Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Means To An End

Credit: ESA / V. Beckmann (NASA-GSFC)

An artist's depiction of the accretion of a thick ring of dust into a supermassive black hole. The accretion produces jets of gamma rays and X-rays.
A track that really sounds, for at least a few bars, like you are disappearing through a black hole in which nothing exists except you, it and the aggregate visuals of your past lives, is the soundcheck of Joy Division’s 'A Means To An End' from Disc Two of the 2007 reissue of Still.

Soundtracking the nauseous lurchings of the solar plexus as the body skirts closer to death, it is the music of Dante's Divine Comedy, and Rodin's The Gates of Hell, but can only be heard in The Thinker's area of the sublime. Hence, I don’t know whether I am ascending or descending. It feels like those nervous moments on a plane where the sound of the engines suddenly ceases and the plane itself seems to drift. The instruments themselves fade in and out of the track. At the beginning of the first chorus, there is no bass nor much of a lead guitar, only drums, heavy and bassy themselves, and yet there is still an exquisitely restrained atmosphere as if all the instruments are being thrashed with great intensity, but with headphones plugged in.  The atmosphere is black, like the dead-air-space coined by Radiohead, but nacreous gases in pink, blue and purple are rising, slowly, with only the merest hints of pale yellow and green. And then bang!  The descending bassline crashes through the ground with the drums in perfect harmony like two malign lovers skydiving; the lead guitar follows like the ephemera from the mid-air collision, the blast illuminating the night sky as I tumble irredeemably through the booming black hole, fearless and ecstatic, with the chemistry between the instruments, just drums, lead guitar and bass, the bass pervasive like nothing else in Joy Division, and slightly off-key, manifesting the beauty and power of that which I had never understood. Here, sound is superior to vision; I can only see the sinews of strumming forearms in hell as they almost burst.  I knew I shouldn’t bother to try critiquing anything so sacred, but it’s not a critique, merely a visualisation. 

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