Selling Illusion

Saturday, May 07, 2005


What generates the melodious love? What is that basic root at the creation of musical happiness? What makes ‘Sonic Death Monkey’ elevate above verb confusion and into the definition of sonic pleasure?

I couldn’t really say.

I’m too busy enjoying the sounds of thousand of songs, hundreds of artists, from the smoke filled vibe of the Blues to ludicrous sub-categories such as Acid Country House. I know a bit more today than I did that fateful night in Cardiff’s University Halls, but I’ve never claimed to know it all. I’m still very much the student in these matters, still learning, hearing new and exciting things. New bands, new genres. But as I sit here this night, a winter gale blowing hard against the walls, the confines of my workplace, I glance over to the rack beside me, groaning with the weight of five hundred or so compact discs, its moans surely becoming louder over the coming weeks as a few more are added to the collection.

Eyes flicker over hundreds of names, and a warm smile breaks on my face. I look to these CDs, and I see memories cascade off each and every one. My life in Cardiff mapped out. From that first month as a Fresher, to a warm June day, four years later, locking the entrance of my residence, closing the door to my life as a citizen of Cardiff, and as a student. Why the subliminal sounds of Alabama 3 will make a secret smile pull at the sides of my mouth, why the thundering peal of a guitar solo found on Arch Enemy’s ‘Wages of Sin’ album still manages to pull a shiver from the base of my spine, and why the smooth playing of Abdullah Ibrahim brings a lump to my throat, all because music is entwined deeply with my life, in a period in which the good and bad times went hand in hand, music has been my constant companion.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, back in Cardiff, first week as a Fresher, having just been kidnapped by my peers and carried back into that darkened room, the light still streamed into my rapidly blinking eyes. It didn’t matter. New pulses and pathways were thrusting themselves open, a veritable orgy pulsating throughout my neural networks, all stemming from riff after riff, wave after wave, shooting from the headphones jacked into my ears. For a boy never graced with a single piece of music in his life before, it was if I was ascending to a new state of consciousness. I’d be lying if I could tell you exactly who or what that first taste of music came from, but I can tell you this; it was good. And when it stopped, I reacted in a most ungentlemanly fashion; as if a junkie going cold turkey for the first time in his life. I demanded more, headphones tearing from my head in my fervour for another hit.

Several cds and a Sony Walkman were thrust into my clawing hands. I met my saviour’s gaze.

“Go now – and learn of all that you have missed.”
I proved to be a studious leaner. Thankfully, Jon was not one to constrain himself to any one particular genre, and so, my musical beginning was born into a vast and diverse musical backdrop. A steady stream of the alternative, a side line in the realm of pop, skipping across vast corridors of what could only be termed by Jon himself as ‘crazy shit that I have no name for’, and finished off with deep immersion in metal.

It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship in which I have never regretted, even as my own collection steadily grew and my student loan depleted. Through music, I have found a home, an expression of my deepest thoughts, my turbulent emotions. Music can comfort me, it can make me sad and it can make me laugh; based on its own beauty, certainly. But at the very heart of the matter, it’s the memories that are engrained with a particular piece of music, events that occurred to a particular sound. Even the most embarrassing compilation of music in my collection has a story to tell. And like any good tale, they deserve to be re-read, time and time again.

As I sit here and think, a deep sense of contentment washes over me. Idle memory ghosts through my consciousness, wraith-like and gentle in its touch. For the first time in a long while those reminiscences hold no pain, no tightening of chest or gut with their appearance. I am haunted purely by good thoughts, happy recollections. I believe it no simple coincidence that the bands I fell in love with play on the stereo next to me. Maybe it is tonight and tonight only, that I am filled with this sense of peace, this contemplative mood that surprises me with its relaxed flavour. It is one to be savoured, to be enjoyed. Whilst I originally thought I had more to say, that by ending here I would be cutting things off prematurely, I now know that I am not.

This is where it is supposed to end, for now.

So I’d ask in closing for you, dear reader, to look at your record collection…and see what memories call to you.

All you have to do is listen.


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