Lockdown Opens Up The Imagination
Paul K’s new album 'Anandamide' sent me straight to Google in the same way as his 'Fermi Paradox' album did! Ananda is word meaning a feeling of bliss and delight in Sanskrit and an anandamide is a chemical compound designed to create these feelings. This is not mere etymology as 'Anandamide' is a lockdown album that explores the way that enforced isolation has affected people. If you understand that the album makes perfect sense and becomes even more of a listening experience. As with all of Paul K’s albums there is a thematic clarity to his work that make each album a complete entity. His vision and range of influences are rare amongst modern musicians.
The title of the first track 'Dharma' means the nature of reality and sets out to explore the way in which the experience of lockdown affected that reality. Starting off with what sounds like a Bonsho, the bell in a Buddhist monastery that calls the monks to meditation. It then broadens out with a gorgeous keyboard motif that runs throughout the track and creates an image of empty spaces. There is also a Vangelis style metallic background that is reminiscent of those early days of lockdown when each sound seemed to be heightened and created a new soundtrack to our lives.
'Moment of Illusion' is another beautifully reflective track that has a simple yet hypnotic quality largely due to the snatches of an electronic soundscape beneath another exquisite tune. I felt as though I was looking at an eerie scene of cars sitting on their drives and front doors remaining closed like memories of our previous lives.
'Ghostwriter' is reminiscent of the main theme of Cosmos and is a track full of quiet majesty. I think that the ghostwriter is an outside force over which we have no control, taking our experiences and resetting them in a completely new story. Listening to this track I felt as though someone had told the whole world that it was time to slow down and rethink what we have done to ourselves and our planet. Carl Sagan would certainly have recognised this mindset.
The title track is a more unsettling piece of music with competing musical styles reflecting the way that lockdown made us less sure of what we were feeling and seeing. As already pointed out, 'Anandamide' is a mind altering substance and this track acts in that way. The cover of the album has a figure of our dreams, or perhaps our nightmares, on the verge of breaking through to our world. What we will see or experience when that happens is anyone’s guess.
'Phanomen' is the German word for phenomenon and it starts off as a stately, classical piece of music before allowing the music to drift off into different areas, perhaps as a way of reflecting the manner in which our minds were unable to hold onto particular thoughts in that odd half life that we all experienced.
'Kama' is the god of desire and pleasure, but perhaps paradoxically the tune starts off in a very reflective mode. It does, however, become more urgent and more multi-layered as it progresses. A very short track by the standards of this album it seems as though it is a kind of awakening and perhaps a turning point.
'Pranayama' is the breath control practiced in yoga and the track reflects that moment when we start to regain some control over our lives. Either that, or we have made our peace with the new reality that we are faced with. It is a subtle and effective tune that could easily be used as the background to a session of pranayama as it has a quality that allows you to focus on the tune but, at the same time, ensures that you are lost within it.
'Duas' is a track that seems to be asking for guidance or release from the situation we find ourselves in. A dua is an Islamic supplication that is considered to be the most important style of prayer. It is a way of saying that we are ready to accept the lessons that we have been taught by our enforced isolation but that we want to find our way back to a kind of normality.
Ephemera are items that are only meant to be enjoyed for a short period of time. In that sense, the way that nature reasserted control and the way that we saw bees, butterflies, birds and squirrels that revelled in the absence of human beings was an ephemeral experience. We look back at that now as a peaceful and lovely time, but also we look at a possible future where we are no longer around and that time comes again. Only there will be no one to see it and experience it, just a silence where we once were.
'Lost' reflects how we still feel as we are trying to reconnect with our old lives. Perhaps we are trying to decide whether those old lives are in fact worth reconnecting with. Should we just leave them behind in lockdown and find a different way of experiencing our world? Are we going to learn from our mistakes as individuals and as a species or are we doomed to repeat them? This album is a way of taking time out from this strange new reality and can maybe help us make sense of our new normal.
'Paralysis' is a very unsettling track with disembodied voices carrying on an urgent conversation. It feels like a waking dream or nightmare so perhaps the paralysis is sleep paralysis which, anecdotally, became somewhat more common during lockdown. After the more reflective and hopeful tone of previous tracks it reminds us that things are still very uncertain and that we are still likely to go backward into a kind of confusion.
'The God Plan' makes me think of the old saying, ‘Man plans and God laughs’! This track appears to be telling us that our plans are certain to fail and that we should trust in a higher power, whatever we perceive it to be. To some it is a God, to some the universe and to others mere fate, but whatever it is, it will never acquiesce to our desires, however powerful we feel we are.
The final track is 'Coexist'. It is the message we must take out of the trauma of 2020. We need to coexist with other people, other nations and the world itself. More importantly we need to coexist with our own needs which we have routinely ignored for years.
This is another stunning album from one of the most innovative, thoughtful and mentally engaging artists of modern times. In Paul K’s hands, lockdown has become a time to reflect, to acknowledge our weaknesses and to improve as human beings.