I can scarcely believe that I have limits, that I am outlined and defined. I feel myself to be dispersed in the atmosphere, thinking inside other creatures, living inside things beyond myself. - Clarice Lispector
It’s been a very formless year for me. This word has continually cropped up in my life, not just in my online endeavours but in my day to day experiences and, increasingly, in informing my own perspective on the world. I have always held the belief that the pursuit of definition is a futile one, that rules are crushing impositions, that there is a place for structure though mostly we must embrace uncertainty. This past year I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the beautiful ambiguity of many things while coming to understand that the rapid change of modern life is incredibly exciting; it should not be feared but celebrated. I believe this is why Think Tone resonated with me so, it seems to be a capturing of these notions. As elusive as they are. I think I called it a “paean to the formless” when I first considered it back in the middle of the year. As such it’s a difficult album to describe, even more so than most music. I’ve been flicking through quotes to inspire this reflection and have found a few that get close to what it is I appreciate about Think Tone.
Ah! these sounds and this motion Must enter my poems and say For me the unsayable in my life, My stubborn childish life that moves only Toward an eternal aspiration for vague things.
- Closing lines of “Ode” (1908) by Valery Larbaud, from The Poems of A. O. Barnabooth, translated by Ron Padgett and Bill Zavatsky(With thanks to but does it float)
"Eternal aspiration for vague things". Such words have a more profound effect on me than any religious passage I’ve encountered. It makes sense to gain inspiration the vague things, to not seek answers but to be driven by wonder. I don’t want sing along choruses. I want art that connects to untouched places. Ventures to unseen depths. Lifts new rocks at the bottom of the garden.
We have understood nothing of life until we have understood that it is one vast confusion. - Henry de Montherlant
The songs of Think Tone are not what I’d call “atmospheric” though they are evocative of something. Something ambiguous. Blissful inward journeys. Not harrowing introspections. These songs conjure an atmosphere of the inner landscape. Philosophy and science reach only so far, it’s art that captures the intangible experiences of waking - and dreaming - life.
Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenom. - Jorge Luis Borges
For me Think Tone achieves a rare combination of aesthetic beauty and subtle existential probing. And it does with hardly any words. Formless phrases. Distorted incantations. Bodiless voices intoning from a late afternoon winter haze, urging you to join you in their ceaseless drift.
"He felt himself pulled outward toward the whiteness, which spread as far as he could see, and which was a part of the darkness from which it glowed, of the clear and cloudless sky without height or depth. For an instant he felt himself go out of the body that sat motionless before the window; and as he felt himself slip away, everything-the flat whiteness, the trees, the tall columns, the night, the far stars-seemed incredibly tiny and far away, as if they were dwindling to a nothingness." - Stoner, John Williams
I listen to it now, fill my house with it, and I have that feeling you have for music that you’ve come to adore. I don’t seek words to sing along with. I don’t want liner notes, packaging, or any superfluous distraction. Who Baby Birds Drink Milk are does not matter. It matters to be with this music. To be enveloped within its shapeshifting bliss. Think Tone asks questions, it probes, but it does not expect answers. What you draw from its vast formless field is entirely up to you.
To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness. ― The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Black has depth.. you can go into it.. And you start seeing what you’re afraid of. You start seeing what you love, and it becomes like a dream.”
- David Lynch
You’re on the Californian coast but here it feels like a city of shadowy drones. In a room deep underground. Something flows under the door like smoke. Crawls to your leg and takes the shape of a hand. A voice of a man buried beneath the floorboard speaks. Those rattatat drums.Bap bap!
Do not be disarmed by the beat, no matter how strong the pull. Alien guitars fill the air. Maybe it’s late. Maybe it’s the middle of the day. Here it’s forever midnight. Forms present themselves upon the walls. Faint projections of oriental art. Dragons. Rivers. Nāgas. Deep reds. Soft greens. A stifling feeling of claustrophobia gives way to the realisation that this is a dream world. A noir dream world. And it’s beautiful.
You flick the light switch. It doesn’t work. Maybe there was a light cord? You can’t remember the rules for lucid dreaming. You decide it’s not time to think. It’s time to sink. You can’t stop listening to the music. The nocturne of an electric wraith. The occasional flicker of a defunct cigarette lighter in the corner. Still the man talks from beneath the floor. Still you listen. Still you can barely see. You listen and you listen.
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Keep on enjoying and supporting the music.
Thank you and good night from Bandcamp Hunter.
Listen to this song while you read this, if you like.
Bandcamp Hunter began way back in the Melbourne spring of 2010. Much has changed in my life since then. People, cats, houses, jobs, study, beards…all have come and gone (and come back again in the case of beards), though many things remain the same. Music is still my great love and discovering new music still thrills me. Finding a band or singer/songwriter or synth alchemist who connects with you through their art is a beautiful thing. I feel privileged to have shared all of this music with you. To have consistently found that you seemed to dig it too has provided me with great joy.
However. Time is the thing.
These days I am in the second year of a degree studying wildlife and conservation biology. In the first year of study I found the juggling of study, work and blogging to be reasonably manageable but-as fellow students will concur-in second year things step up a bit. The load has intensified. As such I need to bring Bandcamp Hunter to a close. I don’t like saying it’s “dead”, it’s possible I’ll bring it back at some point. Anything Could Happen, you know.The phrase a friend and fellow sci fi geek recommend I use is “in stasis”. I’m not ruling out bringing BCH back from its deep space slumber in a year or five years or ten years, or a clone of me bringing it back in two hundred years, but for now it is entering that frosty compartment and being jettisoned to the outer reaches. I’ve considered scaling the site back and not posting as often but the thing is I spend a lot of time Bandcamp Hunting - too much. BCH has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me but I’ve also developed some bad habits while running it. I need to spend less time on the internet.
The site will remain up for you to browse the archives. 2098 posts in all, accumulated over 3.5 years. Not a bad knock. I still have 3927 links in draft! Some of these have been posted already but most will remain in their purgatorial state, perhaps to be unearthed some day by BCH MKII or in some other form. If you ever sent me music and I said I would post it but did not, I’m very sorry. Things get lost in the backlog and, plainly, I’m a forgetful old bugger. (While I’m here, a little advice to musicians about contacting blogs : do not send giant emails full of band bios, press releases and descriptions of the music. I find it a real turnoff and I know other bloggers do too. Just send the music. It’s all that matters. Also : make nice cover art! Not that hard with technology these days. It matters too).
There are far too many people to thank and acknowledge - by far the best aspect of running BCH has been meeting all the like-minded bloggers, music fans and musicians from around the globe. Your support and kind words have been what’s fuelled the BCH engine, providing me with great inspiration and enjoyment. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet a few of you in the flesh some day. I have plans to travel over the next couple of years and if you’re ever in Melbourne do look me up. I’ll be happy to show you our local music scene, which, I maintain, is one of the best in the world. I’ll keep active on the twitter and my email is over there in About. Also be sure to acquaint yourself with my Friends running wonderful blogs and labels if you haven’t already.
Seeing this is my last post I’ll share a couple of my highlights of running BCH with you. Last year myself and Matty Barker of Hawkmoth Records and Water Music organised a benefit gig for the sadly departed Jason Molina. We raised a bit of money for his hospital costs but more important was the positivity we generated from uniting in our love of one mans music and in the singing of his songs. It was a night when I realised the blog had moved far from its beginnings as a time killing endeavour to something much more. It was giving me the opportunity me to meet good people, to share in my appreciation of music with others, and to give something back to that music. It was a very special thing.
The other event that stands out to me was a message I received from Matt of Dream Sick not too long ago. He was appreciative of me featuring his music and revealed that BCH making his album Pick of The Week came at a time when the band was having some struggles. He suggested the BCH post was a shot in the arm for the band during a rocky period, providing some impetus to battle on. So I think it’s fitting that their amazing new album “Morkkis” be the final Bandcamp Hunter post. There isn’t really much more you can ask as a blogger than to play a part, however small, in contributing to a great band putting more music into the world.
I’m going on I know, but I feel I most definitely should acknowledge Bandcamp. When I began it was in its formative stages and has since become a tremendous outlet for a mind blowing range of music from around the world (as has Soundcloud, which I like a lot too). It has been a pleasure to grow my blog alongside Bandcamp; to ride their ever increasing wave, scouring the universe of music that has proliferated within its waters. They are good people with good ideas and a determination to provide digital music with the platform it deserves. Kudos friends. Keep those flames flickering.
To close I urge you to keep supporting the music you love. The world of music has changed completely over the last few years, I believe for the absolute better. The state of music is in the hands of you, the fan, and this is a very, very good thing. Record shops come and go, record labels come and go, blogs come and go, but there will always be people making innovative, challenging and beautiful music. And there will always be people that want to hear it. There are more opportunities now than ever for you to hear that music, though as of today there is one less avenue. But that’s not something to be sad about. Browse the library. Hunt Bandcamp yourself. Keep searching for music that lights up your life, do not settle for mediocrity. Buy that bands music, wear their t-shirts, go to their gigs, tell them they’re great, and sleep well knowing that you are doing something that makes our world a better place.
Thank you, a million times thank you. I’ll see you on the open road.
Bandcamp Hunter Mixtape January 2013
10. green - White+
All songs used with permission
Bandcamp Hunter Mixtape #10 - December 2012
Click here to download the mixtape as a zip (121.8 MB)
4. Rouge - Muhr
Bandcamp Hunter Mixtape #9 October - November 2012
Click here to download all files as a zip (339.2 MB)
10. Fast - Gum
15. Moons - VERMA
Bandcamp Hunter Album of the Year 2012
“My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel-it is, before all, to make you see.”
Rock and roll can save, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Those who scoff at the power of music simply haven’t been listening to the correct things. When an album comes along that gently places a key in your heart, turns it slowly, opens a reservoir of understanding and feelings that you thought had long gone, colours your world in the prettiest of colours, then you know you are listening to music of real power. Music produced by someone creating something magical, created by someone that deserves to be classed as something higher than an artist. James Irwin is magical.
I’ll admit it, it’s a rare thing these days for me to listen to a full album from beginning to end and truly appreciate every nuance, every subtlety. To appreciate the structuring and sequencing of songs that contribute to said album becoming a cohesive whole. An entire work, ten songs that fit together beautifully and offer something you can sit and listen to and become completely engaged with. A collection of songs that offer something new and fascinating with each listen. I probably don’t appreciate lyrics quite so much anymore either, I don’t obsessively analyse metaphors and messages in songs like I used to. Where these confessions are leading, of course, is to Western Transport. An album that reignited my love of well crafted lyrics and the album as an art from.
Thrown out on the burning road,
where the wind was moving stones,
blood pools around my throat,
like river mud between my toes.
Let it sink it in. Give it space.
You are on my mind. Are you in my body too?
When the need goes away will the wanting stay?
Will you sit seven days hanging on guilty dreams?
Are you halfway here? Are you halfway to Mexico?
There’s no way for me to do the quality of these songs justice outside of quoting the lyric. You can listen yourself and read, as these are lyrics that can be read and appreciated on a poetic level. What I can do is expand a little on how they make me feel and what are some of the ideas that lurk within their gently crushing haze.
The reflective quality of these songs from Iriwn are not navel gazing, are not overtly introspective, they are the concise capturing of a vague existential ache that lurks in us all. Music that captures the sad and beautiful feeling of gazing at a glorious sunset, of walking an empty street in the middle of a foggy night and considering it all and nothing at all. Of feeling brutal heartache and wishing it would be gone but understanding this is what we all endure, that this is being alive. “Hearts Like Old Cars” is one of the finest songs I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s a seemingly simple metaphor that Iriwn uses yet-like the entire album-it is filled with a brilliant swirling depth. The hardening of the heart comes not from cholesterol or double down burgers, but is generated gradually from disappointment, from unrequited love, from too much of life.
Without you I’d be out on a prairie, under a plain blue sky
with my steady eyes, steady mind, steady rolling, steady engine. I’d drive all night.
Hearts like old cars, breaking down, breaking down.
Everybody is haunted, and you cry and cry, never satisfied. Never satisfied.
The longing here is bittersweet and real but there is more to these songs than heartache borne of love gone wrong. These songs are from an artist that is looking at people, looking at how we live, considering how we all think and feel. It is songwriting that posses a power that I rarely find in music, a power usually found only in the greatest literature.
Tie my friends down to their beds
Tie my loves down to their beds
Let these crazy birds fly from their heads
Put me back in old orange town where we drink alone and go home
Cause we are up in the middle of the night
Ringing bells, shining searchlights
The master asked for a word to pass,
We don’t have it anymore
They are words that stop me, that slow time and gently shift gears in my head to different places. To better places. There’s humour in these songs too, quite often I find myself smirking at some of the wonderful, strange imagery within the lyrics. The meandering, otherworldly ”Anyone To Serve” is a softly flowing spring of enchanting words, backed by peculiar sounds that sound something like a passing of miniature steam ships.
Now you’re lying on a lion fur, telling me what you deserve. You wrap your lips around a blur of words, strangest thing I ever heard.
How can anyone, listen to anyone, who’s got their luggage lying all around the room. Love somebody like a child would do.
As if anybody’s blind with faith. As if there’s anyone to serve.
Irwin alludes to big questions of faith here but the disarming humour of "How can anyone, listen to anyone, who’s got their luggage lying all around the room" is the work of an artist at play, of a supreme lyricist. Then there’s the (non) appearance of Alice…
Everyone this is Alice, Alice this is everyone. She came all the way from Baltimore with me, and the only one who can see her is me.
Though they tell me she was never even there, I will carry clothes for Alice to wear, as if anybody’s blind with faith, as if there’s anyone to serve.
I find these lines so funny and fascinating. They are some of the final words of the album and they leave you confused, exuberant and utterly delighted. In these songs Irwin has created a work of art that can be returned to time and time again. An album that you can pick up like that old paper back you love so much and be transported, be given faith in life, be gently reassured that everything is ok and find affirmation that the world is-despite it all-a terribly beautiful place.
Don’t waste your mind. We die all the time.