A Letter From Your Friend

Dear John,

Forgive the state of this paper that I write on to you now.

There is no sleep in this house now, there is only the ongoing pain at the long and drawn out suicide of humanity, that final desperate cry that is falling on deaf ears the world over.  Our cities, our towns, and our villages are burning in this fever, we are being choked as the very oxygen of life itself is sucked into this unremitting chaos, this rack and ruin of our modern world.  I know you have felt true pain in your life John, as I have mine, but this is unlike anything that we have seen before.  There is no glory in death, no beauty in execution, no mercy in torture.

Man is at the mercy of fellow-man, and that well of mercy has reached its bitter and turgid end.  It is dry, bone dry, and we have resorted to barbarity to replace what we have lost.

Even as I write this letter to you now I can hear the engines of jeeps prowling the street, the siren call for retribution wailing into the night.  I can hear the distant thud of artillery threatening the very capital.  The sands of our land are choking on the blood of its people, spilt time and time again.  I have seen inhumane scenes, of neighbour killing neighbour, of families split by invisible sectarian lines, of death squads rampaging across the city executing those it hates on sight.  I have lost the beauty that I once found in life itself, and it has been replaced by those faces that I see day in and day out.  The faces that are willing to kill and to maim if you do not abide by their rules.

I cannot believe that these people have families that lovingly raised them to be citizens of the world, that were ensconced in the beauty of our religion from birth.

It would be a lie, a certain and death-defying lie, to tell you that I did not fear for my immediate future.  There is no hope in munitions, helped either in its aim by the barrel of a gun or of a bomb held securely in the bay of distant plane.  In that sense, they both share the same problem in that they only kill and main and alienate – they do not heal, they do not bring together the families of those that are at war with each other.

The news is the same the world over, each country fighting its own personal war against the populace.  I pray for you my brother, as I shall pray for your family as you pray for mine.  May we find each other again in a garden of peace.

Yours sincerely,

Abdulrahman M.

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An Ensemble

He sat at his computer, which was slotted into a row of sleek modern desks, and wondered if the people around him thought the same thoughts as he did.  What am I doing here?  Who do I want to be?  Why am I here?  He couldn’t give you an answer to those questions but he could tell you that he certainly did not want to be sat here, staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day, doing a thankless task.  He was sure no-one around him was passionate about their jobs, how could they be processing invoices?  The daily target was forever ahead of the workers who sat there in their seats, waiting to be reached and only ever glimpsed during the last 30 minutes or so of the shift.  The rules and regulations for dealing with the invoices changed every day yet no-one was keeping a record.  If one were kept it would highlight the gentle flowing sands of the companies that had merged, moved or stopped trading, obeying no reason or rule.

Every now and again a gentle exasperated grunt could be heard from his left as Jonathan came across another angry supplier email, a confused scrawl of mis-tallied hours or a digital trail that led nowhere and everywhere across his G drive.  The person to his right remained stoical in nature, possibly focusing on that first taste of the cold air he would take as he walked free from his shift and into the dark crisp night.

He tried to remind himself that everybody experienced this, that most people were just passing through, waiting to be clutched by the claws of academia again, or to take that better paid and more challenging job.  Yet each time he looked at his boss, invigorating for his leadership but looking decidedly lost in himself, he felt that this was not the arena for him.  This was not the path that he had hoped to take in life, where every day felt like a month, and every month felt like a year.

The targets remained unreached, the chair was left empty, and the computer was turned off.  Yet this is not the end, it is only the beginning.

Fever Ray, The Knife and Planningtorock

I have recently been listening to Fever Ray, an electronic artist who I admire and greatly respect.  Fever Ray is perhaps better known as one half of The Knife, a Swedish electronic band formed in 1999, consisting of the brother and sister Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson.  Fever Ray, Karin’s musical alias, has so far released one full length self titled solo album back in 2009.  The Knife have also recently collaborated with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock to produce ‘Tomorrow, In A Year‘, an electronic opera based on Charles Darwin’s book ‘On the Origin of Species’, for a Danish theatre company, which was released in 2010.  I should probably mention here that ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ is quite unlike anything The Knife have done before.  As this review clearly mentions there are moments, often long, where the listener can feel underwhelmed, but, with perseverance, it does pay off with beautifully crafted songs that help to explore and share Darwin’s ideas of the natural world.  The one standout track is ‘The Colouring of Pigeons‘, an 11 minute mini magnum opus that helps to showcase the combined talents of all the artists involved, as well as some quite interesting opera singing.  However, as much as I’d tout that particular song, it is well worth listening to the album in full to feel the magnificent effect of ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’.

The Knife first came to my conscious attention at a house party in my 1st year at University, where upon hearing the opening bars of the song ‘Heartbeats‘ I instantly became enthralled.  It may be in part due to the free-flowing beer and my relaxed state of mine, but the song perfectly complimented the house party atmosphere with the dark makeshift dance floor in the living room padded out with the big booming bass speakers.  The song, and that moment, is fixed in my mind as a black and white scene, for the pure raw emotion of the memory.  I have linked the live version of the song because the live DVD of The Knife in concert is invigorating, with its mixture of screens and multimedia projections.  The performance of the band in masks highlight the personal choices of The Knife, with regards to publicity and marketing.  it was shortly after hearing ‘Heartbeats’ that I ordered my first Knife CD (‘Deep Cuts’, which includes ‘Heartbeats’), and trawled through their back catalogue.  Earlier albums include the 1st self titled album (2001), the soundtrack for the ‘Hannah Med H‘ film (2003), and ‘Deep Cuts (2003)’.  The release of ‘Silent Shout‘ in 2006, their most recent album, was noted for its darker sounding songs and lyrical content, whilst the ‘Silent Shout- An Audio Visual Experience‘ DVD was also released in the same year.  A new CD is slated for release this year, but no details can be ascertained as of yet.

Planningtorock and Mt. Sims are both currently based in Berlin, Germany, which is a city that lies close to my heart and lingers often in my thoughts.  Having heard of both of these acts through the ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ album I investigated them further, and became entranced by ‘W‘, an album released in 2011 by Planningtorock.  It is a carefully crafted album that explores electronic pop through its dark and sometimes grueling landscape.  Planningtorock has stated that by allowing distortion on her voice it lets her play around with both sound of the gender and of the emotional feeling of the songs on album, and it is a strong record, perfectly capturing her playful side but also including dark melancholic themes.  Perhaps two of my favourite songs from ‘W’ include ‘The Breaks‘ and ‘Going Wrong‘.  Where ‘The Breaks’ explores the fragility of the human with frank and often startlingly lyrics with a throbbing beat, whilst ‘Going Wrong’ lures the listener with lush strings and turns slowly sinister.  They are both gems to beholden, and the videos to both songs are simple in design but remain disconcerting and ever so slightly surreal.  Over at the Guardian website there is an interview with the Bolton born musician describing her feelings on her second album ‘W’, whilst the Pitchfork.com reviews the album and highlights some of the themes prevalent in both The Knife and Planningtorock.

Now this is where I have to admit to not having heard much of Mt. Sims, but what I have heard I have thoroughly enjoyed.  This shall shortly change.  In the meantime enjoy one of my favourite songs of the Fever Ray album, ‘Leave the Streets Empty For Me’.  As with the majority of the videos for Fever Ray, this video is a marvelous example of the pairing of artistic vision and medium, with both the song and the video helping to accentuate each other.  Enjoy…