This week felt heavy, swallowed by darkness, but I worked through it and kept pushing. I climbed up until I felt the final warmth of the sun on my skin. I got on my bike and kept going, further every day. I had some hard talks with those closest to me, and I now feel a peaceful sense of clarity about this moment in life.
I also listened to some amazing new music that both eased and enhanced my journey.
Colin Stetson – Sorrow, a Reimagining of Górecki’s 3rd Symphony
I’ve always succumbed to a deep well of feeling every time I listened to Henryk Górecki’s third symphony, but I’m getting a genuine, shuddering new feeling from this radical take. It’s harder, more propulsive in places, but Stetson knows when to pull back, really luxuriate in the emotions, express that languid despair that this piece is known for.
Górecki’s most well-known work, perhaps the absolute standard when it comes to mournful modern classical music, is a personal favorite of mine. I played it after both of my parents died. I even listened after my cats passed away. This music evokes perhaps the purest expression of sadness I’ve ever heard. Some music is perfect for anguish, some for anger, and some for absolute despair. Symphony No. 3 is sadness distilled, a cathartic listen if there ever was one.
This symphony was my introduction to holy minimalism, a term coined to describe the work of Górecki, Arvo Pärt, John Taverner, and a handful of others. If you’ve ever watched a Terrence Malick film, you’ve heard these guys.
A lot of music goes for emotion with brute force and speed, but for world weary people like me, thinking we’ve heard it all, the effect merely bounces back. On the contrary, a piece like this worms its way into my heart, teasing out the latent despair, the old memories of loss and being lost. To borrow a phrase from David Lynch’s Dune, the slow blade penetrates the shield. This symphony slips right into soul.
If you’re thinking it sounds too close to the bestselling 1992 recording with soloist Dawn Upshaw, just hang on for the ride. About halfway through you’ll notice a new element cropping up, locking in like a missing puzzle piece. I won’t spoil the surprise. Stetson has introduced a new layer of weight to this old familiar piece, and I can’t get enough. God, it’s so fucking beautiful.
You can listen to the entire piece here:
Cocainejesus – We’re Worried About You
Cocainejesus just released the best new album on Dream Catalogue since 2814’s epoch-defining 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day) and I cannot get enough of it. We’re Worried About You introduces a new chapter for the prolific label.
I’ve written about Dream Catalogue quite a bit over the past several months, observing the label as it grows and expands, its signature aesthetic evolving while retaining its core identity. I’ve immersed myself in the incredible mind-bending works from HKE, Nmesh, R32X, t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 – 柔らかい唇, and so many more. I slowly formed a basically concrete picture of what the label meant to me.
Cocainejesus just smeared that picture beyond recognition. We’re Worried About You takes off and leaves vaporwave behind. The album is loaded with syrup-slow synths, hip-hop drum programming, backmasked female vocals, and a tender but heavy atmosphere; I can’t help but remember the pinnacle of trip-hop, the sound of acts like Massive Attack and Portishead at the peak of their powers. At the same time, there’s a moody sense of exploration, of extraterrestrial broadcasts, of a history that never was, being unearthed. It’s the uncanny valley of my own memory.
As a friend pointed out today, the opening notes recall Björk’s All Neon Like, a touchstone of late 90s electronic pop production. I can’t think of a better jumping off point than mentioning this connection. You can listen to the whole album right here.
You can buy the album on cassette or CD (2016 is really starting to feel like my childhood) on the Bandcamp page.
World of Tomorrow
This is, simply put, the most fun, engaging, and thoughtful science fiction film in a long, long time. The fact that it runs a mere 16 minutes only means that there’s more opportunity watch it, absorbing every clever detail and loving it even more.
Created by Don Hertzfeldt, a man you probably know from the “my spoon is too big” animated short, Rejected, this remarkable story concerns a small girl named Emily. One day, she is visited by an advanced clone of herself from 227 years in the future. An incredible conversation ensues as the multi-generational clone explains the broad strokes of human advancement in the meantime, touching on the particular moments that had great meaning for herself. It’s an engaging splash of speculative fiction, a sarcastic oral history of the future, and a deadpan comedy of wits all at once. The best part is that the original Emily is voiced by a real life child, whose nonplussed reactions bring a burst of overt humor and levity to the heady discussion.
The film is also a sensory wonder, using massive color shifts, minimalist character designs, and beyond-immersive audio to transport the audience as much as Emily Prime is transported to the future.
You can see the trailer here. The full movie is on Netflix. It’s barely more than a quarter hour; just go for it.