You can merit Sony on having made an incredible ensemble of innovative and powerful tools of the modern age. Unsurprisingly, to match their products, Sony have always delivered a decent advert, especially when it comes to their vibrant, colour enriched and visually exciting pieces put together for a new model of Television. It’s always some sort of bizarre scene with huge waves of colour bellowing out from peculiar places. A simple and cliché method that, for me, never gets old. Of course, all of this imagery is told in stunning high definition and is powered by many a pretty penny but that’s all relative, the main three elements are beautiful but lacking in colourful life setting, the infusion of colour via thousands of small/individual/wild “particles” that can be splashed, bounced, thrown and or exploded about the place and then the final element being some sort of serene musical score.
Of course everyone remembers this’n
And not to forget Tango’s beautiful spin on the ad with cascading fruit. I miss Tango adverts.
Jose there of course, strumming away in whimsy to such a melancholy scene. But now, a fair few years on, with but another million times more definition and clarity than our own human eyes can actually see, the Sony 4K has landed upon our shores and who better to front the arrival than Dumont Dumont signing Ry X?
Now I know nothing really of chart music, I’m never up to date with what’s happening in the grander scale of music and sounds that the everyday person on the street is listening to and as of such I know nothing of this Ry X fellow. All I know is that when television wants something beautiful alongside their advert (musically speaking) they’ll always draw for the latest beautiful tool. Many years ago I’m sure it was Moby & Jakatta, the Björk, Coldplay, David Gray etc. I know now for well that nearer the start of the year the BBC was loving The Cinematic Orchestra & Bonobo‘s latest albums for near enough every Documentary & Ad that they could bust out. As of such I get the feeling that this Ry X is not just some unknown that the ad director quite likes, it helps that I also heard Zane Lowe play it last night in the car whilst my girlfriend drove me home to get more pants. I never really give Radio 1 the time of day but I’ve always respected Zane, despite loving a lot of shit, he does love a lot of good music and there’s no doubt that he’s an incredible presenter and technician and to avoid listening to the 3rd playthrough of an Ibiza Chillout Classics compilation CD (Disc 2) from the 90s, which albeit an amazing album, I decided to give old Zane a go*. And on our way back on came that same beautiful track I’d heard in that 4K advert earlier that day.
You can watch the official video for the Ry X track, Berlin, here but I wanted to show you how I first came across the song and that was via this advert. This song caught me like Bon Iver did a few years ago when I first heard his Skinny Love at about 3am in the morning watching, I believe, some repeat coverage of the Isle of White festival… I think. I can’t remember what festival it was, all I remember was that for the next month or so I put a lot of time and effort into trying to find out who that artist was; up there on stage with nothing but a guitar and someone hitting a big drum. It caught me like an emotional film catches you, right deep in the middle of it all, completely immersed and completely held in that moment. It’s not like you even have to pay attention to the lyrics, there’s more going on than just words, instruments and singing. There’s something so much more than that going on.
Ry X has a very similar voice to man called James Vincent McMorrow, I thought there was something in his voice that sounded like them both to be honest, Justin Vernon (The man that is Bon Iver) & McMorrow. Though each voice heralded from separate areas of the English speaking globe; McMorrow being Irish, Vernon from Wisconsin (US, close to the Canadian borders) and Mr. X being from Australia, they all shared similarities. It was a voice and not only that, a music, a something that reminded me of those cold train journeys, cross country, in winter, times sat up until a stupid hour at university with my eyes closed listening to the For Emma album, a time sat out in my car in the snow with a couple of friends smoking joints looking out at the dark countryside around us. It reminded me of times when I’ve felt alone and it’s that raw skin-shed emotion that these artists bare that draws me so deep into the music that they make.
Electronic music is where my knowledge, though still awash with questions and assumptions, is strongest and in the midst of anything else all I have is opinions and feelings. When it came to Bon Iver, my first romance with this music, I did my research. I learned about who he was and where this music, that, to me, was beyond music, was coming from. I’ve told the story of Justin Vernon out in the woods in his little log cabin many times and I don’t care to write it here, I’ll let you work it out on your own accord if you choose to do so, but what I learned in this story is something about the kind of person that Justin Vernon is. I could see that there was something in his performance beyond what people were hearing and seeing and after finding out it made the picture that much more expansive.
I came across a performance of Skinny Love (A popular tune amongst Birdy fans that sadly I never heard Bon Iver credited for amongst it’s many radio plays) that vernon had done for Jools Holland and it was this performance that sparked further my real interest in what was going on with Justin to have him make such music. I watch this performance and I don’t see a man revelling in being on stage, a man thinking through his next lyric and smiling to the camera, I don’t see a performance caught up in nerves that they’ve made it to the Jools Holland stage and I don’t see someone who’s really at all consciously thinking about where they are. I see someone reliving all of the pain and hurt that they feel in a broken past love, someone still trying to work out what they’re doing and how to move on, someone completely lost in everything they ever felt when the music first came out in that little cabin in the woods, someone singing like there’s no one else in the room. To me it’s real music, real performance and the song itself is his and only his to perform.
He’s since become a household name in the music industry and his music has been taken into the arms of even the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Justin speaks of good times sitting down with a few joints and shooting a few hoops with Kanye West who, at the time, wanted to use one of Justin’s tracks and has since done so. And what an unraveled mess it was.
But if you haven’t come to blows with the musical projection of a man suffering from a lot of hurt then I implore that you invest some time into the first Bon Iver album; For Emma. And once you’ve been drowned in the love-loss emotion there you should look to his Blood Bank EP and at the same time, work your way through the Bon Iver Take Away Show clips which feature many of the For Emma tracks stripped back and performed up close and personal in a little hostel (?… hotel or something) in Paris. And then, once you’ve gotten to know all of that, look to the latest album and anything else that you can find on the guy, like what he manages to do to Bonny Raitt’s – I Can’t Make You Love Me; an original 1991 Cheeseball-ballad-banger turned incredible Vernon moment. I’ll leave the Bon Iver note on this…
I’ve posted about these artists when I first started this blog but these next two fit this post to a tea. First up is a woman who I believe could make for a fantastic duet if partnered with Vernon. The next is a man I know as much about as the last but I do know that both of their music is as moving as anyone else to have appeared in this post. You can read the original post on these two here.
Another name that can’t be ignored is the London born, Devon raised, Cornwall educated Ben Howard. Again, Ben, like Ry X, became a Radio 1 phenomenon and his album, Every Kingdom, is a part of every Forty-plus-year-old in the country’s CD collection. But that’s not to say that it’s without any musical dignity, as the young twenty-something year old Howard has a lot of moving work to offer.
I love anything from Cornwall & Devon, I spent a large amount of my childhood running around campsites, sand dunes, beaches and cliffs in Cornwall (At least twice a year) and I’ve loved it rain or shine. When I listen to Howard’s tracks I can see the landscape and the rain, I can see the cold duey moores and the soft wet sand. A cobbled street in dim light and a lone house out on a hill.
James Vincent McMorrow came about his first album in the same way that Justin Vernon did, he secluded himself away in a little cabin and made an album. But there are grand differences in why both albums were written. Something again for your own interest to build upon. McMorrow’s album, Early In The Morning, became the second-in-line album to Bon Iver’s For Emma. Both albums, alongside Bon Iver’s later album, Towers, were a part of a default titled playlist, which became known between me and a close friend, who borrowed the playlist for a journey abroad, as “The Untitled Playlist”. A playlist that would feature regular plays in full and on random during many moments of my life two years ago.
The one track that stood out to me most however, was Down The Burning Ropes. In my mind I imagined the end to a two-and-a-half hour long movie spectacular. A film set in early days America when there were black workers out in the fields and white folk lounging in great manor houses. I imagined a beloved sub-character out in the middle of a long cornfield out on the road of freedom who has been cornered by some vicious man who you’ve hated all throughout the screenplay. Our beloved character who we were so happy for on release from the grasp of oppression has been shot dead in the middle of the field. Silence. And then that slow moving chord comes in, that ominous sound that is the start of Down the Burning Ropes. In one shot, an aerial close-up of the dead hero and the small band of men around him slowly but surely starts to zoom back out, revealing the rich golden field and lands around them. We watch the men leave from our cinema seats high in the sky above them with our hearts in our throats and at around the three minute marks of a slow zoom out from this unforeseen twist of fate it all cuts to black and credits, McMorrow strumming out the last of the song.
I hope to one day see this film.
There are so many artists that I don’t know about and music that I haven’t yet heard existing in this area of sound. I believe that it’s folk of some degree. I heard of a genre called Ghost Folk and though even then I couldn’t quite decipher what specified the track I was listening to as Ghost Folk I felt that the title suited this whole area of haunting and emotional acoustic music better than any other that I’d heard and thus I slowly add to my collection.
It’s a genre that I sometimes forget about in listening but one that always finds its way back around to me somehow and with the introduction of Ry X to the musical scene the sound has gotten back to me once again and unsurprisingly, it has done so coming on the cold months and I invite it back into my life with open ears.
I love this music. I love its distance from everything else that I hear day-to-day. I love its honesty amongst all the glamour of too many other genres.
It is the music of a damaged soul searching for life in the cold.
The Folk of Ghosts.