Sunday, 8 March 2015

Electric Glow (Tritonal)

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I would be the first to say that ‘Electric Glow’ does not have a great deal in the way of lyrics, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but the imagery of a higher intelligence ascending from the base, animalistic flocking of the first line makes a powerful impression.

The overall sentiment is one I identify with very deeply indeed: it hinges on the idea of finding iridescent traces that someone has left behind, drifting in their wake like stray photons from a distant star, and following that glowing trail with great determination. It could even be said that seeking such a luminescence has been the most meaningful quest underpinning the journey of my life, and the one pursuit that has contributed more profoundly to my evolution as a human being than any other.

I love the allusions to optics, physics, quantum phenomena and nuclear interactions. These are very sophisticated themes in the spectrum of my own emotional palette, and the elemental vision of lovers who “come alive in the moment we collide” is replete with powerful symbolism.

My visualisation of the way in which people’s ghosts interact is equal parts mystical, atomic and digital, and to me, this song seems to portray spirits as having properties of both matter and energy. The fluid and seamless transcendence of physically “pushing through oceans” to reach “the beautiful trace I was imagining” also represents an effortless comingling of the Newtonian world, and the invisible world in which I imagine most of this song takes place.

The very texture of the music -- and not just the melody and instrumentation -- melds with the lyrics in the same way, creating an exquisitely cohesive work of art. This is one of my most practical arguments when rationalising my enjoyment of trance and other electronic genres to people who are prejudiced against music that is not recorded using physical instruments: it is true that many musicians have painted astounding vistas of sound using exclusively analogue means and their imagination. But the ability to craft sounds completely from scratch -- right down to the very shape of the waveform -- opens up even greater possibilities for creating a musical experience that has never before been heard.

‘Electric Glow’ is at once uplifting, soothing, and mesmerising -- while also being a valuable reminder of all the opalescent brilliance that awaits, glimmering, on a plane which is beyond ordinary reach and experience. It is a place I look forward to visiting again soon.

Check it out on YouTube

Friday, 29 August 2014

Welcome Home (Coheed and Cambria)

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About two weeks ago, I started writing a Song of the Moment entry about ‘Brothers in Arms’, but unfortunately that moment was subverted by nearly unbearable work pressure. Today, I am so taken with a newer song that I’m afraid Mark Knopfler’s masterpiece will have to wait.

I have recently been blessed with a veritable deluge of breathtaking music, courtesy of a new compatriot at my day job. Although I have many favourites from this fresh collection, ‘Welcome Home’ is the one composition that has arrested my imagination most aggressively.

In many ways, this is a song of contradictions. For example, the relentless onslaught of the musical arrangement is wildly original, while also carrying distinct hallmarks of Led Zeppelin -- in terms of its Wermacht-scale monumentality as much as Claudio Sanchez’s nonpareil vocal performance.

The tempestuous gale of wailing split harmonics gives the guitar work unearthly and demonic overtones, at the same time as evoking an impression of nature’s fury unleashed. Lyrically, the sentiments oscillate between the violent reprisal of a lover spurned, and a poignant lament about unrequited adoration. Even the dynamics and structure of the song fluctuate from rage to tenderness and back again, yet at no moment is there the slightest digression from a consistent overall integrity.

This song comes from an album entitled Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness -- and while my love of verbosity is not something I would attempt to conceal, it is the firestorm of imagination compressed into this title that I respond to most strongly. And I’m not even going to start ranting about the fact that this is a concept album and ‘Welcome Home’ is only one of the scenes that comprise its narrative.

Although the abstractions in the lyrics are not quite so intensely non-sequitur, I have always been deeply moved by writers who are capable of building a cohesive whole from seemingly unrelated and often quite surreal montages of imagery. Jim Morrison and T. S. Eliot are among my favourite poets largely for this reason, and in my opinion -- whether this is through words, sculpture, cinematography or any other form of expression -- the ability to elicit a powerful aesthetic response with such disparate flashes of thought, is the purest form of art.

There is much more to the words in this song than merely an ability to create order from randomness. Lines such as “You stormed off to scar the armada” or “With truth on the shores of compassion” indicate a real talent for wordsmithing, and convey a clear visual impression despite their independence from literal interpretation.

Lexical agility notwithstanding, the overwhelming ethos of the lyric is as exorbitant and overstated as the music. The sheer conviction with which Sanchez spits out, “Now get in the ground” and “Like Jesus ... I’ll drill through your hands” is equal parts caricaturish and sinister. It’s not unlike when a person one doesn’t know very well throws down a distinctly ludicrous threat that is nevertheless within their power to follow through on, and their deadpan delivery makes one uncertain as to whether or not they are really joking.

For me, there is great richness in music -- as well as in other forms of art -- that is confronting to some degree, I find it more stimulating and engaging than what I would describe as things that are easy to absorb. ‘Welcome Home’ represents a listening experience that is unnerving to say the least, but it is also a conflagration of incredibly intense creativity whose terrible beauty must be heard to be appreciated.

Check it out on YouTube

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Blurry (Puddle of Mudd)

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This song is not all that amazing, objectively speaking, but it is intimately enmeshed in my history and has a special place in my heart. It’s one of the songs that reminds me of a person I was in love with for longer than anyone else; I met her when I started university and the magic persisted way into my 20s.

She was one of only two people I ever fell in love with ‘at first sight’, although technically speaking I didn’t really give her a second look in the first instance. But as with the other person I’m referring to, it was something that she said within probably 60 seconds of being in my proximity, that comprehensively blew my fucking mind. I physically felt the state of being in love wash over me “with the cold, sudden fury of a divine messenger”, to quote Jim Morrison, and from that moment I worshipped the divine aspect of her for years.

Although we hung out and talked on a number of occasions, she was never single at the same time as me, and even if she had been, I doubt that she would have been interested. To give you a glimpse of how far out of my league she was: she’d spend weekends climbing at Mt Arapiles and her mom was a professor who wrote the biology textbook I studied from.

Sadly -- and perhaps as a direct result of the psychotic intensity of my feelings for her -- I regularly behaved in the most inexpressibly moronic ways when I was around her. She was very patient and tolerant of this bugfuck insanity; even though I was never off my brain on drugs in her presence, I might as well have been tripping on a whole cocktail of hallucinogenics, considering some of the shit that came out of my mouth. I physically cringe to this day when I remember how inconceivably stupid I was, and I am agonised with regret that her concept of me is probably distant by a matter of light years from who I actually am today -- which is completely understandable in light of my actions.

Years later I briefly resumed contact with her, although I can’t exactly remember what sparked the communication. I had a chat with her online a few times, even helped her tighten up her CV for a prospective job in Canada; by that time my obsessive fixation had dissipated, and it was lovely to just be ‘normal’ friends without that extra factor complicating things from my end.

Tragically there was some residual neurotransmitter bullshit, and when talking to her at length I once again started coming out with such ridiculously bizarre shit that my mind actively boggles to explain it. It was very much like what Jim Morrison said about being “a sensitive, intelligent human being, but with the soul of a clown that forces me to blow it at the most crucial moment.” I don’t know, perhaps being fatally in love brings out my inner drugfucked poet.

It absolutely breaks my fucking heart, because despite all my stupidity, and regardless of my former fondness for this individual, I had the opportunity to leave a lasting, positive impression -- and I fucked it up.

Long ago, I made this person a mixtape (on CD), comprised mostly of the songs I’d written for her over the years, including the best composition I’ve ever managed to squeeze out. ‘Blurry’ was one of the tracks on it that wasn’t by me.

Even though the lyrics are not all that applicable -- considering her proficiency in Wing Chun, it would have been her  protecting my  ass, for example -- she and I were rarely in the same country at the same time, and the plaintive yet respectful tone of “I wonder what you’re doing, imagine where you are” really resonated with me. Also, this song was popular at a time when I was thinking about her a lot, so whenever I hear it, part of my consciousness is transported to an era in my youth when I was callow and irresponsible, but overall, happy and untroubled.

Which brings me to the present moment. Another song I recently dusted off made me think of this one with increasing frequency over the last two weeks or so. And this morning, right on the buzzer of 0400, I was wakened by ‘Blurry’ playing on my neighbour’s radio. It’s not a song that gets frequent airplay, so it took on the significance of what you might call a transmission from the infinite. I was thus inspired to charge out of bed like a rocket, as the old saying goes, and the whole preceding phylum of my life was precipitated into this Song of the Moment.

Check it out on YouTube

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The One And Only (Chesney Hawkes)

If you enjoy this song, please be respectful of its creator by buying it on Google Play or iTunes.

I was faced with a bit of a dilemma before posting this song, because on one hand, I believe being genuine is a cornerstone of living honestly. But on the other hand, some (small) degree of credibility is valuable. And let’s face it, this is a more than slightly cheesy number.

Then again, I had no issue with posting something by Def Leppard in this section -- although in fairness, for all their talent, that band is such a heat-sink for credibility that I didn’t have much to worry about. Secondly, I maintain that ‘The One And Only’ is an exceptionally well-written song, and thirdly, I am not embarrassed to admit, I have been listening to it a great deal lately -- and it’s made me feel like a million bucks. Because, most importantly of all, I think the message of this song is just brilliant -- and it’s delivered with a degree of artism and panache that belies its radio-friendly packaging.

Nik Kershaw, the person who penned this track, is an individual for whom I have no shortage of respect as a songwriter. His 80s classic, ‘Wouldn’t it be good’, had a strong formative effect during my childhood -- in no small part because of the meteorically creative PV, which in my opinion is among the best ever made. ‘The Riddle’, as well, speaks volumes about its author -- for all the random-ass stream-of-consciousness bullshit that it ostensibly is, it’s a long way from meaningless.

Kershaw has taken great care with the mechanics of ‘One And Only’, such as the rhyme and phrasing, while also building his argument in a way that is both accessible and inclusive (“you are the one and only you”). It’s performed by Chesney Hawkes, who was a very good-looking young man at the time this song hit the charts. But in addition to his big coif and innate charisma, he has a fantastic pair of lungs, and he carries off this radiant assertion of self-belief with sincerity and conviction.

By my standards, such a soaring affirmation of individual identity in the face of popular opposition is a quality that should be encouraged at every opportunity. In high school, I used to get beaten up on a daily basis because of how different I was to everyone else. Yet it was inconceivable to me that I should be anything but myself, and I was proud to continue being true to my values instead of acquiescing. At the time, songs such as this one reinforced my determination to prevail.

It is only in retrospect that I realise how significant a victory that was -- while also appreciating how important it is to support others who are struggling to shine in their own way despite being surrounded by hostile, cowardly mediocrity.

To me, that’s exactly what this song is all about.

Check it out on YouTube

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Papercut (Linkin Park)

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Kurt Cobain once said that “Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.”

After so many months, and several incomplete Song of the Moment entries, it saddens me that I’ve finally been spurred into finishing one about such a disturbing composition. However, I’ve listened to this song more than 60 times today, and this is testament to the skill of Linkin Park in so accurately capturing that distinctive brand of claustrophobic, unhinged neurosis that is destroying my inner peace at the present time.

The staccato verse is as relentless as it is understated, building tension and anxiety, while the mash-up of archetypal images in the lyrics is nightmarish and unsettling. It also evokes, with great precision, a feeling more familiar than I would prefer to admit. Which is related to another topic that has vexed me in the past: to what extent should I censor my expressions of self online when I am gripped by negativity and torment?

On one hand, I would love to portray myself as some indomitable paragon of optimism and determination. To be sure, there is a compelling argument about presenting people with an image of greatness to which they can aspire, despite the truth -- whether it is known or not -- that the real person represented by that image is just as flawed as they are.

Speaking for myself, I don’t see any functional reason to document all my shortcomings down to the tiniest detail, but by the same token, my belief in honesty ultimately wins out. Therefore, if I feel terrible, I will say so. If I am afraid, I will admit it. If I make a stupid decision, I will not pretend that I haven't.

If you are incapable of being inspired or motivated by anything less than an infallible vision of heroism, I’m afraid you will not find that here. I consider it hypocritical and purpose-defeating to present myself as something I’m not; if anything, I personally think people who overcome their moments of downfall are far more admirable than those with such an iron will that they never fail in the first place.

The face beneath my skin may be pointing out all my mistakes to me, but at the end of the day, my collection of mistakes is what makes me human. And even though papercuts are much more unpleasant than their severity as an injury would suggest, they are not exactly life-threatening.

Once they are healed, I have some pretty fucking choice words in mind for that voice in the back of my head.

Check it out on youtube

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Here comes the flood (Peter Gabriel)

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Many years ago I wrote a detailed exposition of the lyrics to this song, interpreting their wonderful diaspora of concepts through the prism of the Singularity, also described as the Technorapture.

Today this song takes on a new meaning for me; in the last few months, the circumstances of my life have become progressively more difficult and unpleasant, to the extent that I have actually experienced several short episodes of genuine depression. The unrelenting accumulation of negativity, in fact, was sufficiently intense to make me question my belief system and worldview.

Thankfully, I have managed to scrape together some modicum of perspective in this cruel and unusual onslaught of misfortune: I have started to see the pattern as a gathering of forces. It reminds me of nothing so much as the drawback that often takes place before a tsunami. There is nothing mystical about that, it’s a simple matter of physics, but it is still very dramatic to behold.

There is an old aphorism about night being darkest just before the dawn. That’s bullshit, of course, the darkest time of night is when it is midday on that part of the planet exactly opposite the observer. But the metaphorical idea resonates with most people, and in my own experience, it is a useful way to describe a very valid phenomenon.

There have been several occasions in my life when I have been faced with almost unendurable bleakness -- a very short time before the levee broke (to mix analogies involving bodies of water), and the forces of light once more flooded into my world, bestowing me with bountiful triumphs of the highest order. I’m sure many people can relate to a similar rebound from rock bottom coupled with a meteoric improvement in quality of life. Even if others only claw their way slowly back to happiness, while others still, sadly, encounter even greater hardship and it kills them.

Perhaps this way of looking at things is simply a survival mechanism; if so, then I welcome it, because it’s doing its job. If my intuition is accurate, though, then there is a flood of positivity building to a crescendo, somewhere just beyond my horizon. And that is a possibility I welcome even more.

Check it out on YouTube

Sunday, 31 March 2013

She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult)

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I am a big fan of The Cult. In addition to owning several of their albums -- which I legitimately purchased, and it is one of my little materialistic joys that I continue to buy CDs -- I saw Ian Astbury performing live with Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek once. It was a spectacular show, and one of the more memorable events of my life.

The band’s history is a tumultuous one, with a higher-than average turnover of personnel, troubling legal woes, and one Japanese tour that had to be cancelled because they wrecked all their equipment en route. However you would never guess this just on the basis of their music, which paints them as the epitome of an unassuming, distinctive, talented and straight-up hard rock band. I have never had any question of their artistic integrity, and in my opinion they are melodically and lyrically imaginative musicians.

‘She Sells Sanctuary’ has beautifully mystical undertones woven through its driving, energetic pulse; although it doesn’t feature the most poetic vocals that Astbury has come up with, it still gets its message across. And as with pretty much everything else in my internal firmament, it revolves around the most significant phenomenon of my life: the person who I think of as my sanctuary, the one individual who truly helped me find inner peace and who never fails to restore my calm when “the world drags me down”.

It’s a song I find hypnotic and arresting, but at the same time it fills my soul with ethereal veins of fire and opens my horizons to all kinds of magical possibilities.

Check it out on YouTube