Keep the faith

I’ve been having a lot of music evenings lately. They tend to go one of three ways. The classic is the dancing-in-the-kitchen variety. These involve making a drink, clearing some space, and either putting my playlist Big Soul Bangers on or else Craig Charles’ funk and show show on the BBC Sounds app – particularly around about the time the show moves into its “Talcum Time” northern soul segment, though both the “Spinage à Trois” and “Trunk of Funk” are generally pretty reliable too (though the less said about that “electro” remix of Superstition the better – it makes the clavinet sound like a prepared piano being dragged through an A-level music performance, for god’s sake). I clear a space, limber up a bit and get to work on some footwork and spins. Although in an ideal world I’d prefer a bit more floorspace, my style of dancing (a heterodox, more anarchic variation of northern soul, I like to think) is well-suited to solo manoeuvring and working with the contours of the kitchen. The second, a very recent phenomenon, essentially involves me playing Fifa on career mode pretty mindlessly while I just vibe to the tunes, occasionally pausing the game to add something to my “Funk and soul finds” playlist.

The third variety of music evening is the one that has become more frequent since about the 11th or 12th week of lockdown, I guess. Invariably involving some level of intoxication, I pile soft things onto my not-very-comfortable sofa and lie on my back to examine the ceiling and the wall, contemplating each in turn. I dwell on the contrast between my ability to spin plates really pretty competently in my professional life – some weeks I even impress myself – and my inability to seriously motivate myself in a lot of personal projects, always begun and seldom progressed. Sometimes I just think of nothing – a new one for me – interrupting myself occasionally to wonder how long it was since I last blinked. Some evenings, like tonight, I ask myself how it can be that I can feel so on-the-ball as to be floating above the ground in the afternoon, or even throughout a whole week, only to realise at some point my mind has wandered into a profound ambient sadness that feels so basic and elemental I wonder if I’ll ever laugh again. I try to reason with myself. I sort of know it’s always there really, like my sad eyes and ringing ears. I sometimes wonder if I’m bipolar, before feeling irritated at how everyone’s so keen to medicalise everything now. And then I just feel sad that I don’t feel like dancing.

While I mainly listen to podcasts on a speaker, I always listen to music through headphones. I’m not sure why; I guess it feels more intimate. Less like a party-for-one and more like my own private worship at the altar of soul. The highest fidelity. I used to think it was impossible to listen to soul music and not feel an improvement in mood. I know that’s not true now, which is sad in a way, but given my evangelical (bordering noumenal) relationship with soul I’m trying to appreciate it as a new, additional dimension to the relationship rather than as a loss of the faith northern soul always instructed us to keep (speaking of which, I was amused to see the logo below has been circulating online in the Gen X northern circles).

It’s ironic that I never used to believe in the existence of the soul. I’m pretty sure I do now, or at least it’s something I think about quite a lot.

I ought to just wash my hair and have some ice cream though.


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