Holiday Wishes

Give me a sign so I can start the healing,
We shared the wine around the yearly meeting.

As I don’t want to be lonely this holiday,
I’m taking off my shoes and giving my body to the homeless.

I’d give you my remaining years to be alone with you, for a minute of your time,
To give you one last kiss goodbye and a warm embrace under the leaf dappled light.

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Variations on a Thought

I am having trouble conveying the feelings that I am having, the fact that I want to write, to keep writing, but cannot quite formulate exactly what I want to say.  At the moment I am finding a deep release through music, either through live gigs or listening to albums as I drive across the northern landscape of the country I inhabit.  Often, on a morning when I wake, I play the album in the CD player and wash myself in the tones of whoever is playing.  It is a sweet relief.  There is an immediate sense of  feeling, of a placement on a particular chord or orchestral swell, that rush of recognition that can only come with time when reading the words of others.  Yet I feel there is a deep kindred between these two methods of communication, two of the most important for me.  Yes, of course we talk, we can express our desires, worries, love and anger through talking, we gesture too, we can laugh or howl with derision, but there is something in the beauty of the written word, in the musical note, that is lacking from the babble that vocalizes forth from the mouths of both myself and of others.  What does this say about me?  I am not quite sure I want to know, that maybe I value the thoughts and beliefs of others, but worry about giving a voice to my own?  Perhaps.

This isn’t the piece or the time to give voice to such ill thought out ideas or half formed theories.  I want to keep writing, I want you to keep reading, I want us both to keep being creative, to tap into that font of magic that cannot be commercialized, crunched down to size for productivity measures or customer service satisfaction.  I feel in limbo, between the world of what is expected of us all as individuals, in a market where we have to pull our weight to feed our commercial gain, compared to a more utopian paradise where the value of a person is not placed on their output, or their labor.  It is ridiculous to think of such thoughts, ridiculous to think that I am free to think such thoughts, to moan about a life well lived.  But I do, we all do, no matter our position, social standing or inherent bias built into us.  We are all individuals and we are all a collective.  Together we love, destroy and displace.

I am having trouble writing.  I am staring at the computer screen each and every day. It is, I realize with a disgusted shudder, a proxy for human interaction, for skin on skin.  Yet still I come back for more, in the vain and vapid belief that this is a life well lived, that this is life itself.  Humans need the company of the animals and plants, of the soil itself, to know that we do not share this planet alone amongst our kind.  We are but one of many and I feel that this is forgotten more and more.  Ignorance is bliss until the world collapses around ourselves, and we are left choking on the markers of productivity.

Death has become a familiar friend as of late, in this last year of my life.  This may be the last year of my life, I hope it is not but we never quite know what is around the corner.  Surely we should grab it, if we believe it is so?  Yet still, I lie in bed an extra hour, to soak in the sonic variations and textural tones of the current album spinning in my CD player. Content to know that, for the time being, this is where I belong.  My limbs relax, my eyes flutter and close, finally my breathing shallows.  It is a mere shadow of true sexual ecstasy, but it is close.

Contend Peacefully

This blog was named partly after a 2012 album by the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend) and, until last weekend, I had never had the chance to see this magnificent band live.  Now that I have, I’m not too sure that listening to them on CD will ever be enough again (although it more than sates my appetite for the moment, as hauntingly beautiful as there music is).  There can be no comparison for just how good they are live, how truly monumental.  I’ve been lucky in the past few months to witness Sufjan Stevens and Godspeed live, amongst small local bands and friends bands (don’t ever forget to support your local bands and jam spaces!).  I haven’t wrote much about music recently on this blog but, along with literature, photography and writing, it is one of the strongest bonds of my creative life.  It is also a daily release from the grind of daily drudgery that is my current employment situation (something I am hoping to rectify shortly).

I also play the guitar and bass, albeit somewhat freely and only in semi-regular jams with friends where we all end up swapping instruments, but there is rarely a feeling like it when musicians lock together in a groove.  It’s hard to define and it is even harder to describe for someone that has never played an instrument, or has never played one with other people.  It isn’t like sex, where two bodies or more are locked in the carnal embrace, it is a feeling that is something different to that, knowing that you are locked in by the groove feels different – it feels exceptional.  It is even better knowing that you are a part of a community (a silent shout out to The Joyful March!), part of a rehearsal rota where you are all friends and invited to each others gigs, or nights sat drinking watching each other play in your rehearsal room of choice.  Even, like me, you play live exceptionally rarely (ok, almost never in the past few years) it is still a thrill to bang out some beats, some jams, and just to release.  To know that you are not chained down to the desk, that you are not a machine, that your job isn’t your life, that there are more facets to your character that can be defined by your daily feedback.  Anyhow, this is just a short note, a note I hope that makes you google the two artists above to discover their music and to entail your own meaning to theirs.

To grow as you hear, to hear as you grow.

Hibernation

A small journey begins tomorrow and when I return from it I will also have to return to the world.  This is something that I am having difficultly facing as I re-evaluate where my place is.

I carry you in my heart,
I carry you in my memories.

‘Don’t stop, don’t break,
You can delight because you have a place,
Quiet room, I need you now.’

– Majesty Snowbird by Sufjan Stevens

The Sand People

I tried to capture this awesome band, The Sand People, with a cheap digital camera at a bar in San Francisco – a beautiful city I was fortunate enough to visit recently whilst on holiday.  Trying, and failing I think, to capture it in a black and white Charles Peterson style, a style reminiscent of the punk rock/alternative/grunge era of the 80’s and early 90’s, predominately in the north western United States of America.  It is period of music of which I am very fond of – probably no surprise to readers of this site!

The photographs definitely have the swirls of movement, indicating the music and the activity of producing music itself, but lack the clarity and the outline detail of the musicians themselves.  Still, it is interesting to try different techniques, even if it is with a cheap digital camera as opposed to my slightly cheaper film camera!

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If the photographs are reproduced, please credit the author of this blog as the photographer.

The Mirror Is Gonna Steal Your Soul

It was late at night and I was driving home from work, driving smoothly over the flyover that was lit up like a tarmaced roller coaster in the dark.  The road was clear and empty, the air was cold, and the stars shone brightly above.  In short, it was beautiful.  For the first time since I had started driving I understood what the freedom of the road meant.  It was just me and the machine, cocooned in a nest of startling music.  I was listening to Sonic Youth’s 1995 album Washing Machine and I had the last song on the album playing on the CD player, a 19 minute magnum opus titled The Diamond Sea.  It was getting deeper and deeper into the trance like guitar work of Lee, Kim and Thurston, where I could hear the undercurrents of the bass notes, the swirling effects of the chorus shimmer, and the delay of the treble notes slowly build and build.  The feedback mounted and at times almost over-powered the car itself.  I was lost in a revere of beauty that these musicians has sucked me into.

Then suddenly, and without warning, those few lead guitar notes hit, penetrating the noise jam and instantly heralding a new direction in the song.  It almost knocked me sideways in my seat.  The guitar scratching started in earnest, and the incessant dissonant roar of the feedback curled in and over itself.  It was beautiful.  A wake up call.

Recently I’ve been re-reading chapters of Michael Azerrad‘s Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, a delightful and eye-opening book documenting and discussing the impact of the underground scene in America, which has lead me to re-discover some of my favourite bands and helped uncover new ones mentioned only briefly in passing in the body of the text itself (such as Glenn Branca).  I also recently ordered a copy of Azerrad’s 1993 book ‘Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana‘, and I am currently holding a copy of Kim Gordon’s recently released autobiography, ‘Girl In A Band‘.  Suffice to say I am looking forward to rediscovering both of those bands, their influences and their backgrounds.  In short I am looking forward to learning something deeper about both the music and the musicians behind the music.

If you need me I’ll be found curled up on the bed listening to, and reading about, some of the most important bands to me.

Freeway

She sat in the docks at the nearby industrial town, all tied up, the crew silent and still.  The cold February waters lapped at her hull, silent save for the call of the coastal birds skimming the water, intermittently casting shadows on the metal hulk as the last rays of the afternoon sun pierced the grey clouds.  I can see the seamen now, walking on the deck or talking in the control room, all able and ready to roam the ocean’s waves.  ‘Where are you off to and where are you going?’ I want to shout across the divide that separates us, the land from the sea.  ‘What do you do in your spare time aboard and where do you hail from?’  Those are the questions that plague me, make me desperate to jump aboard myself and skip abroad.  That great seabird, the silent albatross, could be my constant companion, my faithful friend as we roamed seas new and old, cold and warm.

Sweet Dreams

I mean… it’s not as if he is actually cuddled and surrounded by the music, nor radiating colours that blend into one another as the tempo or key changes, but he may as well be.  He’s sat at the back, alone only because everyone else nearly has finished work for the day.  He cracks on with the work though, piles through his expected target and carries on, pushing for the end that never comes.  Contact is maintained though, he enjoys the friendship of the people here but, at times like this, when there is no-one to talk to nearby, he’ll happily listen to the music and become truly embroiled in it, within it, all around it.  In fact he breathes the music in, fuses it to his very soul.  It clads the scaffolding of his skeletal system like a second layer of muscle, such is the reaction to what he hears.

The pace of his body, its autonomic functions and active movements become, in turn, a reflection of the beat that propels what he is listening to.  That, as a consequence, becomes the beat of his being at that point in time.  It changes only at the whim of the DJ, the flick of a switch, from hardcore to punk to hardcore punk to electric to magic and back again.  The finger taps on the keyboard, the clenching of the muscles continue, and even the closing of his eyelids are all timed with the beat that the heart follows.

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Let the Devil Loose

Again this is another short entry, but nothing can be helped about this.  I am currently lost in the fantastic wilderness that is Mikhail Bulgakov’s epic, ‘The Master and Margarita‘.  I am currently half way through the book and wishing that I was only a quarter of the way through instead, although even then I suspect I would only hope I was 1/8 of the way through!

Aside from belated reading Bulgakov’s masterpiece, I found myself back in an old rehearsal room this weekend with a good friend.  He took up the sticks and drummed and I took my beloved Jazmaster and amp and played.  We touched upon old riffs, a part of a Hendrix song, some Jeff Buckley (albeit briefly) and ended trying to emulate the wall of noise that My Bloody Valentine do so well.  I tried to emulate some of the circular guitar playing that Anna Calvi does so well (not circular picking as such), although I think I was only partly successful in this.  It is an interesting technique though and one that makes the guitar sound more like a stringed instrument than it often does.

Heck, even though my friend couldn’t hear me above the beat of his bass drum and the roar of my Blackstar amp, I also attempted to sing along to my own guitar playing.  Now, even though we have jammed innumerable times before, I am still a relatively shy person.  So to sing was quite exhilarating, especially because it was just a daft made up song on the post.  But it felt good, sounded alright, and it was quite ridiculous.  A fine mixture of feelings!

I managed to get a photograph of the last time we went into the same rehearsal rooms, of my friend playing my old battered guitar across from a quite column of a Marshall stack.

The question is, of course, are you ready to sing and to be heard?

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Music

Music reviews have become somewhat rare on this site but it is something that I am hoping to rectify within the next few months.  Personally I find music vital to the conductivity of daily life, its beauty integral to feeling a part of the great warmth of humanity.  It comforts me when I am lonely at work, cheers me up first thing on a morning.  But music doesn’t just inspire – it also confronts and invigorates.  It’s an expression filled art form on par with the written word.  If you can I’d encourage you to pick up and instrument and jam with some friends.  There really isn’t anything quite like that deep connective groove when a song or jam falls into place.  I’m not going to end this short post with a song as I want you to find your own song, listen to something new and challenging.  Change genre, change tempo, change style, change approach.