Music, musings and more from the mind of Ben Averch.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Metaphysicality

Here's a pretty mind-blowing review of my record and video from Tim Boucher who runs the Pop Occulture blog:

Yeah, I like your album. I perceive in your work a great deal of energy and passion for what you are doing. A friend of mine recently got me into Rush (I'd always hated them before, but wasn't I guess giving them a fair listen), and we actually spent the better part of last night listening to Power Windows and Hemispheres.

But yeah, specifically within your work I am very much getting this sense of overwhelming intensity and urgency to find something. I know a lot of your songs on that albums are phrased as romantic love songs, but I personally see within them something even beyond that - almost a questing love for God or the first-hand experience of the divine. Within Hindu traditions, there is something called bhakti yoga which is a type of yoga focused solely on devotion, on love. A kind of loose interpretation of it is that within Hinduism they recognize that the divine interpenetrates all things, and that everything is a manifestation of God. So the idea is to basically worship God through a very specific form: whether that's choosing one of the many Hindu deities, or I have even heard it described as being possible to worship through love your wife or children - which I very much see coming through in your work. I think the Bhagavad Gita is supposed to be the big work on Bhakti Yoga and you might get something out of reading it. This current also extends through Muslim tradition with the Sufis, who supposedly have reams and reams of romantic poetry written on the surface which is actually written to God (see also the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament which I think is supposed to be the same basic idea). I've heard people also interpret this idea as passing into Europe through the medieval troubadors and the concept of courtly love which they were largely responsible for introducing with their poetry and music.

It's funny, I think that theme is a much larger undercurrent than you may be realizing. If one were so inclined, you could even find it within the cover of your album - which could be interpreted esoterically as having a six pointed Star of David/Seal of Solomon hidden within the sort of fractal graphic in the background. Solomon supposedly used that seal to bind demons to do his bidding, I think in the construction of the Temple. May be a reach, but you could look at that as you trying to bind together your own sort of internal forces to get what you want accomplished. It also represents the union of the female and male elements within divinity which ties into the "love" theme described above. Then of course you have the eagle overlaid across that, which could again be interpreted as a symbol of God or the Sun, the breath of God, descent of spirit into matter, etc. But there is sort of an ominous tinge to the whole thing with the bird being darkened in this case, almost like you're afraid this bird of prey (pray?) is going to come down and swoop you away.

I'm also getting the sense through your insistence on playing all the different instruments yourself that buried within that is a struggle to sort of internally unify varying aspects of you (bind demons), so that you can get them to work in concert, and fully express the power of your will through it. Which is really exciting and important and difficult to do, but you may want to begin to consider what happens next. Once you have unified yourself internally to access these deep parts of yourself, where will you take it? You lyrics seem very concerned with remaining open to the moment and a questioning spirit, which is great as well. But one of the hardest things any of us ever will do is turn that strength of questioning back on ourselves, and begin to dissolve what we have built.

I see that theme coming through in your "Cloud Cover" music video, which has very beautiful lighting by the way. There are some moments in the video where one of you appears on each side of the screen and it almost looks like you are yelling at each other. It's also really interesting the choice of the format and props in that video. You have yourself in this pristine Northwestern paradise setting (great choice of location, incidentally - where was it filmed?), but then there is sort of a layer of absurdity within it (intentional or not) of you having lugged this giant amplifier out into the woods. Where would you plug it in?

I know it's "just" a music video, but I think when we make creative work, we have a tendency to send ourselves messages that we almost have to decode and that we become blind to because we are so over-exposed to them. In this case, the message I see (and I'm fully prepared to admit to a healthy dose of projection, which is inevitable in these areas) has to do with a clashing between images of yourself and of something greater. You have literally images of yourself fading in and out of existence (with fairly pained expressions at times) against this almost eternal primordial unchanging background of the forest. Why do these images of you blink in and out of existence? Why does the forest remain? And then there's also this sort of dichotomy between the guitar and the trees. The guitar, in essence, is a sort of refined version of the trees: it is wood which has been stripped down, carved, shaped, polished and fashioned into a usable form. Whereas the trees themselves are altogether unrefined, altogether raw. What does that tension between the two suggest to you internally? Perhaps it suggests a sort of over-reliance on the device, the vehicle or the technique you have mastered, as opposed to the more direct unmediated experience of what you are looking for. Imagine just for a second how different this video would be if you were playing a branch of a tree instead of a guitar. I know that's sort of an absurdist way of looking at it, but I think it gets more to the heart of what I mean artistically about the whole thing.

Jumping back to an earlier topic for a second: At what point, if ever, are you going to want to expand beyond your own rigorous self-control into the creative risks involved in making music with other people. I know you've gone through being in bands with people, etc. But I think the inherent nature of creative communication is itself a risk. It opens up the possibilities of misunderstanding, of people reading too deeply into things (haha! guilty as charged), and also - most scary of all - revealing yourself to others and to their judgements. Maybe since you're interested so deeply to begin with in this risky proposition of making music for other people that at some point once the process you're putting yourself through now is complete, you'll again find it engaging to jump into the "divine chaos" that other people will bring into your work.

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