When was the last time you heard a record that truly astonished you; that reconfigured your concept of music by stretching the boundaries of creativity?
For me, it was First Utterance (1971) by Comus – an unclassifiable progressive/psychedelic folk concept album, inspired by John Milton’s 17th century morality masque of the same name. Before that, it was many months ago – a pair of experimental post-punk masterpieces Deceit (1981) by This Heat and The Modern Dance (1978) by Pere Ubu.
For months now I’ve been asking myself, “What it is that makes these bizarre works stand out vividly in my mind long after my headphones have receded into ambience?” Naturally, it all comes down to the emotions one experiences as a listener. You know, that spike of adrenaline comparable to a moment in freefall, or the serene chills that tingle slowly down your spine. It’s the feeling that you've discovered a fantastic secret that’s been lying in wait, or witnessed something truly monumental.
Before the internet made everyone’s lives so much easier, hip-hop producers would go crate-digging in record stores and rare vinyl collections in search of a sound no one had sampled. Sometimes it would take days, weeks, or even months before the producer “struck gold”, but in almost every case it was worth the effort. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed my own listening following this trend; I've been trawling through record stores, friends' collection and music web communities, in search of something new, something unique.
Tackling such a wide perspective of culture as music has by no means been an easy feat, but for the most part it’s been fun to familiarise myself with, for example, the dozens of metal subgenres, avant-garde jazz forms and world music styles. If anyone ever asks me, I’ll happily explain the difference between “thrashcore” and “crossover thrash”, although it remains a rather contentious topic!
For the most part, my musical journey has led me to become a more open-minded listener with a much greater respect than I had previously for musical creativity, in all its expressions. Importantly, it's also made me realise that pushing boundaries to their limits is a fundamental part of the musical creative process. Music is a bit like Darwin's Natural Selection - regurgitating the same old, Same Old (music) might be comfortable, but it's not going anywhere. Conversely, what today might sound incomprehensible could just turn out to be tomorrow's "gold".
Creativity is one of the aspects that drew me to a musicians social network – a place where independent musicians of all forms unite, draw ideas from one another and share their creative efforts without limits - without being told what to create, or how to perform it; and during my relatively short time on the site I’ve discovered artists who combine music genres and ideas I imagined unthinkable, pure examples of applied ingenuity! So maybe – just maybe – the next record to amaze me will be one of the creative works of a Melody Fusion member...