I adored the song ‘Heartbeats’ when it first came through in the early 00’s. Attached to a particularly artful ad for a television. Jose Gonzalez wasn’t just breaking out with an artful acoustic song (a ‘sensitive’ song, Neil Young might call it), he was breaking through with a sound and a body of work (namely the album Veneer).
Heartbeats was a cover of a song from the Knife and for me it did stand out on an album that had some other very beautiful moments on it. So I made sure I listened to the song a lot, probably over the course of weeks stretching to months.
In the intervening years, I would occasionally hear something by Jose or his band Junip and I would be reminded that a talent resides here, for making tender, powerful and striking tunes.
So recently, the song Crosses came back into my mind and I’ve been listening to it solidly for the last week or so. Aided by this lovely live version.
I decided I would learn to play it and checked out an online tutorial. What I found fascinating was a comment from the guitar player (Brett), who says while happy that someone like Jose was having success (as not every singer-songwriter doing this kind of thing had such chances or played with the same nuance) he indicated that he’d found it difficult to learn the song as it was depressing – and he needed to intersperse it with some Wu Tang.
Fantastic, but it also brought to light – what is in music like this, what do we get? Depressed? Something else?
The first thing to realise with the totality of a song is that we are entering or being entered by a world of completeness in its own sense, a song like this is its phonic components entirely, which includes the arrival of words and their meanings, building a passage of intensities which are the space of understandings of words, phrases, relationships, feelings and the feelings themselves of what is inherently experienced in the voice, the guitar.
At which point, in threading through these compoenents, a mote of christian imagery (‘crosses’ all over the boulevard) however this seems the depth of that imagistic motif, that we bear our troubles, and that these are evident ‘they can see that you’ve been broken.’ Bleak might be a more fitting epithet, but even then, this seems in the context of its setting, befitted by the shadowy, twilit depth of its sonic cowl.
And yet even in respect of this, it finally dawned on me I truly felt, that to find Crosses depressing might be the same as in some way, not believing it or believing in its world.
As I felt that to believe in its world, this place of being broken and carrying burdens on the boulevard and being seen in this way, is simultaneously the kept-world of our crushes and defeats, but that the song is coming from friendship and love, ‘we’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright,’ ‘I’ll be there to guide you…’ even if the first and most fundamental step of guidance in such a world is to connect it to its own world of contacting, emphasising, seeing and being the love which is already in it and from which it is already partly composed.
So, in its gentle expression of caring and guiding and the casting of light, it is already these steps (in the gift of friendship) and this is in the sonic of the song, the words of the song and its ineffable and precise beauty.
So for me, the ‘depressive’ comes from not seeing completely enough its space, its like the sonic echo of the song hits, with its wave of feeling, but it is not morose, it is strident and has the feeling of a kind of definitiveness in its playing. In this sense, the energetic of the song is driven, it is driven as a song of warning, in which the subject ‘you’ is being given the broken human world, not as a failure to see something else, but as the reality of a human bedrock of being, from which in the composition of this thought is missing the reality of its own realisation of its beyond.
As such, and to truly complete the most powerful form of this statement, ‘you’ll be alright’ as Jose intones, would be turning to face the end of your habituated mode of existence, its composition and building blocks partly being composed by perception that cannot escape the twinned layer pre-sets of our social reality. The main spar that there is a stability involving everyone as pre-conceived ‘normal’ beings, occasionally punctured by willing and unwillng deviance that precludes other forms of outsiderism, or by drop-outs and depressions (there are correlate unpuncturing states of being ‘blessed’ and happy). Followed by a second allowable world of the human failure-sphere, that the weave of existence which is a stenched out man-fouling (the world of burdenation and being broken) neither of which particulate towards a becoming-love and a becoming of wider receptions and engagings of reality and realities (Deleuze ‘there is a reality specific to becomings’) itself an opening world of the widest sea-depths of being in the form of love.
While not being an afficianado of Swedish duo The Knife, i looked over their original for Heartbeats, which really grows as a tune and simultaneously elevates Jose Gonzalez’ cover both as a song and as a version. Then there’s the exceptional video for the original (by Andreas Nilsson).
The skateboarding group of children, playful, carving, arcing in joyful lines, intersecting in joyful flow and motion are a becoming-swarm, a group that opens the door to awareness of the wider body of the group as a body in consciousness and motion. The repetition of the clips like a chorus, re-affirming as a non-linear narrative, the same motions, the same lines, the same becomings (of balance and direction and flows and correspondence) But the video is also its crazy margin take-off world, animated from its grainy, black and white breakdowns. Where the image freezes for a moment and from the edges of the freeze, new shapes emerge, birds, vehicles, and take turns in journeying through the new-found world that has emerged from a simple, stuck frame of film. It’s awesome stuff and a kind of flighted relative of data moshing, animated to give us a relational form within the newly discovered terrain of the unfrozen (and in this case) re-animated spaces that have sprung vast from the margins. In this case, these out-margined spaces are traversed first by a bird, then by the magical tractor (which spouts coloured geometries) then by a boat. The bird tells us we are in a space of flight, it is later part of a flock, mirroring the group line of flight of the skateboarding children.
The magical tractor brings to mind experiences of DMT, where tiny cosmic vehicles can become involved in profound, sometimes humorous re-locations of being and in this sense as when it begins emitting base abstractions like colours in polygons, there is the feeling of a resonance at depth. Something working at the level of certain fundamentals of abstraction and transformed context of encounter.
The space of meeting (at the margins) something like experiences of existences in relation to tryptamines and other powerful re-combinants of abstraction, can also be profoundly about the bases upon which our experiences of existence (and their corresponding stories) are formed. The idea of matter for example, as opposed to the idea of transient, molecularly contiguous waves of swarming energy in ongoing transient but ‘solid’ consistencies.
And then just when you think the video has played all its tranformational cards and left that form of its sudden mutations behind, it gives us the boat, emerging at the end and travelling its grainy digital river, disappearing off screen. It is like a final gesture ‘here’s another one’ another marginal escape vehicle, another plateau of adventure, another story of a story, or of stories, but that they are leaving, they are going beyond where we can see, perhaps to nothing, or to our memories, or nothing else again, perhaps not. Where is that river? What is it composed of? And what is beyond it? Is this just a qestion about some pixels on a screen , or in a real sense, is that boat an existing vessel of a reality, capable of leaving that reality and of along its course, encountering what or where? Even the eyeballs of unknowing alien watchers, as other forms of being in a contacted and contacting universe of being, stranded through strata that separate those forms into crystalisations in the application of abstraction (in this corner of instance) – the active process of a mode of perception, blind spotted by the vastness of its otherwise consumption.
What has not been named here until now, with the encounter of a swarming love, its correlate engine of f reedom. To any perceptive consistency of this journey which would be, we say again…
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