#7songs: Time to lie down and be counted?

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If you had to pick seven songs over seven days, what would they be? Music is all about where it
takes you. Why not let it take you somewhere brand new?

I recently shared seven songs that mean the world to me over seven days. I tweeted links to all seven, and have blogged about choices one, two and three through to five. I want here to expand a little on the final two songs… and mayhap even sneak in a cheeky eighth selection!

#7songs (Volume VI): Klaus Schulze – Bayreuth Return

Music is a language and a world all its own. It doesn’t need to be about songs. Music is all about where it
takes you.

I think all recorded music is ‘not silence’.

I dearly love ambient music. In a sense, all recorded music is ambient, as it’s not just the pure information of the music you’re listening to. Recorded music is always affected by the interaction of instruments, voices and the room in which it’s recorded (or by simulations and manipulations of any of these factors).

Invention and innovation can come from taking things away. Take it away, Douglas Adams:

“Some of the most revolutionary new ideas come from spotting something old to leave out rather than thinking of something new to put in. The Sony Walkman, for instance, added nothing significantly new to the cassette player, it just left out the amplifier and speakers, thus creating a whole new way of listening to music and a whole new industry.”

Ambient music is often music stripped down to its purest essence of ‘not silence’ (or maybe of ‘not quite silence’).

Bayreuth Return
by Klaus Schulze is easily the piece of ‘not silence’ I’ve listened to the most over
the past five years or so. I have no idea how many dozens of hours I’ve
spent engrossed in this, or allowing it to colour the world around me
whilst blogging, working or just plain letting my mind wander.

#7songs (Volume VII): Brian Eno – Deep Blue Day

Ascend gently to heaven.

My
seventh and final selection from this song-a-day run is the most
beautiful piece of music you could hope to hear. But I came to it via a
risible* route. The film Trainspotting – it is my contention – is a load
of cocky, overrated crap. The only excuse for this film to exist is that its
soundtrack exposed millions of people – myself included – to Eno’s
exquisite Deep Blue Day from his equally exquisite, otherworldly Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks record.
Deep Blue Day’s slide guitars are a subtle tribute to Eno
learning that the Apollo crew would listen to country and western from
their capsule.

Not only is Eno’s music worthy of your love, but so is Eno the gent. And moreover his mind. He is the most playful kind of
genius. I love the passage in his wall-to-wall wondrous 1995 diary A Year With Swollen Appendices
in which Eno is wiling away time in a swimming pool on his own,
and comes up with a game which involves making bouncing steps through the water while attempting to make as few ripples as possible. Imagine
if you will, gentle reader, how Zen that game would make you feel after
just a few minutes. Who comes up with ideas like that?

Bringing
this little selection of seven songs full circle, I must declare that my
love of ambient music is yet another debt I owe to John Peel.
He was an early champion of ambient house masters The Orb, which in
turn provided a gateway into a whole world of immersive, horizontal
music (like ambient DJ Mixmaster Morris said: “It’s time to lie down and be counted.”). Other all-time ambient favourites of mine include The KLF’s gorgeous Chill Out
album, Tony Scott’s Music for Zen Meditation (ambient Japanese-influenced jazz from the early 1960s) and Global Chillage by Irresistible Force.

I hope you will find Eno’s music as mesmerising as I do. But
should you get bored out of your mind and need some
Taylor Swift, that is A-OK, too. Music is all about where it takes you.

#7songs (Cheeky bonus pick): The next song

The best is yet to come.

The best thing of all about loving music is that there is an inexhaustible supply of musical wonders out there. You will never be able to hear all the music in the world. But if you open yourself to possibility, you will certainly be able to find music that excites you as much as any you’ve heard in the past.

Right now I’m excited about the latest waxing from David Bowie, Blackstar. At an age when he could by rights be sitting back and watching the greatest hits albums and tours roll in, Bowie instead chooses to record a bizarre 10-minute jazzful, krautrockful, Major Tomful and outright odd song about Isis. It’s almost as if he’d phoned me up and asked for musical pointers.** This is exactly the kind of thing I want to hear. I never saw it coming.

Bowie is of course always looking out for the new thing in music (cynics say vampirically borrowing the musical lifeblood of whatever’s hip at the time). I’m just speculating here, but it’s delightful to me to think that the music on Bowie’s Blackstar could be influenced by the more jazzy, exploratory extremes of what is for me the best album of 2015, Kendrick Lamar’s staggering To Pimp A Butterfly. Dig, if you will, Lamar’s song The Blacker The Berry (before clicking on the song below, I must caution you, gentle reader, that this is extremely strong stuff… an absolutely furious song about the state of racial politics and inequality in America in 2015):

I would like to end this by coming back to John Peel. I first came across the following Peel quotation via a tweet from @nubient sometime in the last 18 months or so. Peel’s words say everything about what I’m looking for in music :

“I just want to hear something I haven’t heard before.”

This. Always.

Footnotes

* Or do I mean wisible?

** Did Bowie ring me for musical pointers? Bless you for even thinking it a possibility. But this did not happen.

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