I was at this party talking to someone about how, when I started listening to brb it seemed like the kind of album that could benefit from hearing whilst walking as much as it could benefit being background music that drags people into the foreground for the purposes of emotional expression through the power of dance. I told them about how, to help me write about it, I did the former.
The walk was long and on a day where the sun seemed to hang high in the sky. My gait; strident. My look; forlorn and distant, though with an imagined undercurrent of ceaseless, uncaring joy. As I listened a sense of coolness mixed with some slight bravado seemed to come over me. Trees lining the streets marked the pathway with shade, and they seemed to grow more solid in appearance. Houses, in their naturally distinct forms blurred into a mesh as I walked past.
I walked through the urban landscape and thought about making my way to the shops. I wasn’t sure if I needed anything but I certainly was in the mood to buy something. However, I resisted and instead looped back whilst the sounds of grandness and steady funk seemingly guided me on my way through a space that both clashed with and sat in precise harmony with what I was hearing.
As I walked home the houses I passed grew more featureless. The trees alternated between conical and cylindrical, and surfaces seemed rendered flat. I walked into the growing sunset and I thought about the time spent in motion against the time listening to motion and what impact that had on how I heard brb. I wondered if these two experiences of time actually came together, or if they ran parallel and separated at varying points.
My walk had gone on for longer than I figured it would but it allowed me to enough time to appreciate brb‘s rises and falls. I was able to appreciate how its expressiveness and shape changed when percussion disappeared and how those moments still held a sense of percussive thrust. Its sounds congealed with the space I walked through, and colour rendered itself inert in the sky for a few eternal seconds.
As I kept listening a great morass of darkness spreads across the sky, consuming the last gasps of sunlight. A few pinholes of light formed within the dark, and cones of light cast upon slabs of pavement provided my path home. The space seemed slow and silent, and the sound of motors reached over a distance. Normally a din, they felt welcoming and inviting. As such, I followed where they were coming from. However, when I arrived they weren’t there; The space was devoid of traffic. Perhaps they were farther away than they seemed.
I began to wonder if brb was more an album or a statement. It was part of the experience of the walk and its emotional shifts. Interwoven throughout was joy and melancholy, and some notions of relief and acceptance, and carrying forward. Perhaps I was just examining the surface and preparing proclamations.
I had things to do when I got home but I decided I’d just rest. I had a desire to take it easy, and the dark in the sky began consuming everything beneath. As it thickened the various objects around me became more like suggestions rather than actualities. Time seemed to reach a standstill, and brb continued on as though the soundtrack to the experience. I then began to wholly submit myself to the album.
I managed to somehow get home and I needed rest. However, there no longer was a door. It was there, but it no longer existed and there was no way in. I started fading into the nothingness of it all as the sky changed colour. Something akin to sweat started pouring out of my being. The motors in the distance started sounding more likes in the distance started sounding more like vague notions of conversation. Objects reformed themselves, or at least it felt that way; I wasn’t sure. I then snapped back into a state of presence and found myself relieved that I was at this party. brb was playing through the P.A. and I was there, experiencing it with others. It was a shared moment and it was beautiful.
I thought of artists like Luke Rowell and their place in the world, and whether they will ever see themselves within the public conscious over a sustained period of time. I wondered if Luke’s lack of pervasiveness was something true, or if I’d imagined it.
Does it even matter? We spend so much time consuming music as a product and yet we still derive meaning and experience from it in a genuine manner. Despite our consumption we resist music as a commodity through allowing it to touch us and make us feel something. What we get from it marks moments in time that spread and often grow beyond the artist’s original intent. As such, so long as brb provides something; so long as people experience something with it, then perhaps the idea of some sort of large-scale of success, whilst possibly desirable in some manner, isn’t too important.
The album (and a good deal of Luke’s work under Eyeliner and Disasteradio) is easy to dismiss. However, I don’t think I could argue that it would work better with a more “natural” set of sounds. There is an artistry to brb that denies uncharitable analysis as it’s not interested in how the sounds are perceived as sounds. It’s easy to dismiss, but unless someone allows themselves time to listen all they’re getting is the surface. There’s a depth and expressiveness to the album’s songs. If you open yourself to them, then it becomes much easier to hear that expressiveness and hear why the sounds help it work as an album.
I was at this party thinking about brb whilst it was playing and thinking about how I had experienced it. I then realsied that, whilst I had enjoyed my time with it, I hadn’t “enjoyed” it. It works as a mood piece, as a story, and as something you could dance to and have fun with if you wanted. So I danced.
brb is available here.