A short love letter to the divine colour, beauty and joy that music can bring. Plus five records that mean the world to me right now.
The divine voice of music
Putting our trust in music can only serve to colour and to enrich our lives. This is as true for the musician as it is for the listener. Discussing his profound love of music with Malcolm Gladwell on the Broken Record podcast, musician Flea says:
“Any connection that any musician ever has with anyone is in equal proportion to the connection that they can have with one another when they’re playing together. Or if they’re a solo person, with the connection that they have with the divine voice of music. It’s equal.”
The divine voice of music can change everything.
Like any religion
“Music, should you allow it to, will eventually help ease your troubles.”
So says John Doran of The Quietus, in a moving piece on “an enforced break from listening to music” while he dealt with his father’s death last summer. For the first time in decades, music fell out of Doran’s life. He wondered if it would return.
Eventually it did. Doran’s love and enthusiasm for music renewed itself with full force on hearing Caterina Barbieri’s extraordinary album Ecstatic Computation for the first time.
He could once more hear the divine voice of music. Doran describes how he has come to view “music as a proxy religion or spiritual analog”:
“For me, after four decades, it’s now ingrained quite deeply and not that easy to slough off, even in the most stressful of periods, but like any religion, it does demand some faith in return. […] If taking my first unplanned break from listening to music in the history of this site [The Quietus], taught me one thing, it was to chill out slightly and trust in music more.”
To lift you off your feet
Music is at its most potent when it speaks to you in the present moment.
A piece of music might have been around for years, but today – right now – is when the universe decides that it’s time for it to touch your heart.
A piece of music might be brand new – it might be being improvised or composed right in front of you, right now – but it feels like it’s been in your heart forever.
Music is always ready to enfold you. To welcome you into its arms. To lift you off your feet. I’ve always loved Henry Rollins’ description** of records as being like soldiers permanently standing to attention and ready to serve, a benevolent army that has always got your back.
Just put your faith in the divine voice of music.
Trust in music more.
Five records that mean the world to me right now
Life is all about relentless forward motion. Life never stands still. The music that we love and which animates our lives never stop changing – even if it is how we relate to a piece of music that has been a lifelong companion. The music that speaks to me is always changing. So here are the five records that I am listening to the most – and getting the most out of – right now. What music means the world to you right now? Please tweet me or leave a comment to let me know!
Various artists – Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990.
Minimalist beauty. Gorgeous, ecstatic stillness. The divine voice of music at its most gentle. I can barely find the words to describe this lovely album.***
Underworld/The Necks – Appleshine Continuum.
47 minutes of musical bliss (although I would be delighted if it went on for much, much longer) from Underworld’s 2019-spanning Drift project.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Witness Tree.
Rodrigo y Gabriela’s music is unique, wonderful and transcendent. What they bring into the world is extraordinary. Speedy, intricate and virtuosic Spanish guitar instrumentals with a strong thrash metal influence just beneath the surface. So uplifting, so fresh and so positive. This is my favourite track from their excellent Mettavolution. album.
Danny Brown – Dirty Laundry.
A modern hip hop masterpiece, from Danny Brown’s incredible, Q-Tip-produced Uknowhatimsayin¿ album. Bonus points for Mr Brown’s quotation of Joey Diaz in the intro to the video for this song. “Livin’ like a doctah!”
Villagers of Ionnina City – Age of Aquarius
My greatest musical discovery of 2020 (so far). I chanced on Greek band Villagers of Ioannina City via a random YouTube recommendation.****
Their music kind of takes me back to the summer of 1999, when I had first moved to London and listened to Kyuss’ Welcome to Sky Valley and Tool’s Ænima all the time… It has that kind of expansive spirit. It’s so odd that I should have happened upon a record that speaks to me in this way on the day I published a post that in part rails against nostalgia. But you never know when the divine voice of music will speak to you next.
Discovering new music is the loveliest feeling – finding a record you didn’t realise you needed to hear, a new sound that was perfect. A particularly great example of this for me was when I first heard Negative Creep from Nirvana’s Bleach album on John Peel’s radio show back in 1989. I am thankful that I still get to be as excited about new music in 2020.
Sharing new music is a true pleasure, too. I took to Twitter immediately to let some friends know.
Now I’d like to invite you to share the music that is exciting you today. What music means the world to you right now? Please tweet me or leave a comment to let me know!
* Can we talk for a minute about the sweetness of Flea? In interviews he comes across as a tender, articulate and beautiful soul (in a way not necessarily always conveyed – at least to my ears – by the music of his band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Maybe one day they will speak to me). You can get a lovely insight into the sweetness of Flea through his podcast with Malcolm Gladwell, or from his appearance in the Amoeba Records What’s In My Bag? series. As a direct result of his chat with Gladwell, I am greatly looking forward to reading his memoir, Acid For The Children.
** Mr Rollins spoke these words in a podcast, but I can’t for the life of me remember which podcast! If anyone out there should know, please put me out of my misery on this matter!
*** Anthony Fantano – self-confessed/proclaimed Internet’s busiest music nerd – does a better job than I ever could of describing the beauty of Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990.
**** It’s delightful to me that the comments on this video are full of delighted testimonies from others who’d done the same, and just couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
- The main image on this page – and the greyscale edition, directly above – was kindly drawn for me by the wonderful paisleybittern (who also designed MJCarty.com, and drew my avatar). Please consider checking out paisleybittern’s work on Instagram.
- Baby with headphones via Wikimedia Commons.
- Flea via Wikimedia Commons.
- Japanese musicians via Wikimedia Commons.
- Woman with headphones via Wikimedia Commons.