September 23, 2019

Essay #1: What makes music, film, and art so special?

Being as self-reflective and introspective as I am, I sometimes have deep thoughts that simply cannot be captured or conveyed in my poetry or music. These thoughts relate to human experience and various subjects related to this concept. For this reason, I am opening up the AirdriftSignals music magazine to another feature that I would like to add, called Essays, and my first essay will be titled “What makes music, film, and art so special?” I will continue to explore this idea and others as they come to mind in future essays.

What makes music, film, and art so special? 

For any living species on the planet, its main directive is to survive and thrive. This is ingrained in our and all other living species’ DNA. It is the most basic, primal need to survive and reproduce for the future survival of the species. However, once a species has become abundant and prosperous with plenty of resources, there comes another set of needs that develops. These are basically, the need to be heard, understood, appreciated, and remembered. Also included in this group is happiness and self-enlightenment, but I just want to focus on the first group that I mentioned. If you haven’t already guessed, I am borrowing from the theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From this, we can discern why the creation and enjoyment of the arts are so special and important to humankind.

As a developing man, I never had much of a desire or interest in sports. I used to be a willing participant, through which I found a lot of enjoyment, but as I grew older, it never grabbed my attention after my formative years. A lot of people really enjoy sports games and are fans of teams. The games themselves, the closely scored ones rather, I’ve found to be exceptionally exhilarating when I’ve been caught in a room with people and a sports game on the tv. When anticipating the outcome and wanting your team to win, it can be quite an adrenaline rush. This interest that others have satisfies a competitive gene that exists in all life forms. It is a trait that is vital to our survival, and it can be treated healthily or unhealthily. It also exists in many other forms of society other than sports, whether it is in a workplace, politics, or even the arts. The highest achievement of art though isn’t wholly concerned with competition.

As sports ticks two of the boxes of these higher needs, being appreciation (or respect), and legacy, art attempts to raise this already high bar of human excellence even higher with the artists’ attempt to be heard and understood. These four higher needs of human existence, being heard, understood, appreciated, and remembered, are actually important to all people, but they all come into play with the creation of music and art. As people use their hobbies, passions, and talents to achieve success and understanding of oneself, there is a therapeutic element to the process of creation. The same way that physical exercise is good for one's health, the creation of music, writing, drawing, and painting, among other things, is an exercise that sometimes doubles as an exorsize of that which is troubling or difficult to deal with. These obstacles in life, whether it is family trouble, loneliness, depression, or what-have-you, is filtered through the many hobbies and crafts that people enjoy to do. When people create something, they mostly do it for their own personal growth and understanding on a subconscious level, but almost all who create want their art to be seen and witnessed by others. At the same time, the emotions that they've infused into whatever medium they decide to pursue is a real snapshot of their emotional and mental state of mind at the time. The ultimate goal of the artist is to be heard or seen, to be understood as deep, emotional beings, to be appreciated for their craft, and to be remembered.

As for the last need, it's a common desire of most people to want to be remembered for what they did in this physical life. It isn't hard to see the prevalence of legacies that have been left by important figures of generations past. But this doesn't mean that all people want to be remembered on such a grand scale. Some people just want to make a difference in their communities and their families. And so this fact of the matter leads me to another question that I will attempt to explore: how is art remembered and how is this different from other forms of history? The answer lies in how it is experienced. When thinking of the past athletes, political leaders, entrepreneurs, and inventors who have left a mark in the record books, their achievements are remembered and appreciated, but there is a fine distinction between these types of historical figures and recorded works by artists. Take for example any of the psychedelic paintings by Salvador Dalí, or the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, or the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of The Moon. Each of these recorded works, whether on canvas, tape, or film, all have a unique quality to them, and that is that they can be experienced by younger generations, sometimes for the first time, for decades and (hopefully) centuries to come. Why do so many people still enjoy classical music, which came from an era nearly 300 years ago? Some might argue that it is because of the emotion that it invokes within us, or that it serves as a time capsule of a time when there was more sophistication in society. But no one can deny that the experience of classical music will continue to be enjoyed as long as human history persists and survives against the future threats that humanity might face.

As far as athletes in the history books are concerned, are their achievements experienced "for the first time" by younger generations? I would argue that their records and achievements are remembered and appreciated, but there is no way to experience them like new unless there are specific video recordings that a person who is learning their history is watching. Still, this doesn't compare to being there and in the moment when great athletes performed, and the same can be said of musical artists when their music is first released into the world or when they perform in concert. However, there is a difference when the actual work is created or recorded, released, and preserved, as is the case for the most influential and important movies in film history, in which a copy of each is preserved by the library of congress.

In conclusion, the ability to experience the art of famous painters, sculptors, authors, musicians, and filmmakers, at any point in time, and sometimes for the first time, is a uniquely special characteristic of historic works. When artists can rise above the apparent mediocrity of their time and stand out as distinct voices, their work may have a chance of passing the test of time to be remembered for years to come. Even as some art seems very of its time, there are the works that stand as timeless, and those are some of the most universally rewarding pieces to experience since they address a vital part of the human condition. While other notable figures have certainly made their mark in history, the works of music, film, and art will always be revered for its unique ability to be experienced and appreciated in any year or time period, and the artists that have not been lost to time have successfully achieved their higher purpose for the greater good and enrichment of humanity. 

September 17, 2019

Update: 3 Page Interview with Verb'z Up Magazine!

I was lucky enough to get a featured interview in the independent, Texas-owned Verb'z Up Magazine!! Here I was able to go in-depth into my background in music and what inspires me most, as well as some of the plans I have for the future as a multi-genre, multi-medium artist! You can purchase physical or digital editions of issue #10 of Verb'z Up here. Support this magazine, check out my latest paperback novels, and keep on drifting to DJ Dark Flow~ Peace. 

UPDATE 9/25/19: The Verb'z Up Magazine issue #10 is now available for FREE viewing and reading here. Just register and you can read the interview in the back of the magazine! 

September 16, 2019

Thomas Coppola - Cold Cuts Review

Showing that he will not let up or get Dusty (released in May), Thomas Coppola's latest album, Cold Cuts, is a supremely firey lesson in lyrics and beats, as Thomas shines yet again with each and every one of these hip-hop cuts.

With his highly stylized flow and an army of beatmakers at his fingertips, Thomas's opener Just Begun, produced by John Cotton, acknowledges his huge output and return, while Breathe, produced by Mike Martinez, lets listeners kick back and relax to a chill and lowkey beat, as Thomas displays calm composure, and asks to "let the beat breathe." His personality and cool attitude are what elevate Coppola as a lyricist, and while Dusty displayed his aptitude at producing his own beats, Cold Cuts' array of repeat collaborators and newcomers help him focus 100% on the verses.

American Nightmare takes a soulful and dark NOLA spin and Classic Sound is a self-described track to flow to. At this point, fans and listeners have heard the talent of Coppola with just a couple of producers, in John Cotton, Mike Martinez, and Gekko, but Cold Cuts is still in the process of opening up, with many other talented producers' cuts to make an impression, including those by B. Dvine, such as Cradle 2 The Grave and Dead Friends, E-Prosounds, and even Killarmy's Kinetic 9 among others. Coppola's fresh aesthetic and feel-good vibe can be heard on tracks such as French Dip, Summer's Over, and Mesmerized, while others, such as Dead Friends, gets down and serious, showing off Coppola's willingness to explore the pain that he has felt through the years.

Ultimately, Cold Cuts is a promising and surprising follow-up to Dusty, with 16 fully fleshed out tracks that don't pull any punches. If Cold Cuts is any indicator, it is that Thomas Coppola will continue to grace fans with record after record within the next year and that more hits are sure to come.

Cold Cuts - 9/10

Recommended Tracks: Breathe, American Nightmare, Cradle 2 The Grave

September 14, 2019

Jenny Hval - The Practice of Love Review

Ever since Jenny Hval's critical and commercial breakthrough, Apocalypse, Girl in 2015, I was hooked to her music. Through the years I had grown to love the style of music from European countries such as Iceland's post-rock band Sigur Rós or Sweden's electronic duo, The Knife and later Fever Ray, but when I found Jenny Hval's music, I felt like I had found my favorite version of this kind of European singer-songwriter, since she contains the fabulous avant-garde sensibilities of Icelandic artist  Björk (who I was never much a fan of), while maintaining the elegant synth-pop style of an artist such as Fever Ray. As she blended the two seamlessly, she grew into her own, and I was already late to the party as Apocalypse, Girl was already her 4th album as Jenny and 6th overall! She continued in 2016 with her atmospheric, concept album, Blood Bitch (a masterwork in my opinion which will be covered in my Masterpiece series at a later date), a meditative EP in 2018 called The Long Sleep, and now her latest album in 2019, The Practice of Love.

The Practice of Love doesn't hold back any of Jenny's deepest thoughts either, as any fan would know her work to contain highly vulnerable and artistic expressions of her thoughts on aging, romance, religion, mortality, and vampires (the focal point of Blood Bitch) among other things. One of the noticeable things about this latest release, when put up against her past couple of albums though, is the number of featured guests who take stabs at her synthesized syncopated songs. I can't help but think and ponder about the evolution of her sound, and how The Practice of Love has become one of her most accessible releases yet, as its synth-work verges on the border of disco and danceable beats that delight the senses. Her opening track, Lions, picks up as Jenny's guided meditation-like voice calls the listener to "look at these trees, look at this grass" and then asks to "take a closer look, study the raindrops on the leaves" before she finally asks "study this and ask yourself, where is God?" Her gospel-like vocals fly over with a fast and catchy reverberating drumbeat. This opener is punctuated by a paganistic and ritualistic meditation on existence and much like the rest of the album, it is worthy of multiple listens as its sound washes over and forces the occasional head bob.

High Alice is the first single of the album, and is a classic Alice in Wonderland setup as she asks "Alice, lost, she took a long rest, in an unknown place. She thought, where did all these creatures come from, and why are they here?" It drives up the electronic drumbeat and it pulls listeners further into Jenny's world. Accident, an existential quandary about Jenny's birth being an accident, cuts to the emotional core, since I feel like it is the universal workings of chance that bring us into this world. As her chorus repeats, "I was just an accident", and later "she was just an accident", it is chilling and a meditation of whether the practice of love is responsible for her existence, as a saxophone echoes through the cosmos of her composition. The title track of the album could hardly be called a song, as Jenny, spoken word and interview-style, discusses her thoughts about the idea of love, and how it is used by people, and also how she feels as a 39-year-old woman who hasn't produced any children to keep the species (or virus, in her words) going.

As her title track comes to a close, it is surprising to note that her album is already over halfway through, because The Practice of Love is only 34 minutes long. Ashes to Ashes is another highly accessible and danceable tune, which puts a poignant image to mind, as she describes burying a loved one's ashes, and then lighting up a cigarette. Her chorus is the well-known, repeated mantra, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." Thumbsucker takes a different turn than the rest of the album as it settles into a saxophone melody as it dusts its woodwind flavor over the silence in a repeated pattern. Before long, Jenny takes over with her angelic falsetto while the percussion carefully treads low in the mix. This is probably the most experimental and adventurous track of the album, as Thumbsucker contains an avant-garde, free-jazz flow, as the instruments follow her lead wherever her voice takes her. Six Red Cannas is another disco-flavored number and contains the most EDM vibes of any other song, feeling the most energized and alive of the bunch of electronic, synthesized pop songs, while Ordinary subdues the energy into a strange, yet familiar ending, as Jenny Hval is known to insert her signature avant-garde style into her music. While her danceable change-up in her new album is a welcome surprise, her traditional singer-songwriter flair is what made her stand out in the first place. She sings in the chorus, "to be ordinary" as she studies the idea and the meaning of living an "ordinary" life.

The Practice of Love is a short, but sweet album by Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval. Its tight composure invites multiple playthroughs and its themes and emotions have the ability to cut deep. The Practice of Love might be her most accessible album yet, as her several singles have proven to be an evolution in her sound, all while still maintaining the core of her personality. For anyone who enjoys a different kind of journey through the world of music, Jenny Hval has consistently delivered from her multiple past albums, which always create a unique, heady, and sometimes eerie, atmosphere of sound.

The Practice of Love - 8.75/10

Recommended Tracks: Lions, Accident, Thumbsucker