By Adam Wills
Music and atmosphere. A lot of the time, these go hand in hand, musically. But what about the listening environment? Listen to an album in one setting, and you may not think much of it. Listen to that same album in the right setting, and all of a sudden, things seem to make sense. Perhaps you were listening on an ipod in a busy subway station, and the subtleties of the album were drowned out over the hustle of the city – or maybe you were just preoccupied by surfing online, with music on as background noise, and not something to be fully taken in.
As I type away on a netbook in the ever-humbling redwood forests in northern California accompanied only by a bottle of whiskey, I sit gazing into a campfire, wondering what it is that would really click at this precise moment. Alcest‘s Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde doesn’t sit right… this night really deserves something more epic.
My first experience of an album completely clicking within its playing environment came to be a few years back, with a cross country trek through Canada. I had just finished school, and at the appearance of a new adventure, I grasped it by the throat.. Armed with a full iPod and a car adapter, pages of printed maps, and a pillow for some sleep (in the car, of course), I began my trek through the incredible province of Ontario (as a sidenote, for all you southern Ontarians that haven’t seen Northern Ontario, do it. Now.), and not stopping until I hit Alberta.
Two albums in particular were high on my priority list. Devin Townsend‘s Terria, which was written on a similar journey across the great Canadian highways, and the then newly released Pursuit of the Sun and the Alure of the Earth, the sophomore release of Ontario’s own, Woods of Ypres. Interestingly enough, these albums have become my #1 and 2 albums of all time.
(Wolves in the Throne Room‘s Black Cascade was close. But not close enough. The iPod churns….)
Sure, both are great albums on their own. Townsend’s masterpiece creates layer upon layer of massive depth, something I have yet to hear anyone come close to duplicating. David Gold wears his emotions on his Ontario-born sleeve, and seems to find himself through his journeys and music. But when a listener not only identifies with an album in regards to the artists input, but adds their own thoughts, experiences, and locations, the album’s impact can grow tenfold.
Terria now conjures up memories of the never ending Prairies; feelings of freedom, pride, and hope. Pursuit… brings me back to a specific point in Northern Ontario – a mountainous winding road, and it’s crest, which reveals a breath-taking view of the oncoming lakes and forests – which proves itself to be a fitting metaphor for the album itself.
(SunnO)))))‘s Monolith is close. Only the closing of this computer, as I enter into total darkness, will I be able to tell.)
Negura Bunget‘s Om just recently found its place – the route to the campsite is about a 30 minute drive from the closes major road. A winding 1.5 lane road that dodges thousand year old trees after dark can be a daunting task. Add a horrific soundtrack like Om, and you have yourself an unforgettable experience. Right from the opening intro, I found myself looking over my shoulder, and locking the doors. I loved every second of it.
As my netbook battery warns me of the impending shutdown approaches (Only 2 hours? Really?), I wind down to the droning vocals of Attilla. I think I’ve found my perfect album for the perfect time. The album will forever remind me of this epic journey, and this precise moment in time. Combing a great album with unique moments in life can only add to the experience of both the music, and the event itself. While I keep adding journeys to the story of my life, I’ll continue to match them up as best I can with the music I love, and will slowly build a memorable, and extremely personal self soundtrack.