A TEXT BY BENEDIKT SARTORIUS
WRITTEN ON APRIL 22nd, 2020
What’s the sound of that moment when everything is possible, when everything seems open? This moment when the departure lane is clear and you feel like tackling new things cheerfully, carefree, naively and super-optimistically? There’s no need to go far back in time to find such sounds, as the “Fanfare for Effective Freedom” by Horse Lords is only a few months old. A fanfare that sucks you right in with its warp opening and then later slowly, heavily learns to move. The piece sounds focused, most certainly so, yet it doesn’t always push forward, because walking on a well-worn and straight path would be boring. Moments later, the “Fanfare for Effective Freedom” is going to whirl and propel its audience in all directions. What’s going to happen next? Who knows.
Now, in April 2020, this exciting piece of music sounds bittersweet at most. Because it reminds us of a time of opportunities which now seems to be much further back than just a month and a half. The track reminds us what it was like to go out and dance, to laugh and to drink at the Kilbis of this world. And also, how it could have been, on the first weekend in June 2020, when Horse Lords from Baltimore would have played the Kilbi at Bad Bonn as they did two years ago. The band could have shown us that, even with the almost classic tools of a rock group, it is still possible today to play utopian music for future communities. Without any of that hippie-one-world-le’ts-make-this-universe-a-better-place-nonsense.
What is left now? Now that no shows are possible any time soon, now that so many jobs and loved places will be destroyed and disappear; now that nobody can say exactly what will be left when “all of this is over”?
What’s currently possible? Only this: To wander occasionally through the ghost towns that have become gray without everyday life. Being isolated in apartments. To reorganize everything. To help out in the neighbourhood, to donate money if you can. Not to lose hope.
To continue writing about music, as it it is still my super-privilege to be doing, to be writing against the euthanasia and the impending lethargy, and to illuminate further niches? Actually—yes, absolutely. Because giving up is not an option.
At the moment, I have at least one hurdle to overcome. Listening to music has never felt so subjective and so private, and thus whatever I have to say seems pointless, almost in vain. Sure: I could, and I can share my impressions, via social media, via playlists, via my own website, in my regular popletter or even right here. I could write about how music has helped us. And what I am doing today in order to prevent further things from disappearing. It would go something like this:
- I switch on against impending resignation—the radio as it were, always on Saturday morning at eleven o’clock. Each week, Zakia Sewell welcomes her audience to Questing on “lovely” NTS Radio from London, where she plays spiritual jazz, folk songs, bands like Vula Viel, which I had never heard about. In moments like this, platforms like Spotify, whose surface and parasitic policy regularly spoil my mood, are very far away.
- I turn it up loud—things like Protomartyr, Fuck Buttons, Róisín Murphy, DJ Rashad, Richard Dawson. Why let muzak gently trickle down my ears when so much else is trickling down everywhere already, getting lost in the approximate? I don’t need trickling sounds; they make me angry.
- I buy music—on platforms such as bandcamp or at record stores and on other channels from which the artists benefit directly. Because music has value. And musicians deserve fair wages.
- I donate to clubs and concert venues that I enjoyed visiting – hoping that things will go on eventually.
- I keep looking for the unknown—nostalgia just won’t do.
- However, one thing doesn’t work for me: To be streaming pain and worries away while watching quarantine concerts; as much as I would like to like them. They can’t replace any live exchange with an audience. And they certainly aren’t replacing the energy that an evening in a concert venue can provide.
That said, am I actually producing more than uncritical and non-urgent content here by writing these lines? Does anyone care at all?
Sure: We should all be discussing new forms and formats right now, especially in the music world, such as sustainable festival concepts, royalty models with a fairer balance and more solidary than now. This situation might announce the return of a new respect for listening to music, of a more conscious consumption perhaps, along with new platforms that have yet to be built and that would have to reward musicians fairly. Such things will be discussed, for one at the Polish Unsound Festival, which is going to take place in an open form this autumn and which will focus away from the performances and towards a pool of ideas. One thing is certain: this effort will not remain fruitless.
However: No—this crisis is not an opportunity. My feelings tend more towards the feelings of Lorenzo Senni, who, from his home, had to watch all his plans fall apart. In a contribution from Milan, he wrote: “I hate to romanticise this quarantine.”
Just three years ago, Senni had performed the frenetic “Shape of Trance to Come”, which was and still is just as euphoric as the Horse Lords fanfare. You don’t need to be a nostalgic person to be longing for this state, for this space of opportunity that these tracks open up. Not only from preproduced recordings and in isolation, but live and straight.
Translated by Georges Wyrsch