Listening clearly, not critically

Oddly, since entering this (hopefully brief) period of unemployment, I find myself able to listen to records without skipping ahead and forming sentences of assessment in my mind; it’s a strange freedom brought about by an unexpected one, but embraced nevertheless.

Take Isis’ Oceanic, my accompaniment from Liverpool Street to West Norwood earlier today – never have I heard the record that gives this blog its name in such clarity, where I was able to weave between the lines of Aaron Turner’s thunderous roars, and the band’s titanic guitar work. I wasn’t playing it as a point of reference, retrospection for contemporary analysis of a peer-level release; I was playing it as a fan. In an industry that moves as quickly as music, it’s easy to forget how to listen for pleasure.

But that’s exactly what I am doing now, right now, as these fingers find their way onto a keyboard that isn’t mine (but I’m too much of an idiot to work out how to properly connect my acquired-from-work PC to the home broadband – tips on a postcard to the usual address) to the delightful – and that’s a word overused in critiques, but definitely accurate here – sounds of Stars Of The Lid’s And Their Refinement Of The Decline. I think I may have, belatedly, discovered an album to rank among my most loved. And I’m barely into disc two. It’s that immediate a hit.

And I think its impression is partially down to me not playing it for any other purpose but because I want to – no PR officer or label intern is pestering, I simply bought the record from a shop earlier today, after months of failing to, and have allowed it to fill the tiny room I’m presently hunched in. I know it rated highly on Metacritic last year – I think it may have made the site’s top ten based on aggregated scoring, or whatever system they use – but until now I’d never given it a chance.

Had I not been made redundant last week… or the week after (a downside to unemployment is that days rather blur into one, especially after a heavy weekend)… I doubt very much I would now be enjoying this music; chances are I’d be sorting through promotional records, trying to filter the best for review coverage. I’d not get the chance to go back, to pick up something special that I missed first time around.

On topic, I picked up Harmonia’s Musik Von… today too, although that rather predates Refinement. The day seems fine for the absorption of shimmering drone, drifting clouds of soft sound that pay no notice to pop structures. Truly, this is some of the most gorgeous music in the world.

Everyone should buy Refinement, right now. Assuming they can find it easier than I could.

(I still have to write up a piece on Fucked Up. This sonic influence on my mindset does not encourage the writing of punk-rock features.)


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