Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

Crocodile Laboratories – 4th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems almost beyond banal to remark that we live in troubled, troubling, challenging, and anxietised times. Since the turn of the millennium, and certainly for the last decade or so now, it feels as if we’ve been hurtling inexorably toward the end of days. Not one aspect of our existence is sustainable. We’ve known it for some fifty years, but here we are, staring into the swirling void the black hole that is our absence of future, and it’s nothing short of utterly fucking terrifying. It’s small wonder everyone’s cracking, that mental health issues are beyond rife to the point that it feels like half the population is struggling with some form of stress, anxiety, depression or related disorder. Are we getting better at speaking up, diagnosing, and treating these things – or could it simply be that we haven’t evolved at the pace of technology and society, and we’re just not built to cope with contemporary existence?

There was no way that when Amy Studt, after many, many years in the wilderness, and having followed a long, hard, road through recovery and stuttering false starts, could have envisaged the world she would finally deliver her comeback album to. So on the one hand, the recent events which saw the president of the United States of America first attempt to dismantle a 16-year-old-girl whose mission drive positive action against climate change, only for her to utterly demolish him by turning his words back on him, have no bearing on Amy’s album, the optimistically-titled Happiest Girl in the Universe. But on the other, the ‘happy young girl looking forward to a bright future’ Twitter duel is perhaps as relevant as it gets. Because in the personal lies the universal.

And Amy’s album is an intensely personal document of breakdown and recovery, and the title reflects the glowing hope of light at the end of the tunnel, of being able to find and cling to those moments of happiness, however fleeting, and accept that for all the darkness, there is light, and that light is what matters.

The singles, released at regular intervals over the last few months to give a slow-build engagement with the album have done more than pique the interest, but have built a steady-evolving picture of her creative rebuilding, and an insight into the long and difficult process that has seen her use creativity as a form of therapy.

From the haunting ‘I was Jesus in Your Veins’, which opens the album to the delicate piano-led introspection of the title track which draws the curtain with an air of soft calm , of homely comfort and a certain relaxedness that conjures images of Sunday morning coffee curled up in a chair taking it easy with a book or whatever.

But Amy sings of Diazepam, of depression, but also of empowerment: ‘Violently With Love’ is, on the face of it, a simple piano tune with vocals, but it’s a forceful songs that goes beyond ‘power ballad’ to an emotive tsunami. ‘I paid my dues. I played it your way. Now this s my way’, she sings on ‘Let the Music Play’. The video features footage of her from her childhood and beyond and evokes a deep nostalgia that’s resonant and affecting, and reminds us of the ageing process that affects us all. These are moments, locked in time, but they’re the moments of a one-time child star who’s different now. Older, wiser, perhaps, but also a traumatised adult who’s lived. Yes: she’s been there. She’s been done over by the industry. She’s still here. Survival is revenge.

‘The Water’ marks a stylistic departure, with a shift toward grand, sweeping cinemascopic sounds over a brooding piano. Studt’s voice is bathed in echo as she soars skywards once more, and in place of the quiet, intimate tone of the previous tracks, she spins skywards into the territory more common to Chelsea Wolfe and Zola Jesus. Stretching out to the five-and-a-half minute mark, it’s vast and immersive.

She’s no longer just a little girl: Amy’s a full-fledged artist ad while her years in the dark represent troubling times and reflect more on society than the artist, they’re past. Happiest Girl in the Universe is not an easy album, lyrically. Its lyrics are painfully introspective, raw, open, honest. But musically, it’s simply magnificent, and for all the pam and anguish there isn’t a song on here that isn’t lilting, melodic, and plain lovely. Happiest Girl in the Universe contain ten songs, and every last one is perfectly crafted, poignant, and touching. Amy is definitely winning: here’s looking to a brighter future.

Crocodile Records – 26th April 2019

Let’s not deny it: we’re all vain to varying extents. Of course I got a buzz from Amy Studt’s sharing of my review of her last release, ‘I Was Jesus in your Veins’ on Facebook (although more than the buzz, I was genuinely touched by her level of appreciation), and to see Aural Aggravation quoted in the press release for the follow-up – well, that did give me a buzz. That isn’t to say that I crave attention and adulation, and when I say I do this for the love not the money, I mean the love of music, not love I receive for writing all this shit, because, well, it’s not how it is, and I’d kiss a lot more arse if I wanted that kind of adulation and approval.

I’ve digressed before I’ve even begun. ‘Let The Music Play’ is the follow up to ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’, and is the second track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on what Amy’s PR describe as her ‘eagerly awaited new album’, which is ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’ which is set to arrive later this year.

‘Let the Music Play’ begins as an intimate acoustic song, but over its duration, layers up with warping synths and infinite incidentals that coalesce to a rich, dense sonic soup. Amy’s vocal is quavering, quiet, intimate, as she reaches upwards and soars with a joyous freedom tempered by a deep-seated melancholy. A magnificent slow-burner, it’s quite simply a great song.

With some live dates upcoming, the indications are that after some wilderness years and a false start a bit back, Amy’s finally getting her career back on track, and the signs so far for the new album are all shades of positive.

Forking Paths – FP0015 – 5th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title has very personal origins for Evan Davies, the man who records under the Blank Nurse / No Light moniker. A sufferer of Pure OCD – a form of OCD which manifests with no external behaviours or rituals, with the compulsions being mental rather than physical – and depression, Davies spent his teenage years tormented by the fear of HIV infection.

HIV 1994 sees Davies confront and channel the experience creatively, using what the press release describes as ‘often-overwhelming mental health issues’ to create song which are ‘like exorcisms for emotions and memories’. The context suggests that this was never going to be an ‘easy’ album, and however deftly Davies combines his wide-ranging and, in the face of it, incongruous and incompatible influences, which span ambient and neoclassical, hardcore, black metal, noise, and house, the clashing contrasts would be awkward enough without the anguish behind the compositions themselves. And so it is that on HIV 1994, Blank Nurse / No Light hauls the listener through an intense personal hell.

‘Blood Fiction’ begins with a collage of voices and extraneous noise before lilting string glissandos and a soft bass steer toward a calmer, more structured path. It provides a recurring motif, but one frequently interrupted by passing traffic and low rumbling noises. And so gentle tranquillity and ruptures of disquiet are crunched into one another before ‘Mocking of the Ghost of Crybaby Cobain’ really ratchets up the intensity with unsettling collision of styles, with pounding industrial percussion and expansive electronica that’s almost dancey providing the backdrop to the most brutal screaming vocals. It actually sounds like an exorcism. Or Prurient with more beats.

And it only gets darker, more disturbed and more disturbing from here: the lyrics are unintelligible, guttural screams of pure pain, and the tunes mangled to fuck, glitchy, twitchy anti-rhythms hammer around behind quite mellow synth washes. ‘Flu Breather’ sounds more like a demon dying of plague in a nightclub conjured in a nightmare, or, perhaps more credibly, the outpouring of indescribable, soul-shredding anguish that cannot be articulated in any coherent fashion.

There are some straight-ahead, accessible moments amidst the cacophonous chaos: ‘Outside the Clinic is a Hungry Black Void of Nothingness’ is a brooding electro-pop piece with a real groove and a narrative of sorts, and calls to minds Xiu Xiu, while ‘No Ecstasy’ goes all Wax Trax!, coming on like late 80s Revolting Cocks . But these tracks are very much the exception, as the majority of the others twist, turn, break and collapse in on themselves. Redemption and light are crushed and swept way in a succession of disconnections and claustrophobic dead-ends. It’s deeply uncomfortable from beginning to end, and much of it sounds like opposing sonic forces at war – which probably makes this a successful work, providing a deep insight into the tortured mind of the artist.

AA

Blank Nurse