I know enough about Irish music to talk about it to foreigners but not enough to talk about it with people who actually live here and because of this fact I often end up overthinking as to why that’s the case. I’ve always struggled with the idea of “Irishness” growing up, associating the inevitable feelings of alienation inherent to living in the middle of nowhere with Irish culture at large – basically just blaming my inability to talk to people on my inability to solo a sliothar (or learn off a W.B Yeats poem) and becoming a misanthropic bastard as a result. Ireland was always viewed as some fundamentally depressing place, a regressive and backward country where all the sane people managed to leave – leaving a bunch of rabid culchies behind to make life hell for those of us who thought that Nathan Carter’s music was a bit shit. It’s hard to put into words how easy it is to go long periods of time in Ireland while completely avoiding Irish culture or art – our national broadcaster just reruns cheap American shows the whole time, our news sources generally just regurgitate whatever’s going on across the Atlantic (assuming you’re even reading an Irish news source in the first place), and social media has made us all deeply knowledgeable in the antics of random Bolsheviks from Ohio and their hipster brewery inspired struggle sessions. As a post-colonial nation we’ve always been fundamentally insecure about our identity and culture – a band has to make it in England or America to even be worth our attention and the idea of someone singing in their own accent is still considered notable nearly a hundred years on from the formation of the Free State. Now I don’t have any real solution to this cultural insecurity (after all I’m still yet to get around to reading Frantz Fanon), but I thought it’d be fun to talk about said insecurity to the four people who read this blog while writing about my extremely base-level knowledge of “alternative” Irish music. Nothing helps you understand why you’re only capable of talking about Irish music to foreigners like talking about Irish music to foreigners I guess (apologies to the one Irish person I think sometimes reads these posts, I’ll have hopefully gone back to writing about the Valve News Network lad by Thursday).
I think lockdown has actually gone well for me in the sense that my daily anxieties have gotten progressively more menial the longer I’m stuck at home. I’ve basically operated under a “keep myself busy at all costs” strategy for god knows how long, alternating between attempting to actually read books for once, working on ideas for silly split EPs with my friend Tom, working on writing for this blog, and other dumb distractions I can’t think of off my head. My brain is naturally wired to freak out and feel dread over nothing – when I’m leaving the house there’s a certain set of half-baked repetitive thoughts, and when I’m not leaving the house there’s another, therefore I often find myself comparing these daily anxieties in a weird attempt to glean nostalgia from the things I overreacted about six months ago. Assuming we aren’t still going to be stuck in the gaff in October I guess I have to look forward to fondly remembering freaking out about being unable to write this blog post, taking hours to write emails, and possibly coming off like an arsehole when texting new people. Because of the fact I’ve been able to occupy myself with menial busywork (and the fact that I’ve mainly just been listening to Autechre non-stop for god knows how long), the music that I’ve been thinking about this week is probably quite stale – I think this would usually be the point where I shoehorn the title (which I always come up with first) into the post but I’d feel like that’d come off as too forced. Here are just some rambles about what I’ve been listening to, I swear I’ll post something better next week.
So far my lockdown experience can be summarized through the apathetic sensation of suddenly remembering that you (a) have headphones on and (b) have been blaring music for the past three hours. At the moment I’m probably listening to way more music than I usually get around to in a year, however presumably as a result of this music has stopped being something I get actively excited about and more something I intermittently pay attention to while scrolling through the same three or four websites waiting for content to appear. My taste has always been deeply stagnant (even if for the longest while I’ve never wanted to admit as such), but I’m currently facing this realization head-on each day during the drawn-out hours between the six-one and the nine o’clock news. There’s something inherently comic about this sensation – Soundcloud seems to think that I’m into intense workout playlists when I actually just need 230BPM speedcore mixes to motivate me to get up from the couch I’ve slept on for the past month. Just in the same way that Alex G remarked that as he got older it was “no longer three chords” that excited him, the longer I spend holed up within a 2km radius of my house the less likely I am to pay attention to (or even seek out) new music. However, since time no longer exists whatever enthusiasm I held in music when I actually had serotonin seeps out – leading us to this moment in time.
“Arrayed Above the Seraphim Lights” by Even Oxen is a haunting record – this is aided by the fact that the musician behind the record probably doesn’t want you to listen to it. The record, which was released around June of 2016 was removed from streaming and Bandcamp unceremoniously at some stage in 2018, only kept online through a mirror hosted by Space Friend Records and an unofficial YouTube rip. Nobody seems to know exactly when or why the record vanished – with YouTube comments and imageboard posts suggesting that the musician behind the project either “got depressed” or just forgot to renew their DistroKid subscription. Regardless of as to why this collection of lo-fi gospel-inspired tunes nearly disappeared off the face of the internet, there’s something oddly poignant about its ability to do so. This album that I only seem to remember while being oddly emotional at half four in the morning feels indicative of something larger, even if I only seem to recognize that fact at half four in the morning.