This is written in order of discovery, not necessarily order of release, and my memory of the past is not entirely reliable. I will do my best.
I was not the first brooding teenager, and I certainly will not be the last. If I could go back in time to offer a young me anything, it would be encouragement: Things will not remain as they are; Things will improve; Life will become sweeter; You will overcome, and then I would offer him a CD with some songs on it. Some would be songs he knew well, songs he’d brooded over, cried to, and lamented himself with. Others would be tracks he’d never heard before, namely because they wouldn’t be produced for many years thence. Each would be more encouraging and uplifting than the last, alluding to an evolution in self-thought won over two decades of self-loathing. I would offer him a hug and a chaste kiss, knowing what lurks behind his eyes.
When I met Beloved for the first time I was in a dark place. Nothing seemed to matter except my own hatreds. I was filled with it, hate. Not the kind of hate directed at a race or a gender, but a hate directed at life, happiness, and anyone who enjoyed them. To me they appeared naive and unaware of all the terrible things happening around them. I needed an outlet for my rage and found it in the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Marylin Manson, and a little later Power Man 5000, Fear Factory, Rage Against the Machine, KMFDM (MDFMK), Lords of Acid, and Skinny Puppy. Two particular songs that stand out from this time in my life are Hurt (Trent Reznor’s original. I can’t talk about Johnny Cash’s version, because hearing that old man say those words tore my heart out), and KMFDM’s remix of Skinny Puppy’s – Addiction.
Hurt was the only thing I listened to for many months after Beloved and I parted ways all those years ago. It is–in my opinion–one of the darkest songs written in modern history, and I think Johnny Cash (rest his soul) agrees with me. Hearing it now still makes me misty eyed even though the context is entirely reversed. Tears of gratitude and joy have since replaced tears of regret.
After I finally let myself forget about 2001 I stumbled into industrial. It provided much needed motivation to keep going, and one song in particular–a remix of Skinny Puppy’s Addiction–made me feel so wonderfully dirty inside. It inspired in me fantasies of dark rooms filled with drugs and debauchery, a fantasy I maintain to this very day *winkyface*. This is the song that blasted out my car’s speakers in my early 20s. I say “blasted out” and not “blasted out of” because it blasted them out. I broke my car’s stereo with this.
My musical interests would remain largely the same for about a year until I saw a report on the local evening news about raves. It was a report aimed at parents, “Don’t let your kids go to these awful places! Listen to their codified language! If they say RAVE you say NO!” kind of report. I saw it and–not being a little boy anymore–thought, “Oh fuck, I have got to get myself into one of these!” See the bit above about dark rooms and debauchery *winkyface*.
To summarize a long story I did eventually find myself at raves in the South and the Midwest, and while I liked the music I found that only specific parts of them really tickled my fancy. It wasn’t so much the genre that I understood, but the structure of the electronic music itself that I craved, and most raves in the early naughts were just skull pounding drum and bass. Not that there is anything wrong with D&B, but there would be times at night in a rave when specific modes and builds of sounds would stir my emotions. These modes and builds were often lost in the DJ’s mix that never stopped, and so I couldn’t put my finger on them. And good luck asking a DJ at a rave what specific song he played at any specific moment. Sure, he knows the songs in his set, but no one has time to go over every piece of vinyl in search of a specific sound after they’ve been spinning for eight hours or more. Without a way to specifically search for them I was lost in a sea of electronic music searching for a sound I had no name for. Years would go by before I finally found it.
Who remembers MySpace? I used MySpace, and I also used IMVU. MySpace and IMVU–completely unlike Facebook–encouraged users to employ HTML and JAVA to create highly intricate and customized pages. Most of MySpace and IMVU was shit, but there were some gems out there, pages so elegantly curated and put together they became extensions of their creators. These were the early days of blogging, before WordPress even existed, when JAVA applets were the stock in trade that allowed a user to do virtually anything. On one such IMVU page I found such an applet. It was a well organized playlist filled with the sounds I had been searching for, and each song was assigned a genre that would guide my ears ever since.
This was an ultimate one-eighty for me, a complete turn from the dark to the uplifting. After years of Trent Reznor, Manson, and the hardcore industrial sounds of Fear Factory (Obsolete, Edgecrusher I’m looking at you), I had emerged into brilliant light. One track stood out, and instead of making me cry or motivating me to act, it offered me comfort. The soothing, lilting female vocalist, the piano, the beat, and most importantly the melody reached into my soul and said, “Stop thinking about everything. Let it go.” It was OceanLab as Above and Beyond with Lonely Girl.
And so it would be for all the years after. I went to a Trance party with my boyfriend at the time, a small comfy event with Paul van Dyk, and from then on I would listen to albums like The Politics of Dancing, In Between, For an Angel, and Armin van Buuren’s yearly ASOT releases. To this day I listen to Armin’s weekly broadcast.
I am a trance head. My body chemistry (yes, chemistry) just soaks up those melodies like water and blooms dance. I leave you with Blink, by Simon Patterson featuring vocals by Lucy Pullin. This is a trance lovers trance track, 7 minutes of 138 beats per minute that teases the melody for the first entire 2 minutes. Mix the hook, mix the tail, and never stop loving.
I’ll miss you if I blink.