I’ve written before about those rare times when you truly “get” the music you’re listening to. When something clicks, and in a rare moment of synchronicity, music that may previously have been distant and obtuse becomes an integral part of your life, if only for a little while.
When, through some magical process, you can fill it seeping into your pores, settling underneath your skin, and filling in some crack in your psychic facade that you didn’t even know existed a few minutes prior to the experience.
I’ve found that those times usually happen when I’m exhausted, run ragged by the world, work, relationships, etc. In my fatigued state, my defenses are lowered. Music has a more curious pull over me in those times, when I’m more susceptible to its ebb and flow, and the emotional effect it can have.
Such is the case with the self-titled debut EP from St. Kilda, the new project from Last Day’s Graham Richardson. Now, if you’ve heard any of Last Days’ output, than you probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect. But whereas Last Days’ music has some structure thanks to sparse piano and guitar melodies, St. Kilda is pure sonic drift; it’s as if Richardson has gathered together all of the spare bits of atmospherica from his Last Days sessions and put them in one recording (that’s not to say these songs feel like warmed up leftovers).
I’ll be perfectly frank: in the wrong mindset, these pieces, much like any deep ambient, atmospheric music — e.g., Stars of the Lid, Max Richter, Sigur Rós, Deaf Center — can easily come off as ponderous, even insufferable. The four songs here unfold at a glacial, meticulous pace that evokes rainy, windswept locales and remote places that time and memory seem to have forgotten (which isn’t surprising, seeing as how a remote, abandoned Scottish archipelago serves as the project’s namesake).
But when it’s nearly 11pm, you’re running on fumes, and your second wind seems about 12 hours away, these songs become rather transformative. Each shimmering unveiling of sound, each barren field recording, each distorted sample, each funereal organ drone seems to be a little sonic world in and of itself. You won’t be going to your nice, warm bed anytime soon, and this is the sort of music that wraps itself around in place a soft blanket.
St. Kilda’s music is the perfect soundtrack for these strange, somnambulistic moments; its sad, amorphous, elegiac beauty is absolutely appropriate to this time and place. To listen to music with anything resembling a rhythm, melody, or any other form or structure, would wake the sleeper, would ruin the dream.