An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ooh, let's watch The Voice....Fuck Off

I was watching a documentary about the genre of music labelled Easy Listening or Elevator Music last night. I always find documentaries on any form of music interesting, it it helps oneself define genres or understand where certain types of music have come from and how the history of that music progressed. The one thing that kept repeating from the fan and musician interviews, was the repeated reason for liking Easy Listening or writing the music for that genre was to get away from the dark, the angry or the depressing music that was always around and escape to somewhere relaxing and free from stress and the anxiety of life. It came across as an escapism.

As an avid music lover, I constantly get asked a few things repetitively, why do I listen to such depressive music, what's wrong with listening to "Normal" music and what type of music do I like (or usually the conclusion cast upon me, that I only listen to very heavy rock music)? I have already touched on my interpretation of music to food - here

Other people can listen to whatever music they feel they want to listen to, why should I have any problem with that? I do get a little annoyed when folk try to introduce me to music that they say is fantastic when their tastes in music never veer away from the top 10 music chart or heard from a sodding advert on tv. Why do I get annoyed? Because I'm addicted to music and there is nothing more incredible than finding new music from an artist or band that is writing and performing now. The problem is with sifting through the thousands of new artists and bands and the music they create and finding something that appeals to me. In my experience and opinion, the best music comes through after tens of hours of repetitive play. One test of good music is how quickly it gets annoying, good music NEVER gets annoying, but in order to figure that out takes hours of listening.

So that huge amounts of my listening time is not wasted, experience has given me an ear for what I know just won't last the distance. Music made for the buck rather than the outpouring of an artists soul is very likely to go off quickly for me, so I tend to steer clear of charts and the popular choice from the off. Then there is the tedium of drudging through massive amounts of ok music, stuff that has substance, can be respected for the artists love of their music, but gets in the way of finding the real meaty stuff that stays with you for life.

It's difficult finding that music which is life affirming and has staying power and it can be a very personal decision, so it can be hard to find that music based on other people's tastes and opinions. To reduce the opportunity of finding any of that incredible music by being genre biased for me would be a sin and harmful to the quest of discovering great music.

But that brings me to what was remarkable about that documentary. Many of the artists and fans of Easy Listening music, saw it as an escape. The music let them escape from the harsh realities of their own life and the reality of the harsh world around them. It must be the unusual way that my brain works, because I have always had issues with escapism. Some of us seem to live in a modern western world where the majority of our time is spent trying to escape it, either through drink, drugs, partying, tv or even religion. The western world seems to me a sick society that cannot cope with life, even though they don't really experience the real hardships of life like the rest of the world does. A Victorian mentality is still so very prevalent where instead of facing personal issues head on, we try to run away from them using any shortcuts available. Everyone has issues to some extent or another and I have always try to live by the code of facing those issues, dealing with them, even if that just means acceptance that they exist and then trying to get the most of life from the rest of living. My philosophy has always been that happiness is much sweeter when forcefully produced by oneself than when induced by a shortcut or escapism.

I am far from proclaiming myself as any saint, far from it, all I'm doing is expressing why music means so much to me. Music for me has been a tool of confronting demons, facing reality, having an understanding friend with me at all times that knows exactly how I feel and cries with me, then lets me move on. I don't need happy music to make me happy as I know that the shortcut route is fleeting. There are constant things in life that make me happy because I allow myself to fully appreciate them, like just being in the company of my wife.

For me, art is life therapy. How artists have got through life, dealt with its trials and problems and whether they succeeded to deal with them is an artist's primary lesson, which goes hand in hand with the art they create and stands like a brother or sister and sits besides you, fully understanding every emotion you go through because they have been through the same and see no shame in what you feel. A person doesn't need help or a shoulder to cry on when they are happy, happiness is for sharing with real people in real time. So the therapeutic healing of music is for me always against what is termed as dark music. The term dark music for me simply means depth, depth of emotion, depth of meaning and not a genre specific term.

I'm not a Christian, a party pooper or a do-gooder. I believe that that in the western world we bury our feelings, shy away from facing our demons and use partying, drink, drugs and sex to run away from our problems in a belief that maybe they won't be there when we return to normality, which always happens and the problems are still there. In the long term, the short fix, short cutting solutions never solve anything and just make our troubles all the worse.

Easy Listening music has always been the obvious face of this kind of "Stiff Upper Lip" type of mentality, a mentality that has run through popular music for an eternity, from the old English music hall tradition, through massive multi platinum crooners of the sixties, to Richard Clayderman, "saxophonists playing the hits" albums, lounge music, cabaret and karaoke. At least Easy Listening has an honesty that it is nothing more than what it unashamedly peddles, my annoyance comes with music that at it's heart is Easy Listening, but pushes itself as something more serious, when it blatantly isn't!

And the worst is this modern trend that if something is old, then it's classic. Because the general public generally can't tell the difference between the genuine artist that exposes their deepest fears and feelings because it's the very core of what they are and the junk being shoved down their throats at a constant rate, the longevity of that junk, for some reason, becomes highly praised and respected. Just because a label for a boy band is very good at peddling the same shite for more than a decade, does not suddenly make that music any better.

Music is your personal love affair. Love it, but for gods sake, don't be taken for a ride.

That's this months rant over. It has been a slow month. For financial reasons I have taken a months sabbatical, which has made me very hungry to get stuck back in again.......


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