How are you?

I have been feeling pretty bad lately. From existential death anxiety to job contract issues to cold and rainy darkness in the weather, I have been worried about all sorts of things. I was able to resolve the anxiety overall, and the job issues and weather are clearing up. And I actually had help from an unlikely source.

I usually watch a lot of YouTube videos about video games, which led to me creating a new blog based on my old YouTube channel. During these weeks of darkness, I had trouble focusing on things that I liked. I didn't care about learning cool facts in my downtime about the Sega Genesis or completing Link's Awakening DX on my Game Boy Color, and I even had trouble practicing with my band for an out-of-town show. What was I to do?

I had no idea, to be honest. While at work, dreading all night’s terrors, I read a lot of documents about physics, metaphysics, and parapsychology. This helped me feel better, but I only got through it all with another tool: YouTube radio stations.

If you have listened to electronic musick on YouTube in the last year or so, I am sure that you have come across suggestions about "lofi hip hop beats" radio channels. I had been seeing them for some time, often top suggestions, but I was apprehensive. I wanted to watch Video Game Historian, Pat the NES Punk, Game Sack, and other channels like that. Sometimes I wanted to watch trashy 80’s anime films that were only released direct-to-video. Other times, I wanted to watch live concert footage of bands like T. Rex, Lou Reed, The Ramones, or Yellow Magic Orchestra. The radio channels of YouTube looked cool, but I didn’t feel like they was something I really wanted to spend my time with.

In the vast void, the Gray Waste of Hades, that was my mental state at the time, I didn’t want the normal stuff though; it just served to remind me of the lurking shadow that was my fear of oblivion and decay. I clicked on the link for a playlist of Japanese City Pop from the 1980s. And it was fun. That was on my TV at home. This opened the door for me, and I went on to find a streaming City Pop radio station that seems to unfortunately gone missing since. At work I listened to a lot of “lofi hip hop radio – beats for depression/anxiety” and “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to”. I still felt like I was floating in a mental void at first, the vision of vaporwave holograms and blooming video game consoles reminding me of the end of the world, just more sunny. But I got over it. Those “lofi hip hop beats” really helped me out, particularly the ones prescribed for my condition. The sound of wind through trees, the disembodied voice of a person that sounded meaningfully inspiring, the calming rhythms and vibrations really made me feel better. And they still do. Even though I am not at the very bottom of that pit of The Nine Hells, I still get inspiration from these channels when I feel myself slipping.

From the bottom of my heart, I have to say thank you to YouTubers ChilledCow and Ambition. Thank you for all that you do, and thank you for all that you will do. It sounds kind of corny, but those "lofi hip hop beats" can be really helpful when you are feeling down. Check 'em out. Maybe they can help you too. It's always nice to turn to different avenues when you are upset: friends, family, art, science, and YouTube. Thanks again.

P.S. I don't think future funk is for me. That stuff gave me a headache.

Today, as with many other days, it is a rainy day in the city of Pittsburgh, the "Paris of Appalachia". It's rainy here pretty often despite the amazement exhibited by The Outcasts on their song about such things. This rainy day seems most appropriate for Hemlock for Socrates' barometrics, which the band describes as "an exploration of the variable humidity and dryness of certain word- and non-word sounds". I could end this paragraph with a dumb phrase like "let's get wet!", but I won't do that to you. It's just depressing.

barometrics has some cover art showing a road and overpass, seemingly here in Pittsburgh, through what seems to be a car window. The window is covered with rain. Rain is the theme here, so it all makes sense. The actual composition, the focus, and the text combined mean that the cover does not really mix together as would be hoped though.

The first track on barometrics is “across your neck”, a song laden with gothic imagery and weather metaphors. The guitars reflect of shining background synths and a danceable rhythm section. The storm dies down on “stilled wind”, an operatic, minimalist piece of eerie dissonance that reminds me heavily of Nico’s The Marble Index. The instrumentation is dramatic, springing from sparse whispers into a rise of activity and back again. Track three, “fresh tape”, is a little more rock-ish though still damp. I don’t love the way the two singers interact here, but the big amoeboid synth helps balance it out. I started to notice an element of late-era Bowie as I got close to the end of this song. “hurt you this way” is sort of a fairy tale opera. It’s a little overdramatic, though the end wraps the track up in a nice, circular way.

Side two starts with “come and gone”. It’s another dance-rhythm-driven track. These kinds of songs make me think of a more subdued Cactus Gamarra, a band that I reviewed last year. This track springs to life in the middle with some awkward synth horns. I am not a fan overall. “the forecast” presumably will include precipitation. This song gets all the parts right, vocals interacting with an unusual beat and shadowy, erupting guitar. Next is the “inclement weather” that was predicted. The showtune structure is corny. There’s more dynamic musical interludes, but the bombast has been done so many times on barometrics earlier. The metallic guitar is pretty cool, playing off of a buzzy synth and driving drums, so the song is not a total loss. “bite your tongue” is the last song with more of the lounge/goth drama. After so many tracks with these kinds of vocals, it’s really a downer. I like the synth/cymbal sound going on here, and the starry guitar and boxy drums make a nice sound together. As a whole, it’s a little too overcast, neither here nor there, for my liking though.

barometrics is a quite a gothic, cabaret, production. It's a rainy theatre show that is too mired in the downpour for my ears. The songs are decent, but they churn and churn in the drain to a depressing level. It becomes a task to listen to this album all the way through, at least for me. I think the vocals are too much, too theatrical. The instrumentation is well done and well produced, but with the mire of the mix and the vocals going for the smokey room of a burlesque show, the songs do not reach the heights that they could and should. barometrics gets a Neutral.

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