Be the Pariah, the first release in five years from Australian-born, NYC-based Ernest Ellis, begins with choral-backed performance poetry. It jumps right into his stream-of-consciousness narrative technique; it’s as if we’ve been looking for the bathroom and instead entered his studio mid-record.
Written over four years after his move to the Big Apple, and co-produced alongside Kelly Winrich (Nathaniel Rateliff, Delta Spirit), this fourth long-player sees Ellis engage the parts of his mind that many actively suppress.
On tracks like “Straight to the Top” and “Wild Dancer” Ellis makes good on his PHD in Late 20th Century American Literature. His meditations on grief, empowerment in isolation, acceptance, and depression proffers learnings not through affirmations but with play-by-play recounts.
The instructive yet playful nature of “A Depressed Card Dealer” could easily be thought to have taken cues from Marilyn Manson and Jack White. Yet elsewhere there are moments of calm – open ended, piano-led, with sparse strumming that bow to the vocals. Wonderfully curated and frequently brilliant, any erratic elements are a feature of the record, not a case of disjointedness.
Meanwhile closing track “Pariah Reprise” is an entirely new beast altogether. At over eight minutes long, the tragic parable about forbidden love and ignorance that ought to come with a trigger warning. But that would rail against all that Ernest Ellis is.
Unafraid to take his genre philosophies down paths least travelled, for Ellis, there’s comfort to be found in the uncomfortable. His ability to tell stories that are hard to hear, to look dark parts of himself in the face, is a unique contribution to a society that teaches you the opposite.
Ernest Ellis’ Be the Pariah is out now.