A friend once told me a joke. Q: “What’s the difference between space pirates and depression?” A: “I don’t wake up every morning fighting space pirates.” The joke has become one of my mantras. Since then, whenever a select few friends ask how things are going and I’m under that cloud of depression, the answer is, “It’s a space pirates kinda day.”
While not talked about publicly much, depression is something many of us face daily and can often be very tragic. Long bouts of anxiety and fear, hours/days spent questioning the very motives for living and the inability to see beyond this moment’s pain can be severely debilitating (look how long its been since I’ve posted…), reducing even the strongest to tears. While many who do suffer from depression go on to seek medical help, some, like me, feel that this black space is integral to our creative process. Far too many friends and loved ones have been unable to cope with this decision and have since moved on. I don’t blame them, living with someone who is clinically depressed is an onerous burden and one most people should never have to confront, let alone commit to. I’ve grown to accept that. Unfortunately, seeking a way through alone can be very difficult and few are able to continue the fight throughout one’s life. My family history testifies to that. Each sufferer has to find their own life-preserver to grasp when the ship starts going down and depression begins pulling you into the undertow, and for me, that preserver has always been music.
Whether revisiting old favorites or finding new sounds to pull me through the current bout of darkness, music has been, and always will be, the single most important influence in my life. More often than not, though, it’s a case of finding something new in an old familiar sound. I first came across Entropy Records 3 or 4 years ago, (just after discovering Schall netlabel (a full blog on their influence on my listening habits is in order one day), another standard in my listening palate and a label that has released many of the same artists as Entropy, including, Axs, Djorvin Clain, Gabriel Le Mar, Lo, Orcalab, optic, p.Laoss, Slow Noise, The Marx Trukker and Zzzzra, to name a few.) Their new compilation, Entropy Records Sampler 2013, drew my immediate attention as it includes a track by one of my favorite new (to me, anyway) artists, Brickman. But as is almost always the case when listening to a new compilation from a familiar source, it’s not who you know but who you’ve just discovered. In this case the artist is Fischerle. Hailing from Poland, Mateusz Wysocki is a producer of deep dub techno cuts that are as inspiring as they are emotionally impressive. And of course, once I’ve found a new artist/project, I become obsessive, (it helps to draw my attention away from the depths of depression back into the heights of sonic inspiration.) As usual, as is my want, further delving into Mateusz’ work revealed several netlabels and sources, some familiar and some not. The first release I found was Standards on the wonderful Polish electronic netlabel, Minicromusic. 4 deep, dark stabs of minimalist dub techno that define most of their releases. Definitely a label I’ll be watching for in the future.
Having briefly mentioned Polish netlabel No Echo Records in my last post, I’m only just beginning to embrace the breath and depth of the Polish netlabel scene. Mateusz has had a lot to do with that. His first release (at least as far as his Discogs listing) was, on the Qunabu netlabel. No longer releasing material, they were able to provide me with his first release, wzrost ep, an unknown (to me) Brickman EP, Consume, and to turn me on to LifePHORM, which led me to Oorlab. But this digresses from the main thread of this section, Polish netlabels, so I will leave it to you to discover any of the aforementioned, if so inclined.
In addition to releasing on independent Polish netlabels, Mateusz also partners in one himself, Pawlacz Perski. A label so eclectic that it defies categorizing, it was founded on the principle of interaction and dialogue between artists and composers open for collaboration and sharing. I’ve been working my way through their catalogue for a few weeks now and it’s an impressive endeavor. Of particular note, though is the debut release, For Love of Our Kids and Cats, from Thomasz Wegner’s solo project, aimless driving. Combining acoustic guitar, field recordings, electronic music, various percussive noises and trumpet (yeah, really, and it’s awesome!), For Love is stunning. I can only offer these words from the release page itself as a hint of its beauty… “The tones of the volubility played melody are subsiding as the corner of the mouth after a stroke.” Like the music, that phrase leaves me breathless.
Fischerle‘s also has an EP on the Canadian netlabel/blog/multimedia extravaganza, basic_sounds. I’ve been a rabid follower of the netlabel since 2010, they’ve had an amazing run of releases in their short history, including releases from Dntel, offthesky, Textural Being, Pimilk, as well as 3 (!!!!) releases from the magnificent Radere (including their latest release in April, Radere’s A Pouring Out of Sleep.) If you haven’t listened to anything from this label, please, do yourself a favor and download everything now. Here’s a couple tastes:
(A link to the new Radere track is not yet available on Bandcamp, but this will do.)
Another tried and true method to help alleviate the depression is to run through some of my favorite artists/projects Discogs page in the hope that someone has released new material that flew under my radar or, when in a more adventurous mode, to scroll through latest additions to the Free Music Archive looking for inspiration.
Possibly the most effective method for me for calling the black dog of depression to heel, though, are the fortuitous moments when I discover a favorite artist or band I love has begun a new project. This, too, has come into play recently when I discovered Eddie Palmer, of the impressively innovative The Fucked Up Beat (who are releasing a couple new albums this summer themselves and I’m excited and honored to have had Eddie send me tracks for an early listen), had teamed up with vocalist, guitar, banjo and loops player Christine Annarino, in the inspirationally inventive Fields of Ohio. Building on The Fucked Up Beat‘s use of public domain samples and off-kilter, skittering beats and loops to create a futuristic beat poetry of sound and word, Fields of Ohio adds Christine’s intimate acoustic playing and detached, drifting vocals to produce an imaginative amalgam of early 20th century folk and blue grass, free-form jazz and IDM beats and loops that propel the listener through memories that never were and futures that will never be. I love this project! Their first release, (fields of ohio), on possibly my favorite netlabel going right now, HAZE, is not only breathtaking in its scope and beauty, it’s release page features words that sang to my very core, especially in those all too frequent moments of darkness:
“Now in the midst of the broken waters of my civilization rhythm begins. Clear above the flood I raise my ringing voice. In the disorder and darkness of the night, in the wind and the washing waves, I shout to my brothers — lost in the flood.
We have to sing, you see, here in the darkness. All men have to sing —poor broken things. We have to sing here in the darkness in the roaring flood. We have to find each other. Have you courage to-night for a song? Lift your voices. Come.”
The honesty, emotion and truth in those few lines will be carried with me for quite a while. As will this release.
Finally, if all else fails and new music is not to be found, I resort to the tedious task of trying to present the sounds and darkness in my head in the most succinct and accessible format possible. Whether digital manipulations of photographic inspiration, like the images above which accompany each of these posts and which can be found on my photography/poetry blog, unless you got lost on purpose (you would never get this far), or sonic distortions of the noises that cycle endlessly through my consciousness, this moments of creativity are often one of the few reaffirming instances in an otherwise brooding, claustrophobic day. Usually, these creations are solo endeavors, but recently I’ve begun collaborating with others to create compositions of deeper depth, though no less dark and ominous, in most cases. In fact, I’ve recently finished a collaboration with PhuctUp, the voices from the cave mouth smelt of death, and am working on another piece with him.
More often than not, though, these sonic abominations are created alone and can intimately reflect the mood I’m in.
Because this post has been more personal than most and meant to reflect on how music helps alleviate depression in me, I won’t be posting a Mixcloud mix as not enough divergent music was discussed, focusing instead on a couple specific artists, releases. There will be a longer mix to accompany the next post, though, I promise.
And that, briefly, is why I love discovering new music. In the end, each bout of depression is different, although all too similar. Each must find his or her way through the night and try to emerge into the new day. It’s a difficult and lonely trek, and if these few words are of comfort or assistance to anyone, then these long weeks penning these words will have been worth it. And if you’d like to comment or talk, please feel free to contact me. Just remember, I may not always respond promptly, as I may be struggling with my own demons, but your words will be read and a response forthcoming.