I have a hard time doing nothing. Really good, honest nothing or as comedian Micky Flanagan so eloquently refers to it ‘proper f*&k all’. I think it is becoming a lost art. A time of consciousness when the brain just lapses into a low current mode. Dulled senses, nothing processed, zero output. I really did have a good try at this today. Pottering is about as close as I can get. Half heartedly bumbling through some nonsensical tasks in an inefficient manner. My brain is clearly running slower when I’m pottering, but its stuttering, like there’s bad fuel in the engine. It still wants to keep going.
The trick is to avoid verbs completely:
“Yeah sure I was doing nothing…” I hear someone say, “I was just reading…” ahh I caught you there pushing words into your eyes, processing literature. Exhausting.
“I was just thinking about my holiday next week.” Hmm thinking, that seems a bit like DOING
“I was just playing with my phone…” Nope.
“I was meditating…” I can see that you are trying to do there. You get an 8/10 for effort. But the fact there is effort involved means you are doing something.
Now you can see the issue here. It’s not easy just to slide into some sort of conscious narcoleptic standby mode. Especially on cue. We have surrounding us an extraordinary number of stimuli to keep our brains busy. The constant noise of the cities we live in, the enforced (self or otherwise) pressures on our schedules to break time into minutes and seconds, so that we can achieve all the things we need to in a day before we have to sleep again. Then there are the electronics that enslave us, crave our constant attention and put us in a state of panic if we think they may be running out of power and be rendered unable to distract us for a few quiet minutes.
Now there are clearly remedies to this. Switch your phone off, leave your job, go and live in a tree. Irreparably damage one or more of your senses. Move to New Zealand. That’s ok for some people. But for the rest of us powering the hamster wheel in the metropolis, can we have some peace too? Maybe we can. Maybe it’s about undoing the conditioning, turning down the volume and widening the frequencies. Not feeling the guilt of underproductivity. Allowing our minds to rest in their own floatation tanks. Or maybe we should just drink a bottle of wine and stare at the cat for an hour.
Music is no stranger to the concept of relaxation. Some music is designed to take you there directly. Potentially this is where I could slide over a D90 cassette tape of some indigenous north American spirit music (with native American synthesisers). But I thought I would try to avoid the obvious. Don’t let me stop you from breaking out the patchouli incense sticks and slipping into your cotton kimono though. Let’s sip some camomile tea and try to zone out.
And you start something and then immediately realise what a bad idea it is. So, the following songs hold a common theme of being slow, but they are also pretty great, so you will be listening, not zoning out. Hopefully there is still a moment of relaxation there though. Do me a favour and don’t do anything other than listen to them. Then I think we are getting there..
First up. Mazzy Star. This was probably the song they are most remembered for. Hope Sandoval has this sort of southern apathy in her voice as if she’d rather be eating steaks and lassoing horses, but when you see the live performances you understand that is pretty far from the truth. Fade into you is a simple song with a calm repeating rhythm that washes over you like a quiet shoreline and a warm sea.
Next John Martyn. I only just found out Martyn was British, but then I didn’t know too much about him so I don’t feel too bad. He clearly didn’t make it into the ‘Accents’ post as the love of American blues has influenced his tone. Solid Air, again was probably the song he was best known for. And even at 40 plus years old it sounds great. But with over 22 albums there’s a lot more gems to find. This song was written for, and about, John’s friend and fellow musician Nick Drake, who unfortunately stopped ‘living’ on solid air less than a year after this release.
Following John is Marika Hackman. With her sound she is always going to be compared against other female vocalists, from Kristin Hersh to Laura Marling. A fact that possibly influenced the big change between her debut and sophomore releases. The new album is on my list to give a proper listen to, but if Before I Sleep is a measure of the talent, then the change in sound won’t matter.
Finally, I’m going old school on you. Bill Evans with Peace Piece, just to wind you down into a healthy low frequency state but keep your mind alive with this genius of the ivories. Not many ‘fun facts’ about Bill on the internet. I found one site that lists a number of ‘facts’ including the revelation that he was white, had a slim build, brown hair, played the piano and his name was actually William. Marvellous, a site that I think has less value than this one…
For the video of the week I’ll give you Mazzy Star performing at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain view CA back in 1994. As one ‘netizen’ (I think that’s what they are called) points out: look at the crowd, no mobile phones, just listening to the music. Notable that if you go to a gig these days you have to stare across thousands of small screens all recording the worst possible footage of a live performance whilst their owners miss the event. Boggles the mind. But then I am old and clearly out of touch. Enjoy, and say Oooommm a little bit next week.