Welcome, to Emotional Overtones, a 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 chose records based on this emotion or based on memories that conjure this emotion in connection to this record. There are no limits 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 until for varying emotions of varying complexity.
Today’s episode features a very specific emotion, namely Shinrin-Yoku. It’s a Japanese word that literally translates to ‘forest bathing’. A tranquil, peaceful experience with nature. Let’s see what our writers Pete, Robert, Sam, and Vidur come up with regarding this beautiful topic:
‘Only love is all maroon, gluey feathers on the flume. Sky is womb and she’s the moon / Only love is all maroon, lapping lakes like lirid lune. Leaving rope burns, reddish ruse’
Released in 2007 and met with critical acclaim, Justin Vernon’s reinvented sound and newly found delicate, vulnerable vocal style set to the minimalist production and songwriting approach heard throughout For Emma, Forever Ago set the tone for a generation of singer/songwriters, directly inspired by the debut release from Bon Iver.
At that time in my life, music like this wasn’t on my radar. Whilst knee-deep in the discographies of metal and hardcore bands, unsure of myself and everyone else, I often assumed artists like Bon Iver to be vapid, festival-catered nonsense, reserved for the popular and pretty. Whilst in this country, their audience mostly remains comprised of casuals who just want to hear that one song (a reflection on British audiences, not him) Vernon’s rich discography, albeit limited, has had a significant impact on the art form and I was happy to have my judgements disproven.
Recorded in a remote cabin somewhere in the Wisconsin wilderness during a bleak winter, this seminal LP, both lyrically and sonically, conjures imagery of melting snow, tranquil forest floor, empty as the animals hibernate leaving the woodland haunted by reminders of seasons passed.
Though we are all grateful that Vernon’s plans to exit this mortal coil, with these as his last known words, were thwarted (as addressed in songs such as “Blindsided”), For Emma still renders its guests feeling though they are amidst the trees and lakes. Still. Perhaps more poignant, however, is the unusual sense of being at peace with one’s self, as if close to the end.
A good friend once described closing song “re:stacks” as being ‘the final song to end all time’. I understood.
This is just one of those albums that was love at first note. This is a record that is filled to the brim with an innocent and unhindered beauty that defies most descriptions. It is one of the most soothing collections of sounds I ever came across. I never really associated this journey with anything visual. Although I must admit, having it play as I’m wandering aimlessly through an expansive forest sounds like absolute bliss.
It even has a fitting arc for such a setting. As the album slowly begins, I’m feeling my limbs succumbing to the inherent tranquility of a majestic landscape, nearing the beginning of the forest. I’m already feeling the mountain nearing as “All Things Transient” is blooming. When the song climaxes I’m already at the top, gazing idly at the vast expanse of foliage which gently bends in the wind’s caress. I remember the title, and I also remember how true it rings. Everything comes and goes… and this thought and the feeling that springs out is something of a tender relief.
By the time I reach the ending of “Waking Life”, I’m by the lake at the edge of the woods, the sun is setting slowly – and I want nothing more. The ending of the album properly encompasses how the night sky envelops the surrounding landscape. As the ending of the record slowly fades into the nether from where it came, so does the the horizon descend into obscurity, leaving only small sparks lit in between.
When one thinks of ‘forest atmosphere’ we tend to associate it with peace and tranquility, but forests can also be extremely ragged, dark and, unpredictable. Downfall of Nur radiate the same emotions, with their beautiful yet ominous atmospheric sound in Umbras De Barbagia.
“The Golden Age” takes you into a quiet place. The atmosphere build up as one ventures deeper, the first gust of distortion hits almost four minutes into the track. It takes another two minutes before the ravaging vocals show their face. The music offers isolation, left with only the basic necessities. Far from anyone but the tall trees, with darkness enveloping the further one finds themself.
Moreover, there is a tribal beauty to the record. The vocals at their softest sound like those of a ritualistic chant, and when at their loudest can take the form of a screechy storm on a cold night. They become just another instrument, as they complete the overall sound of the record. Further, the use of traditional instruments adds an archaic touch. Where the quenacho flute and launeddas cast a ray of sunlight in the darkness, the cello adds a layer of fog as one blindly walks on into unexplored territory.
‘Cleansing the roots of the earth, the veins of the oldest goodness,
mother of nature and life, radiating lines of energy towards the universe.’ -“Ashes”
As one envelopes themself in the state of shinrin-yoku, they can achieve calmness and rejuvenation. Umbras De Barbagia offers a similar solitude, allowing one to contemplate their life, look back at the moments of light and darkness, and come out into the world with a whole new outlook.
SikTh? Tranquil? This one evening at University, I got ’round to listening to the whole of Trees, previously finding intrigue in just the first three tracks. I was in my room smashing my way through said tracks in a jovial mood, as per the status quo. Then “Skies of the Millenium Night” rolled in and the soulful melodies which I had been resisting previously took a firm grip on me. The song oozed that chaotic power I was craving, but also began a very protracted and vivid vision that began the feeling of shinrin-yoku. I felt like I was flying into a dark woods, shedding musical limitations imposed upon myself and discovering sounds I’d baulked at previously.
“Emerson” charged me with a tranquil nostalgic feeling that was brought in through the soft piano and playground samples. This feeling pertained through “Peep Show”, a track I had often skipped in the past. The melancholic vocals and complex structures cut my flight short and grounded me, preparing me for the madness of “Wait For Something Wild”.
When I arrived at “Tupelo”, I was fully immersed in the deep woods, and felt the presence of faces in the woods, whispering and shouting the lyrics at me as I walked down a dark path, the tops of trees crowded above me in a twisted but comforting archway. I didn’t feel phased by the weird calls; instead, I felt the peacefulness that I had found my calling in music.
The feeling I remember as I tackled both “Tupelo” and “Can’t We All Dream”, is that I wanted to explore and discover more experimental sounds and unshackle my taste. This is why I’ll always feel at peace and remember the forest of Trees.