Author Archives: Time Lord
I’m somewhat mystified by the accusations of arrogance and hubris against Steven Wilson. The remarks I read him making don’t strike me as being uttered in that spirit.
He strikes me, rather, as more of a Peartian “most endangered species”: viz., “the honest man.” The evidence brought forward against him, as evidence of his alleged ego, seems to me, rather, to be evidence for his lack of ego.
He frequently stresses how art holds up a mirror in which we can find a common experience. This seems to me to be the opposite of an egoist who insists on his own special uniqueness.
Here is Wilson’s spiritual apologetic for how he operates; I think he does quite well correcting the unfair misunderstandings about him with his own words:
With Grace for Drowning, I was moving into the next phase of my creativity, which is a balance between me as a producer, editor or architect, and being able to draw on musicians that are more spiritual in how they approach music.
I suppose as a catch-all, you could say “spiritual” just means “done for the right reasons.” What I mean by that is there is no attempt on this album to fit the music into a specific market or genre, or appeal to the existing base, managers or record companies. I’m not suggesting I’ve ever done that, because I’m pretty much incapable of doing that. [laughs] I think I have a willful streak in me in that whatever I do, I have to do it in a way that ultimately pleases me. So, being spiritual in that sense is a need to get in touch with my own soul to fulfill my own creative needs.
The music industry is full of people that are clearly not being fulfilled by their work. They do things for reasons that are perhaps different from when they started or when they first fell in love with the whole creative process. There are plenty of people doing it for the same reason as when they fell in love with music—I’m not suggesting I’m unique in that respect. But the industry all too often crushes people into thinking they have to make music to please other people. That situation is the antithesis of spiritual music. The bottom line is spirituality means something that touches you and can touch other people as well. It’s the idea that art is a kind of mirror. You create something in a very selfish way and then when you release it into the world, it becomes a mirror. If other people see themselves reflected back in what you’re doing, then there is a sense of touching people. Touching people means making people understand that they’re not alone in feeling the emotions they’re feeling. In that sense, spiritual music is about making people feel they are part of a collective consciousness. None of the things we feel in this world are unique to us, no matter how bad or good they may feel.
I think that if one listens to Wilson’s new album sine ira et studio (to use Tacitus’ apposite phrase) then one might conclude this is the finest album of the year (nota bene: Dave Kerzner’s New World is excluded only on the technicality that it was half-released last year already, in order to avoid any conflict between these two masterpieces).
Wilson is hardly some small-minded egoist who merely steals from others and recycles without attribution. People are free to prefer the work of other artists, but it is hardly fair to make invidious comparisons that pronounce Wilson merely a lesser version of one’s own favorite artists. He does not seem to be jockeying for position or rank, but rather has loftier, more spiritual goals.
The words I have quoted above, I think, are truly spoken in the spirit of Rush’s “Spirit of Radio,” and thereby illustrate that Wilson is not simply an artist with talent, but also an artist with unusual integrity.
No wonder he finds himself a target.
The title track, Hand Cannot Erase, which is already available, explores the theme of the transcendence of love. Significantly, it is a hopeful affirmation, albeit a fragile one, offered amidst the brokenness unflinchingly explored by the album’s other songs.
Perfect Life, for example, depicts the main character’s ecstatic discovery, at the age of 13, of a sister she never knew. They become best friends, but their “perfect life” together lasts only for six months.
The narrative relates how their family life is again shattered. Once more, brokenness eclipses the moments of bliss: “For a few months everything about our lives was perfect. It was only us, we were inseparable. Later that year my parents separated and my sister was rehoused with a family in Dollis Hill. For a month I wanted to die and missed her every day.”
Wilson’s album also includes a lengthy track, Ancestral, that to my mind offers the most frightening sonic depiction ever rendered of the weight of original sin, of the weight of the guilty dragging down the innocent. Remarkably, Wilson’s song cycle ends by presenting the main character’s death in the luminous context of a celestial boys’ choir breaking though a rainstorm. There is a return to the happy sounds of innocent children playing in a playground, sounds first heard at the beginning of the album.
Mark Judge on his Pop Culture Detox with ECM:
Most ECM records are still produced by label founder Manfred Eicher. They have become known and respected for their meditative, contemplative quality. In the era of digital compression, this is music that is given space to breathe. ECM is also known for its album covers, which often feature impressionistic photographs of nature, or a city at night or in the rain. Taken together, the ECM experience is like a prayerful retreat, one that can be enjoyed by the religious and non-religious alike. It’s a way of eliminating the distractions in your life for a few hours, or a few days, or even a lifetime if you’re a monk. It’s not about being alone or having “me time,” but opening yourself to the presence of something bigger—God, or silence, or the simple wonder of the universe.
Okay, I was clearly too hasty in my earlier attempt at formulating an inductive hypothesis and comprehensive generalization from that one example of a terrible Rush video.
The video to “Subdivisions,” for example, is awesome. It captures nice footage of the band playing (which any good Rush video must have in abundance) as well as adding suggestive “real life” footage related to the lyrical themes.
The song itself is a perfect example of what a great band can do when they engage in bold musical explorations and do not let their future be defined by their past.
They can hit it out of the park!
Admit it: all of Rush’s videos look ridiculous.
As time passes, that fact grows more and more undeniable.
Every single one of their videos deserves to mocked MST3K-style.
So, to get things started, here is “Time Stands Still“…
Adrian Thrills on Björk’s Vulnicura:
A diary-like album begins by documenting a relationship in its death throes. On melodic opening track Stonemilker, written before the break-up, Björk sings like a veteran soul diva about her need for ‘emotional respect’.
Growing aware of the warning signs, however, she then admits: ‘I’d better document this.’ And document it she does. By the mid-point of the album, the misery is palpable.
When Björk does a big heartbreak ballad, the sense of wintry desolation is all-consuming, and Black Lake — a ten-minute epic in which one particular chord lasts for 30 seconds — is almost too discomforting to listen to.
Much the same goes for Family, a long, tuneless dirge that is Vulnicura’s low point, both musically and in terms of the singer’s ability to come to terms with heartache. But the darkest hour leads to a new dawn. With Antony Hegarty on backing vocals and Björk singing about ‘dancing towards transformation’, Atom Dance is jaunty and life-affirming, while Mouth Mantra finds her rediscovering her own voice.
Björk knows things aren’t quite so simple. With the final track Quicksand examining the damage a broken union can inflict on subsequent generations, her unflinching honesty remains.
Two decades after leaving indie band The Sugarcubes to turn solo, she hasn’t lost her capacity to surprise.
Listen to this excellent interview with Steven Wilson.
Wow! Dave Gregory plays on the new album too!
When I was 13 I had a sister for 6 months. She arrived one February morning, pale and shellshocked, from past lives I could not imagine. She was 3 years older than me, but in no time we became friends.
We’d listen to her mix tapes; Dead Can Dance, Felt, This Mortal Coil…
She introduced me to her favourite books, gave me clothes, and my first cigarette.
Sometimes we would head down to Blackbirds moor to watch the barges on Grand Union in the twilight.
She said “The water has no memory”.
For a few months everything about our lives was perfect.
It was only us, we were inseparable.
Later that year my parents separated and my sister was rehoused with a family in Dollis Hill.
For a month I wanted to die and missed her every day.
But gradually she passed into another distant part of my memory.
Until I could no longer remember her face, her voice, even her name.