Monday’s Long Song

I’ve posted quite a few of Richard Norris’ Music For Healing series since lockdown began. Part 9 came out last week and it is my favourite so far, a stunning twenty minute long piece of ambient music, led by piano with gentle drones and noise as a backdrop. It works beautifully as background ambience and equally as deep listening, an idea Richard has been exploring in the last two years.

As the government appear increasingly incompetent and the news doesn’t really offer any respite- we have the highest number of Covid 19 infections and the highest death toll in Europe. The government clearly acted too late and mistakes were made in February and March, some of them for political reasons, that have contributed to thousands of people dying. There doesn’t seem to be a well planned way out of this at the moment and the right wing press are massing behind the government, attacking anyone who steps out of line as unpatriotic, lacking bravery or asking questions at a time when ‘we’ should be rallying around the government. The relaxing of lockdown has been clumsy and unclear and many people seem to be behaving as if it’s all over- meanwhile the daily death toll is still well into three figures. The plan for re-opening schools was proposed against the advice of everyone involved, except the government. Given that the government have made such a mess of the whole thing so far, is it really surprising that so few people trust them to get re-opening schools right?

Then there’s the whole Cummings situation, where the people who govern us- this particular person being unelected- clearly think that the laws they make in an emergency don’t apply to themselves and that they therefore are better than you. That this is then followed by the Prime Minister’s defence of this as ‘legal, responsible and [done] with integrity’ is beyond belief, beyond where any modern British government have gone in defending the indefensible. Johnson is a liar. We’ve known that for years but he is now it is obvious increasingly also a puppet. He is so weak, such a piss poor excuse for a leader, that he can’t fire a senior aide. Look at the front bench, a parade of elitist chancers and charlatans, all stacked up behind the biggest chancer and charlatan of them all. What a sham our democracy is.  It doesn’t matter that I am angry. I’d never vote Tory. I voted Remain. I’d never vote for Johnson. But it does matter that Tory MPs from the Shires are being bombarded with letters and emails from constituents, people who followed the lockdown instructions to the letter and didn’t go to comfort family members when they were in hospital, didn’t attend their parent’s funeral, or their child’s. I just hope all those people remember this and that it fuels them when they have the chance to do something about it. I hope that the government’s inability to care about how this looks and the way they clearly despise us, coupled with the rage that people are feeling about this, sticks and wears away at them, burning them slowly, from the inside.

If all of that doesn’t require the need of long- form, calming music to still the dread, the anger and anxiety, I don’t know what does.

Immersion

I posted the first two instalments in Richard Norris’ Music For Healing series back when lockdown began and make no apology for returning to the latest ones. Richard has now put out five episodes of Music For Healing, twenty minute long ambient pieces, minimal deep listening, designed to calm the mind and slow the circulation. All work incredibly well as therapy but are equally good as pieces of music in their own right, a perfectly judged combination of repetition, ambience and minimalism, lit up by small, chiming melodies and soft drones, recorded live and in real time. This one, Music For Healing 5 is only £3 and Richard is donating the monies raised from the sales to the mental health charity MIND.

Here’s Music For Healing 4 where you can float away on some beautifully blissed out drones.

 

Music For Healing

During the last couple of days I’ve been wondering whether music blogging in the current circumstances is a bit inadequate, an inconsequential thing in the face of the both the virus and the shutdown of everyday life. Yesterday our Year 11 students, who on Wednesday were still preparing for exams in May and June, left school. This should have been the end point of a process that involved the closure and release they would have got from sitting and completing all their exams, preparing for leaving school, getting ready for their prom and all those things which were some months away. Instead it was dropped on them with a day’s notice. This was absolutely necessary- we have to close down the social contact we are having with each other- but it still came as a massive shock to them. Year 13 are in the same boat, suddenly set adrift without finishing the courses and sitting the exams that would take them to work or university. I was suddenly in charge of giving Year 11 a final leavers assembly, rummaging through digital files for photographs of them when they first arrived with us five years ago and pictures of them taken during their time at school, working out how to give them the send off that they deserved. There were tears (mine and other staff as well as the kids- and let me tell you, until you’ve welled up and shed tears in front of a hall of nearly two hundred sixteen year olds, you haven’t lived). Now we are where we- a society shut down. Our eldest Isaac is officially a vulnerable person. We have been recommended to place ourselves in self- isolation for twelve weeks. So every now and then in the last forty eight hours it felt like writing about pop songs daily and sharing them with you seemed like it was becoming a pointless activity. On Thursday night I went to Echorich’s blog and his most recent post, a post called A New Reality- Songs For This Moment In Time… , containing among others the urgency of Killing Joke’s Requiem, Joy Division’s beautiful and bleak Isolation, the sheer heft of Protection by Massive Attack and The The’s always wondrous This Is The Day and it convinced me that music blogging still has a place. The next day he left a comment on my post, The Third Sound’s shoegaze psychedelia of For A While, saying ‘That was a nice escape!’. Which it is. Then Richard Norris posted a new twenty minute long ambient track from his Group Mind project called Music For Healing 1. To go with the music Richard wrote this…

‘Music For Healing 1 is the first a series of long form tracks to aid stress and anxiety relief in these challenging times. All profits go to mental health charity MIND. Please help donate to this cause if you can.
I first started writing ambient tracks on a weekly basis about two years ago, as a personal aid to stress and anxiety relief. People mentioned these tracks, the Abstractions series, had helped their mental health issues. The Music For Healing series is being written in response to these challenging times, and hopefully will have a similar anxiety relieving effect. This is the first of regular 20 minute tracks in this series. Use them as background ambience, as immersive deep listening, in combination with meditation or any other practice. Music For Healing tracks are crafted and recorded in real time with no Artificial Intelligence involved’.

So I have come to the conclusion that the sharing of songs still has a place and that while it may seem a little inadequate in the face of the gravity of the situation outside it might make someone’s day a little better for a few minutes. Just as Richard and Echorich did mine.

Look after yourselves and each other.

Hulme Group MInd

On Friday night I got the bus to Hulme to see Richard Norris take his ambient/deep listening project on the road. The two Group Mind Abstractions albums he’s put out this year have remained close to my turntable since their release and should be available on the NHS- their effect as a kind of aural medicine, totally absorbing mind clearers and mood enhancers is second to none.

The event was at the Niamos, an old theatre close to the city centre, formerly the Nia Centre and before that the Hulme Hippodrome and Grand Junction. Hulme was famously the home of the Crescents and the birthplace of Factory. Now there are masses of student residences right up to the theatre, buzzing on a warm Friday night. Niamos is an arts and culture hub, cans of Red Stripe behind the bar, the faded grandeur of the theatre interior and a boho vibe. It’s so relaxed there wasn’t even anyone checking tickets on the door. I was expecting a Group Mind night for some reason and hadn’t quite realised until I got there that Richard was supporting a Brighton band/collective called Partial Facsimile. A see through screen was hung across the front of the stage with fractals, shapes and digital waves and cities projected onto it during Richard’s set. He played for just over half an hour, long drawn out sounds, warm waves of ambient noise and twinkling riffs, the 5.1 surround sound really proving its value. Sitting in the main, tiny auditorium as part of a very small crowd- there were fewer than thirty people there- the effect was striking, encompassing and enveloping. I loved it but wanted more. I’d have happily immersed myself in the Group Mind for another hour or two.

Partial Facsimile are a surround sound and visual art collective, four guitarists, three playing sitting down, and a drummer plus keys playing long, drone rock, plenty of reverb and space with FX pedals- a  little like an expanded Spacemen 3 but without the drugs and the walking with Jesus. The songs comment on modern life- commuting, social media, lives lived through screens, fake news, climate change, Brexit, immigration- and films cutting up images of the same projected onto the screen while the group play. At the end of each song a QR code appears, linking to articles and research. Pretty interesting and worth seeing even if the realisation that I wasn’t getting any more Richard Norris and his Group Mind initially left me a bit deflated. Below is a clip, a minute’s worth, that I took during Richard’s set. I don’t usually film parts of gigs on my phone but having a visual and audio record of this show seemed like a good idea- part of me wishes I’d filmed the whole thing.

Group Mind

I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already this year but it bears repeating- Richard Norris’ ambient album Abstractions Volume 1 is a wonderful record/download, the very embodiment of chill out. I know some of you agree- Drew and I discussed it when we met for a pint on Thursday night. Richard has done several mixes for his Group Mind project all in a similar vein to the album and this one, Group Mind Mix 004, is ace, over an hour of immersive warm sounds, experimental ambient, drone and piano pieces. Perfect for Sunday.

Monday’s Long Song

Richard Norris’ ambient album Abstractions Volume 1 has been on heavy rotation round Bagging Area Towers since it came out in February. It is a stunner, four beautiful and completely absorbing meditations, what Richard tags ‘deep listening’- nothing much happens but it doesn’t matter, nothing happens really nicely . It draws you in, fixes you and as I said somewhere else recently works really well as a kind of aural Valium. And God knows we all need some of that from time to time, in these chaotic and depressing days especially so.

The vinyl edition has four tracks- the download comes with Confluence 2 as an additional one, a twenty minute journey to nowhere/here.

Shorelines

This is new from Richard Norris, the first fruits of his current ambient direction and label Group Mind, a gentle instrumental that drifts very nicely, drone overlaid with melody.

The shoreline above is the Atlantic, Messanges, south west France, pictured in the summer of 2017. Just in case you were wondering.

Group Mind

That’s week one done. To celebrate the end of the working week here’s a brand new mix from Richard Norris who’s on an ambient tip at the moment. He’s just started a group/label/forum/series of events called Group Mind and kicked it off with a two hour mix of ambient, drone and deep listening. A sure fire way to improve your day, switch your mind off for a while and focus on something else. Includes tracks from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Wilson Tanner, Jas Shaw, Penelope Trappes, Elaine Gazzard, Hiroshi Yoshimura, Alarm Will Sound, Erland Cooper, Chihei Hatakeyama, Richard himself and BBC Radiophonic Workshop legend Delia Derbyshire.