People have different ways of listening to music. They play their favourite albums for different reasons, and regard the songs in their library with different feelings in mind. Some listen to music in order to find peace, others listen to music to distract their minds, again others listen to music in order to find beauty. Some experience true bliss at the climax of a song and acknowledge its greatness at the peak of its intensity, others experience that greatness from the first second they hear, as if all their memories, all their emotions come to them at once.
Listening to music is, in its essence, an existentialist practice. There comes a time when even the most avid fan of math rock or technical death metal is touched on the inside by the simplicity of a gospel melody, or the sincerity of a well-phrased lyric in a folk tune. Music concerns the thinking subject, but also the acting, feeling, living human individual. When we listen to music, we all make that infamous “leap into faith” and we make it in solitude for only then can we find authenticity.
The members of the Arctic Drones Team regularly converse amongst themselves, not only about the bands we’re featuring on the website, but also about our personal lives, our hobbies, our jobs and the media. However, the most-discussed topic is of course our great love for music, and one question that continues to haunt us is the following:
“If there was one album you could play to every single person in the world – and that person would hear it exactly the way you hear it – which album would that be?”
It started out as a silly conversation starter, but we decided to collect our individual answers and bundle them together to form a musical existential study. The question forces people to look past their favourite bands, or albums, to records that have touched their lives in a very special way. Some of them are tied to a special memory, others bring the listener the epitome of beauty, sadness or anger.
In order to find out whether the magic of these albums reaches across, we will be presenting our choices to you in series – accompanied by a short text explaining our motivations – hoping that, despite the variety of choices, these albums will touch your lives as much as they touched ours.
THIS WILL DESTROY YOU – THIS WILL DESTROY YOU
Threads was the song that started it all for me. Before hearing this song some time way back at a friend’s flat I was only interested in Metalcore and the occasional blast of Guns N’ Roses. I had no understanding of or interest in instrumental music, so when my friend asked me to start a ‘Post Rock’ band with him my response was pretty much, “what the hell is that?” This was the track he played to explain it to me.
Threads forced me to question everything that I thought I understood about music and after immersing myself in the rest of the album, led me on to discover many of what I would now consider to be my favourite bands. I can still vividly remember how mind blowing it was to hear something on a sonic level I could never have imagined was possible and that experience is something that will stay with me forever.
Artists are always talking about a song’s ability to move you, and I had always dismissed this as very ungenuine but man that was my musical ‘holy shit’ moment. It fundamentally changed how I write and listen to music.
-By Chris Monan
MILES DAVIS – KIND OF BLUE
I was in the beginning of my 20s, studying at university and deciding what I was going to do my major in. High school is well left behind and you slowly realize the responsibilities that you will have for the coming time. It’s hard to take. I was overwhelmed by thoughts and possibilities. That was me when I found the one album of my life.
I had a cassette of Kind of Blue that I was listening to in the car as I drove to the university. Without noticing it, I downloaded the album and started to listen to it also on my laptop. With all its eccentricity, the album was casting a spell on me. As I listened to the album my uncomfortable thoughts would vanish and I would find myself in a state similar to meditation. I would get lost in the musical world of Miles Davis and his fellow musicians, listen to the notes they play and listen to the ones they didn’t. Listen to the silence in between…over and over again. After some years, my soul still gets tickled by what I hear when I listen to the album. I am sure this is exactly what makes “Kind of Blue” so special, not for me but for all other people as well.
P.S. Make sure to check out Kind of Bloop, an 8-bit cover of the whole album as well.
-By Deniz Saglam
RADIOHEAD – KID A
Radiohead’s 2000 release “Kid A” is a turning point in the band’s career. It can be described as post-rock in a sense, but the genre of this album is experimental and electronic, while still holding on to a more subtle rock feel. Branching out to a number of different genres, it grabs at all types of instruments, as well as sounds, loops, samples, and distortions; it is a never-ending cycle of twists and turns. “Kid A” stands out as one of the most innovative, sonically vibrant albums that match great songwriting with powerful instrumental ability. I consider it to be the “Dark Side of the Moon” of the Radiohead discography, due to the trippy aesthetic and the flow of the album itself. Instead of being a simple guitar-bass-drum rock band, they flipped rock on its head with this release, with the use of synthesizers, drum machines, and many different instruments to go along with it. When I listen to this album, I remember discovering new feats in music that led me to what I mainly listen to and enjoy today. This album has become a piece of my life, and it still follows me in everything that I do.
–By Evan Lurie
ECHOTIDE – AS OUR FLOODLIGHTS GAVE WAY TO DAWN
For me, the one album is not a defining one – I wouldn’t say it influenced an important life decision or left a visible mark in any other way. As Our Floodlights Gave Way to down, however, is a mirror into which I gaze to see my own reflection and to see through it. As the time passes, ups become down and vice versa, this record is a constant point for me. One that helps to close eyes and look past everything, only to discover the true and clear picture hidden under the veil of everyday. Echotide created an epic and cinematic symphony which gives colour to all that is otherwise gray, for which I can only cherish and praise it so much.
-By Jacek Kozinski
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR – F#A#∞
Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s world is a loveless one, driven by hate, greed and corruption. Their apocalypse comes from within the humanity, but instead of rapid destruction as a result of nuclear war, global warming, development of AI, or anything else, we get a dark vision of slow decay, which is kind of even more depressing. But sometimes, in complete darkness, one finds a little ray of light which gives him hope, not for a better world, but for coping with the current one.
Why this album? I think most of us have several favorite albums and several albums that mean a lot to us, which makes it a hard task to pick only one. A reason for which I chose this record takes root in GY!BE’s idea of the end of the world. So, why I would like the whole world to hear “F#A#∞” in the way I heard it?
When I discovered “F#A#∞” I took it as just another musical masterpiece. But after a million listens I realized the little hint GY!BE hid in it. Why did they choose to depict a world deprived of love? To show us the dangers of what we’re becoming? Is it a shock therapy in the form of a lesson on how to resist meaninglessness? My interpretation was kind of a merging of both – a call to remain humane in an inhumane world where everything loses its meaning. Our ray of light in the darkness, the only thing that stops us from falling into apathy, are the people we love and I think that this is what GY!BE might have wanted to say with “F#A#∞” – an album which recognizes the threat, but also somewhere in between the droney soundscapes, offers a solution.
-By Jedrzej Jedraszyk
THE ORB – U.F.ORB
Throughout the seminal 1992 release “U.F.Orb”, freedom is the musical theme of choice; a focus on the experimentation of sounds and production takes precedence over any kind of traditional strict structure. This interest in production and musical creativity merges with a fascination of dub and ambient music to create a truly rich listening experience that holds almost infinite depth. There is also a tongue-in-cheek anarchic humour in “U.F.Orb”, the album had presented a shift in The Orb’s style to a production focused sound, but it was still full of truly “out there” sampling, philosophical theories, barking dogs, prank phone calls and space sounds, which means things never get too serious. It was every one of these influences and elements that the group combined that makes “U.F.Orb” the record that it is, a transcendental experience of the universe, like floating through space on a lilo.
Every time I hear the opening track, “O.O.B.E”, I am taken back to the moments of my life that this album has soundtracked, back to the night before my GCSE French exam as the rain fell outside, the countless all nighters in the university library, long drives at sunset, longboarding through the city at 3am, all have at some point been accompanied by this magnificent album, and like a distant best friend, I may go a while without hearing it, but I’ll always return and get on with it instantly.
-By Richard Anderson
AQUILUS – GRISEUS
Within the Catholic tradition, it is believed that the eucharist transubstantiates into the real body and the real blood of Christ, therefore, the body of Christ comes physically to the believer, who is himself part of the body of Christ. Saint Augustine told his disciples, “be what you see; receive what you are,” and in the same way I believe that the muse of Beauty is present in the music of Horace Rosenqvist. Through the music of Aquilus, Beauty comes to the listener, who is himself part of the Beauty that constitutes humanity.
“Griseus” is an opus of weltschmerz that moves seamlessly between the beauty of the fields and the awe-inspiring madness of the mountains. It’s a symphonic black metal epic, but the adjective does not do any justice to the overwhelming orchestral nature of this album. The songs flow into each other like a symphony, the strings are majestic, and equally, the acoustic guitars sound like the rolling of landscapes.
“Griseus” is an 88-minute beast that has tempted me for three years now. It is not the easiest album to live with, it’s heavy, dense and demands all of your attention in order to bring you satisfaction beyond measure. The times that I put on this album, and found myself waking up to the sounds of “Night Bell” have been countless. Beauty is a struggle, Beauty is limitless power, and too often I have found “Griseus” to be more beautiful than I am.
-By Robert Westerveld
IF THESE TREES COULD TALK – RED FOREST
As I sit writing this piece late at night, trying to come up with superlatives to describe “Red Forest”, I pause often. It’s not only due to the daunting task of describing why this album means so much to me and why the world needs to hear it, but simply because I need to stop and LISTEN to “Red Forest”. I need to FEEL it.
What If These Trees Could Talk managed to craft is an album that demands its’ listeners utmost attention. Since its 2012 release, I cannot think of a time where I did not listen to the record all the way through. The songs flow seamlessly from one to the other, each one telling its’ own story of life, loss, love, fear and courage. “The First Fire” must surely be about the fear all humans’ experience, and the triumphant conquering of it. Is “Barren Lands of the Modern Dinosaur” not about the true love we have for those closest to us? Surely, Isn’t “When the Big Hand Buries the Twelve” about death and what it means to truly be alive? Hell, it’s the human condition laid out bare in musical form for all those who dare to listen and experience it.
Sure, that’s some brave and lofty stuff I’ve said about Red Forest, but after living with this record for three years I am confident in what I have to say. Whether it’s that long, lonely drive at night on the freeway, or that sunny, spring afternoon spent with the love of my life; Red Forest has always been there, seamlessly slotting into the story that is my life. I hope many more will discover this gem and allow it to be part of their stories as well.
-By Roberto Pereira
TOOL – 10,000 DAYS
Tool was my first big love when it comes to music and it kept me in love ever since. When you think about the entire discography, “10.000 Days” is probably not the expected choice here. It was hard to digest it for the first time and the complexity of it fell in place very slowly after every new listen. It has all sorts of different layers that you have to peel and understand – then suddenly it hits you and you end up being mind blown by this record.
This album has it all, it shifts from pure primal aggression to hypnotic, lengthy introspection. Tool are the masterminds in altering your state of mind and sucking you into psychedelic greatness, full of lyrical and musical maturity. In some ways it is energetic and powerful, yet in other ways so cathartic and mindful. It is not my purpose to highlight one Tool album and give it the title ‘the best’, but simply to point out this underexposed treasure, which I believe is not appreciated enough.
-By Milana Jovic
A PERFECT CIRCLE – THIRTEENTH STEP
Through the years, my musical taste has changed dramatically – sometimes faster than I notice. Despite my earlier belief that whatever music I was into at that time will stick with me forever, very few records passed the test of time, and above them all stands A Perfect Circle’s “Thirteenth Step”.
Intoxicating as the addictions they built the album’s concept around, once I heard those tones, I could never break its overwhelming and sometimes painful spell over my mind, especially Keenan’s soft yet dominating voice, which forces me to push the vocals to the back of my mind, leaving the melodies to be the perfect surface to evoke tons of memories and thoughts upon.
All through this 50-minute experience, I can hear T. S. Eliot’s excruciatingly words resonating in my ears “This is the way the world ends, / Not with a bang but a whimper”. Through the anguish and struggle of mankind against “The Noose”, till “Gravity” vanquishes us all, I can’t think of a better anthem than this album to embrace this restless decay.
I thank A Perfect Circle for not only creating a unique musical journey – changing my perception of the power of tones forever – but also an entity that I can gracefully grow old and wither away with.