Kelartic’’ because of how limited we are by the ones we have, drowning in the sheer indescribability of our times, nature, and rotting institutions looming over us like eldritch monsters. I have no words to describe Covid, floods, depression, 2 years of isolation. I prefer screams and crashes and rhythms.

This is a song about my trying and failing with the language I can wield to describe the sheer catastrophe of the last two years. I put a collage of found sounds under the whole song while recording it, at some point sticking my phone out the window of my downtown Washington DC apartment near midnight to record the sounds of the marchers going past in mid-2020. At this time I was stuck in my imagination, reading and writing a lot and eating disgusting amounts of restaurant delivery, trying to imagine a world where we all lived through this, describing what happened here with little noodly guitar riffs and speaking in Kelartic. We could perfectly capture all of it in this cool drowned solarpunk world of mine.

I think that’s part of why we like fantasy- there’s something melancholic and sad in the delta between our lived reality and the world we visited in the fantasy. I sat down to write this tune and came up with a christmassy little guitar loop and some piano chords trying to make this fantasy militant. “Kelartic” is a little personal eulogy for our world, our potential, and our stolen futures: the stolen futures of the Breonna Taylors of the world and the victims of Covid, the stolen collective future of mankind as the world becomes more rotten, full of sickness and petty nationalisms and cruelty, in remembrance of the beautiful songs we could have sung, the beautiful ways of expressing ourselves we could have found. Maybe it would have sounded like Vendtaur’s Kelartic. I don’t know. I’m simply, frustratingly here and now, grasping for words that don’t work anymore.

Check out the song below. Walking The World With A Leaky Umbrella is out everywhere next year.

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