Loosely connected with my treatment, or should I correct that, lack of since I’m currently on strike and refusing it, I’ve managed to get myself on to a eight week mindfulness course, you know the kind of thing, connecting to the now, the moment, not reflecting or mind wandering, but more stepping back to be aware and observe your surroundings. Swiftly though, in case we lose the other reader into thinking they’ve mistakenly arrived at some ‘science now’ blog as opposed to a hapless music missive. I mention all this because ‘in your head’ by James Murray, taken from a co-opted release put out between Slowcraft and KrysaliSound entitled ’embrace storms’, has all the assisting attributes of a mindfulness meditative. At just shy of 21 minutes in length, ‘in your head’ is afforded the chance and space to connect and caress the synapses, its dream like harvesting delicately toned and almost invisible in detail, ghosts with a divine demurring occasioned by the destressing feel good calming tender of hazily radiant pulsars which, as the healing repair manual (mindfulness)trains and teaches, root you in a moment of connectivity with the eternal consciousness, the effect of which is both healing and strangely inwardly cleansing
Mono No Aware
Staying a second or so longer with the Italian imprint Krysalisound, us being enquiring folk, decided to take ourselves on a brief wander to their bandcamp site to see what else they had in their locker. Literally just released, we eyed Nāda Mushin’s ‘Mono No Aware’ from off which the track ‘to flow like water’ had us suitably smitten and indeed spiralling in its bitter sweet grace fall. Like a dying star slowly imploding in slow formation, there’s a one last hurrah sentiment scoring here as the cascades of sun bleached shimmering’s swirl with head bowed majesty summoning forth one last concerted effort to part amid a glorious rapture of radiant jubilance, utterly heart breaking.
My sister is my only sibling; I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose her. Two years ago, James A. McDermid experienced the unimaginable. The loss of Harriet (1975-2016) left a huge hole in his life, and ever since then music has been his lighthouse in a sea of grief. Tonal Glints is the second of two albums released in her honor, following last year’s Ghost Folk on Polar Seas. The new album has half as many tracks but is no less powerful. It represents a time in which the sorrow has reached the marrow.
McDermid cites Sophie Calle’s Exquisite Pain as one inspiration. In that multi-media book, the artist pairs photographs with personal answers to the question, “When did you most suffer?” One of the conclusions she seems to reach is that great suffering can lead to great art (although most would prefer not to have paid the price). McDermid channels his emotions into his music, and creates an echo of his sister’s life through the lens of loss.
Although primarily ambient, the music touches upon other genres as well, the opening chimes like field recordings, the highlight track “All the shutters are closed” an excursion into drone, the languid “I’ll take one who loves me” beginning like folk music before disintegrating into fog. But despite the changes in texture and instrument, the pensive tone remains the same. This is music about getting up in the afternoon when one had planned to get up in the morning, but staying the course long enough to get one little thing done. It’s music that whispers at a bedside so as not to disturb a loved one’s sleep. When words do emerge (“Within reach”), they dangle just beyond reach, like reminders in the clouds. Strangely, the album seems neither mournful nor cheerful, but stuck, attempting to pull its legs from the quicksand of grief. And yet we know that the album is evidence of the opposite: an artist fighting against torpor and ever-so-slowly succeeding.
Tonal Glints is about Harriet, but also about James, and the ties that bind, even beyond death. It’s a beautiful testimony about a continuing relationship, one sibling gone and yet not-gone. We can look through this window and almost see her; but in this case, even a glint is a blessing. (Richard Allen)