Welcome to Emotional Overtones, our feature set out to overcome genre borders and create a more intimate relationship with music! We here at Everything Is Noise think that genres can sometimes be a little limiting, which is why I created this feature. Every episode of Emotional Overtones will feature a certain emotion (for example: melancholy, euphoria, apathy) as its topic, and four to five writers will choose records based on this emotion or based on memories that conjure this emotion in connection to this record. There are no limits as to genre, length, style, or band; everything is allowed, as long as the writer feels it’s right and can explain their stance. This feature will be an ongoing series for expressing varying emotions of varying complexity.
Today’s episode revolves around a singular kind of sadness described by the German word ‘Mauerbauertraurigkeit‘. It describes a feeling of deeply rooted sadness, where the person experiencing it pushes everyone around them away because of reasons unknown and incomprehensible even to said person. A ‘Mauerbauer‘ is a wall builder, one who builds an imaginary wall around themself. I chose this emotion for its singular and complex nature, although it is something you can easily grasp.
Here are the thoughts of our writers Tyler, Billie, David, and Ash on this topic:
I feel I could nominate pretty much any Skinny Puppy album for the theme of Mauerbauertraurigkeit. They are my own ultimate chaos band, an industrial tsunami of grit and loathing, but their material also soars free of the macabre theatrical undertones found in a lot of extreme music. This particular brand of chaos is riddled with self doubt and a subsequent discontent for the surrounding world that, well, does not joke around.
It just so happens that 1990’s Too Dark Park is one of the band’s purest deliveries of this panicked need for introversy. The album is so bereft of diplomacy that it could go one of two ways for the listener: it could be a grating experience from which the mind would swiftly want to exit, or it could be an unexpected portal through which one can express a seemingly sociopathic need to find peace of mind through isolation.
I’d like to go one step further and say that it projects not just the feeling of pushing one’s closest allies away, but one’s own self as well. It opens up a frustration you were only partially aware of, giving it a voice, a venomous, almost vengeful sense of self, a justification of something you felt was inappropriate to feel. And this is something you really don’t want your nearest and dearest involved in when you are in the throes of it. Too Dark Park argues that you need to go through the motions in any case.
‘Don’t let it bring you down
Just wait ‘til the morning comes’
The refrain of “My Book of Regrets” resonates pretty strongly with me. Sometimes a bad mood where I’m particularly (maybe inexplicably) anti-social and apathetic can be alleviated by just sleeping on it. The next day will be better, right? Eh, maybe.
I thrive on solitude to begin with, but I can take it to a harmful extreme and just not want to communicate with people and push them away. The first album that came to my mind to reflect this feeling is 4 ½ by Steven Wilson. I actually think it’s one of his best works despite being made mostly of leftovers shelved from other album sessions.
Instrumentals “Year of the Plague” and “Sunday Rain Sets In” are perfect tonal reflections of Mauerbauertraurigkeit. They’re light and reflective, but in different ways. The former track captures more of the sadness that could be felt with this particular emotion, the awareness that you’re pushing everyone away and don’t want to. The latter song is more content with this fact; also aware, but understanding that sometimes you just need time to yourself, to think about yourself.
As your Mauerbauertraurigkeit ends, the album’s final track will offer some respite, maybe an apology to those you might owe one to:
‘Don’t hate me
I’m not special like you
I’m tired and I’m so alone
Don’t fight me
I know you’ll never care
Can I call you on the telephone, now and then?’
Mauerbauertraurigkeit, the inexplicable urge to push people away. A word I can barely say, and yet one I know all too well. As someone who has suffered with depression and anxiety in my personal life, pushing people away is something I have done on many occasions. And when I close the world off, one of the only things that stay is music.
Below The House is an album that I found a few months after release. It was late autumn, and the beginnings of seasonal depression clawed at me. The cacophony of sounds I found in this album were soothing to an aching mind. The emptiness and loneliness that songs like “Somewhere In The Evening” convey is something I can relate to that comforts me.
Below the House is a constant wall of noise. Heavily distorted guitars and shrill feedback permeate the space. Crashing drums and shrieking vocals clash along with the thump of a deep bass. It is doom heavy, gloom heavy, and drones on. The lyrics are as desolate as the music that accompanies it, making it an all around just dark album.
This mix of sounds is intoxicating. It drags you deeper and deeper into the murkiness and suffocates you like a warm blanket in an empty room on a demoralizing day. It is a sign that I am not alone on days when I want to curl up in bed and deactivate my Facebook to shut everyone out. It is depressing and dark, but it is beautiful.
An isolated dejection, the inexplicable inability to distinguish the genuine from false pretense leading to unintentionally pushing those close to you away. Something we’ve likely all felt in our life. There is a powerful catharsis in music that can portray complex emotions like this, but this is true ten-fold in situations where the music itself becomes the support and comfort you struggle to reach for. I’ve experienced a fine few that could aptly capture the ebb and flow of melancholy to longing, hopelessness to frustration, the way “A Change of Seasons” – the crux of the album by the same name, save a few covers – can consistently immerse me in.
The greatest strength of this song in conveying the aforementioned feel is its restraint in instrumentation. It knows exactly when to isolate one or two instruments in an extended subdued flourish as James Labrie fragilely recites some of the stronger writing in the Dream Theater catalogue. Flashes of agitation rear their head in the mix, which not only improves the flow of this fairly long track, but works as a reflexive introspection to the complexities surrounding the want for an emotional strut to lean on and the inability to receive it in earnest.
An expected set of minor keys and dissonant melodic through-lines form the crux of this twenty-three-minute epic, although it’s in its subtleties that the beauty and sadness truly lie. From the way the notation flits and lilts again and again before dropping in waves as the keys and piano both embellish and contrast in equal measure during the opening moments to the smart use of descending melodies to lead into the larger moments, every minute seems to contribute to the theming of the lyrics: loss, isolation, frustration, and (to a much lesser degree toward the end) acceptance. Every build-up leads to an intentionally unsatisfying fall, and the ambient touches keyboard player Derek Sherinian uses to round out the sound stage really bring the tone together.
Framing the track around the cycle of life and loss, and rooting the perspective in many personal tragedies as a backbone to the overarching language and makes the rejection of insincere comfort towards the later part of the track feel all the more powerful. By the time you reach the end, the mood shifts to a slightly more hopefully endeavor, though it doesn’t end before returning to the tone of the opening moments, possibly implying how these memories and moments continue to carry an impact as we move on.
While I’ve personally moved on from the times when a song like this was most powerful in my life, my unwavering support in a time of need, returning to this track always impresses upon me the weight of loneliness in dejected isolation. A need and an inability; a comforting melancholy. It’s important to remember and keep these parts of what made you who you are now, and “A Change of Seasons” will remain an important part of my life, even if I move away from those nearly forgotten troubles or lose a taste for this kind of music.