This Is A Process Of A Still Life
usic is a situational beast. Why do we find ourselves reaching for one album in preference to another? Well, because we have to make some kind of a choice, obviously. Otherwise we’d be perpetually dithering idiots. But where does the urge to hear that album at this time come from? Is it an attempt to evoke a particular feeling, trigger memories of a specific event; or does it stem from a desire to reflect our current emotional state? Most likely, in cop-out-tastic fashion, it’s all of this and more. After leaving a thoroughly unpleasant workplace experience, I once threw on the Fall’s Peel sessions and broadcast “Behind the Counter” to the world. This made no sense. I didn’t even work near a counter, let alone behind one.
The point is, it provided a simplistic focus for my frustration. Mere references to counters were enough to stoke my annoyance with perceived subservience, whether the song had anything to do with that or not. Meanwhile, the band sounded something of a jumbled and hyperkinetic mess. Much like I felt. I’ve heard the track plenty of times since then, yet that is this incident which sticks. So not only was that record perfect for the moment, a further reference point was subsequently created. Whilst context may not have been “all,” it certainly played a significant role.
Which brings me to Light. I’ve found that the preferred conditions for hearing this album are those which require the removal of silence, without the creation of levels that may cause direct distraction. Situations where music must play a supporting role to the primary activity, in other words. Which sounds like it should be a criticism—but not so. “Background” music is rightly pilloried when it’s wonky lift audio designed to distract from the horror of having to engage fellow travellers in desperate small talk, or devious subliminal marketing tunes intent on adding extra packets of crisps to your basket. But we’ve moved on from that definition, ever since Eno died for the sins of ambience in his hospital bed.
This Is A Process Of A Still Life meld that reborn spirit of ambience with a gentler version of the post-rock aesthetic. There are no Bark Psychosis-esque feedback squeals popping up from the musical whack-a-mole game at unexpected moments. Again, this is not to suggest one-note blandness, simply that the record invites the listener to drift in and out of proceedings, without forcing the issue with sudden bursts of dissonant volume. Perhaps this can be best demonstrated with a reproduction of my notes, taken at haphazard intervals of attention during my last experience with Light:
... heartbeat percussion ... staring upwards as rain falls ... clarity of structure ... underwater exploration with the echoing trill of coral instruments ... chiming guitars—CHIMING! ... elongated ebb and humm ... climbing a gigantic silk ladder into space ... letting go and floating away ...
It rapidly becomes clear that every facet of this record is about the generation of a serene atmosphere. The stark simplicity of the cover with the impression of fragile growth in silhouette, the gorgeous photographs of nature which decorate the inner sleeve, even the use of lowercase fonts throughout—each detail contributes a little more to the overall whole. Some may argue this credits the peripheries with too much importance, but I don’t believe this to be the case. They each add further weight to the album’s claim when I’m selecting the “correct” situational soundtrack because they sell me an image before I’ve even heard a note. Once I have heard the contents, the outside details serve as positive reinforcement.
It all comes back to situations. On offer is the chance to illuminate the processes of your still life. Reading a favourite novel, filling in your tax returns, re-painting the skirting board; they all sound better when bathed in Light.