As we (in Europe) have entered the second wave of Corona infections and life is getting more and more restricted I have to admit I feel a bit down. One day I am more affected than the other, but it is something that is on my mind a lot. I find solace in rereading books on stoic philosophy. I am a big fan of the stoics, we could use some of their knowledge. At the same time I admit: living according to that philosophy is not as easy as it sounds.
And so I try to lure my mind away from the whole crisis; a little bit of distraction helps me find peace again. I find that art can undoubtedly help me. The last couple of years I’ve taken an interest in poetry. Currently I find the Russian poets I like a bit too heavy, but Dutch poets like Vasalis and Rutger Kopland have written poetry that hits all the right notes for me.
And of course there’s music. Not everything works for me. Some music I would expect to love has entered my life at the wrong time. There are a couple of records that I feel helped me. Yeah, music honestly can have some healing qualities. Allow me to introduce you to a couple of gems that help me to navigate through life at the moment.
Dark twang galore!
I really enjoyed Orville Peck’s album Pony from last year. I was very excited to hear he had a couple more songs in that vein for an EP called Show Pony. The downside is (to me at least) that as far as I know this is only available in digital form. I hope this will be corrected someday soon. Show Pony is cut from the same cloth. I treasure these songs, but I am left wanting more.
Luckily for me I have found an alternative that quenches my thirst for this type of music. Holy Motors from Estonia released their second album Horse and it operates in that same dark country area. This album is getting some heavy rotation here. The band describe themselves as “a dark twang & reverb band from a nonexistent movie.” I can live with that. Perhaps it is because of the description, but I can picture this as soundtrack for something film noir.
Dutch band Fleur provides something different. This self-titled album made me check if this was a re-release from an obscure French yeye-record. It is not, but it captures the spirit of that age very well. Check them out and if the first track “La Tribu Des Trompettes” doesn’t convince you that you need this in your life, I don’t know what will. This type of music is like the ray of sunshine we all need every now and then.
So far, far away!
Looking at my record collection you may conclude that I have a strange preference for local punk bands, local being European. There are a lot of European scenes that produce awesome music. I am not blind for what’s going on in other parts of the world though. Let’s have a look at Sial. Sial hails from Singapore and Tari Pemushna Kuasa is their second full-length album. Here, they unleash something truly cathartic by balancing melody and blunt aggression in short and catchy songs. The drums are frantic and… well, I love them. There’s so much drive channeled through them. The singer uses that well-known echo-effect. Something I love if done right. And she nails it.
Also catchy, but less-focused on speed is Aussie band Stiff Richards. Okay, okay, that name is totally cringeworthy. But give these blokes a chance, would you? Like with Fleur: if the first track (and the title track) “Dig” doesn’t convince you to spend some time with these weirdos I don’t know what will. Their sound reminds me of Bits Of Shit a little -- also Australian and also a very cringeworthy name, must be something in the water down there in Melbourne.
And yet so close!
Closer to home I see Mutant Records are on a roll with two releases that I want to shortly discuss with you here. These are the type of releases that involve so many labels I could fill this whole column by just naming them. I apologize for leaving the rest of the labels out, sorry folks!
Anyway, first up is Culebra with their self-titled album. Think ‘80s punky new wave -- or post-punk if you want. Everything is sung in Spanish and sounds very urgent. The kind of urgent that makes me want to translate the lyrics so I know what I am singing along with. No matter how urgent it sounds, the band never forgets they need to write proper tunes to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Then there’s Tentáculo who have released their debut album Cansados De Esperar this spring. It reminds me of Hüsker Dü a bit, but slightly more aggressive. As with Culebra I want to know what these guys are singing about. It sounds like something important. I also like the artwork on this album very much. It’s very dark, but very cool!
Escaping to outer space!
Where punk and hardcore provide the violent catharsis kind of music I dig and need, the metal I like best at the moment is more laid back. This is more the escapist kind of music that helps me zoom out. Escapism is not very stoic, I agree, but it helps me, so I am cool with that.
Yuri Gagarin is one such band. Their take on stoner or heavy psych on The Outskirts Of Reality is amazing. This is not the bong-worshipping kind, but the kind of stoner metal that brings alien landscapes to mind. Landscapes such as the one on the amazing cover of this album (which looks even more amazing on LP-format). They paint these musical landscapes without any vocals, which makes it even more impressive in my mind.
Now, I can imagine you wanting or even needing vocals. If that is the case, or if just one record like Yuri Gagarins take on stoner and heavy psych is not enough I would like to suggest you give Slift a chance. Slift is a French band that tells us about their visits to outer space through their albums and EPs. Ummon is their second full-length album. It differs from Yuri Gagarin in that it is slightly faster and a bit more psychedelic. The (relatively) high speed on the album gives Slift a different vibe, but if you can find the time to just sit back and listen to this album you’ll see planets passing by before your mind’s eye. Yeah, I guess that’s the big difference: where Yuri Gagarin takes the time to explore one planet, Slift is on the move and you are on board their spaceship navigating through the universe.
Oh, there’s so much more music I could discuss with you here, but let’s keep it at this for now. Like I said, these albums help me cope with the world today. Next to that I am blessed with a network of family and friends with whom I can discuss what bothers me, but the stoics, poetry and music help me to have other stuff to talk about as well. If you feel troubled, don’t be afraid. It is okay not to be okay. Just keep in mind that if you feel not okay for too long it sounds like it is time to seek help! Stay safe!