Music Diary 2012 - Day 2
AFX - Analords (special playlist selection.) The first music I listened to was on the bus. It's a reverse commute, down to Croydon so I usually get a seat to myself to spread out, read a book, listen to music. It would probably be faster to take the train, but I like the transition zone that a half hour commute serves, rather than dropping me straight from home into work with the disorienting crush of a train in between. I'm reading up on portfolio analysis for work, so this is something which requires my maths brain to untangle the equations, which means that techno is the best thing for it. I've whittled the 5 hours of Analords (released over 11 EPs, most of which were about half an hour in length) down to just my favourite hour and a half, rather than carry the whole thing around on my iPhone.
I'm listening on new headphones today - well, new to this purpose. These are my studio headphones, closed-back Rolands which have the driest and most clinical sound necessary for recording. This is not , however, what you want for bus listening, and it's a bit of a shock. Add to that the total sound isolation of closed-back headphones and it's a slightly disorienting and alarming experience, to ride a noisy South London bus in glorious silence. Or, rather, not silence, but the pristine machine chatter of analogue synths. This is the best way to listen to the Analords, actually, not to actually pay attention to them, but let them operate at a subconscious level, flickering in and out of one's focus as a particular cymbal sound wafts into the foreground and then wanders off. I love the way that Richard D James is not afraid to let the music get fuzzy and indistinct, the warmth and humanity of these machine sounds far more important than crisp focus, layers of reverb. I've heard stories (it's always stories with RDJ, secondary sources, rumours and allegations) that he recorded all of these just in a room, with natural acoustics, rather than sending everything direct, like bedroom producers tend to do. The Bank where he recorded much of this stuff is in the process of being knocked down - you can see it from the train as it passes Elephant and Castle, all wrapped in plastic and scaffolding. It makes me sad that a little bit of musical history is being destroyed - Aphex Twin's legendary converted bank. I caught the bus from just outside it for years without even knowing what it was - but I do remember hearing weird noises there late at night, though whether that was the genius at work, or just the train, I'll never know.
No music at work, because my boss was in.
But on the bus home, I switched to School of Seven Bells because I was in an extraordinarily good mood, and wanted something I loved to capture my high spirits. It seems kind of silly to listen to shoegaze on these crisp headphones, but suddenly so many of the background synth programming suddenly leapt to life. I started noticing the "oomph" of the drum sounds. I was in such a good mood I decided to get off a mile early in Thornton Heath, and walk home through Biggin Wood and over the top of Streatham Common, especially as I could see the ancient oaks finally coming into leaf from the top deck of the bus.
And here's where the sense of place and music really kicks in, because I associate those woods with two specific albums, neither of which I listened to today - Julianna Barwick's The Magic Place and Radiohead's Hail To The Thief. The former has a picture of an overgrown tree on the cover, the latter uses many, many sylvan references in the lyrics. And yet, as I was walking through the woods, SVIIB's Record Store Day single came on - a cover of Kiss Them For Me, b/w When She Was Me. This came out while I was in Cornwall, and I played them endlessly walking that last, barren, treeless, windswept stretch of cliff between Sennen and Land's End. I played them so much that they have become irrevocably associated with that walk. To the point where, even as I was walking through overgrown, tangled English woods, I closed mine eyes and I could see perfectly the jagged rocks and the windswept path, and almost smell the sharp scent of the sea, the tang of kelp washed up by the recent storms. A completely unexpected sense memory trigger, and yet a very welcome one.
And this evening, after I tumbled home, happily exhausted by my walk, I'm going to try to patch together the few 15 second bits of animation that I was supposed to use to make a video for SVIIB's competition, which I'll never have the time to finish. (Alas.) So it will probably be SVIIB for the rest of the night.