On her brilliant new album, the Lisbon-based electronic musician silences the Intercranial Overdrive
This feeling: A clap, a slap-slice of thunder, far too close to you.
For half a second, your soul empties, there is no self, there is just the blue-white stunned awe of completely selfless awareness and attention. Isn’t it amazing to feel emptiness?
What if music could achieve that?
Intentions, the new album by the Lisbon-based electronic musician and DJ Ana Miranda (released under the name ANNA), achieves this small, necessary miracle: Each of the seven tracks on Intentions is a weighted rainbow, a sustained clasp of beautiful pearly opalescent thunder, a wash of air and stars in the shape of a moebius strip, underwater rules in the sky, a luminescent jellyfish moving very slowly very quickly, helium as syrup as punk rock, meaningless lysergic time slow without being slow, fleet yet footless. Yeh. There’s a lot to Ana Miranda/ANNA and her career – I gather she is best known as a DJ and mixer, and her work in these formats certainly contains elements of the hallelujah-cloud deep pink lightness and shape-shifting torched rainbows of Intentions – but what interests me is only what is here, which is to say that the charged starlight and milky way-in-dub music of Intentions defies biography.
Sometimes, y’see, it is enough to be dumb, to put aside the decades-old listening habits of the dilettante and the acolyte, and just be absorbed by beauty. When we are tired of listening, we need to hear. Music that defies memory and mnemonic; sound that defies the ability to insert your own experience, fantasy and grasping amongst the weeds and the trees of noise and melody; music that reminds you of nothing but grace and gravity; music that, for a few moments in time, makes you fingerless, completely and beautifully senseless, even birthless.
Intentions made me consider all this, in the most warm and expansive way.
Thich Nhat Hanh: “When you look at your close friend, you may think that you understand her completely, but that is difficult because she is a river of reality. In every moment, dharmas that are not her enter and leave…By observing her form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, you can see that she is here sitting next to you, and she is elsewhere at the same time. She is in the present, the past, and the future… Their presence is deeply connected to all dharmas, all objects of mind in the universe.”
Dharmas pass through us, see? Even the most supposedly chill amongst us is a superhighway and/or garbage chute of distractions. Our identity is defined by the 108 acres of relevant, irrelevant and vaguely relevant crap that our vessel holds at any given moment, these enormous psychic U-Hauls of tragedy, comedy and absurdity that have become so intrinsic to our mind and selves they have, ridiculously, become our minds and ourselves. History passes through us. Lovers, friends, mortgages pass through us. Old car license plates, nail salon appointments, the question of do we need new ceramic coffee cups or will the old ones last another season?
Intercranial Overdrive. If we could freeze frame your runaway train of a mind, what would we see and hear? Memories of a photo from four years ago; grudges to be considered, discarded, reactivated; do I really need a dry erase board? What was that screenplay I was going to write fourteen years ago? Would everything have been different if the Mets hadn’t traded Tom Seaver? Did I change the autopay on the phone bill?
Am I all these balloons, this dust of presumed identity? Am I the books I didn’t read or the movies I saw, am I the friends I didn’t call or the ones I might one day see, but probably not?
You think you are these eight hundred plus eight thousand things which “occur” to you, which electrify you, which flood you at any given moment. You have mistaken all the things swirling around you, through you and within you for you. They are not you. You grab them – even if it’s only for a nanosecond – and utterly mistake the thought for the thinker. And because we largely use music as a reference point, as a place keeper and designated driver for our own emotions, we forget what music really can be: the graceful groan of the all-encompassing sunrise/moonrise/milky way spray.
‘Cos this is the thing: Pop music requires us to close a loop, complete the arc with an aspect of our own experience. Therefore, virtually all pop, even sophisticated pop, is essentially teenage in nature: it is geared towards taking advantage of that time of life when our emotions are most new, raw, and exposed. That song is about love! Why, I feel that, too! Pop counts on our ability to close the arc with some aspect of our own need, experience, or fantasy; pop depends on its utility as a mnemonic. To do this, pop entirely engages the balloons of self we began to float when we first separated ourselves from other/(m)other figure, when we realized we are separate from the people and objects in our faces. At that moment when we recognized that the person sitting across from us dangling that spoon and/or sponge bunny doesn’t see the same thing that we do, we began the life-long process of gathering the wood with which we will construct the wicker men and women of identity. We began a massive collection of things outside of ourselves that we mistakenly used to define ourselves. Please note that some of the earliest music we are exposed to — the nursery rhymes we hear before we start to even build the wicker person — do not rely on identity or empathy, and require no arc closing: i.e., the itsy-bitsy spider doesn’t need our romantic hysteria or social frustration inserted into the narrative to work. But an average song by, say, Billy Joel or Taylor Swift doesn’t really connect with us unless we have also felt the feelings they are singing about.
Which is all to say pop is another product of and for the false narrative of self, which is all well and good and even useful (I wouldn’t trade the sobbing, empathy-eater that is Silvestrov’s “Hymn” for anything); but it is utterly amazing when music can reach us in a selfless, birthless place.
I don’t want pop that requires the false narrative of the self to work! (I mean, I do, but not always.) Sometimes, I want music that defies self, that empties me and occupies me like the sensation that occurs in the third of a second after the clap of thunder! I want music that defies thought, defies the dunes and tar pits of identity that begin with the cradle bars and becomes every mote of any idea, dream, fear, or desire that has ever drifted through our eyes, ears, skin, and skull. Although music cannot exist without dependent origination, it can bring us to a place where we have a respite from its grasping. I want music that returns me to the time when sound was a mystery without a question mark, music that does not require me to know the reference points, dull and extreme, of the life we must live; I want music that is truly ambient, which is to say, it exists as a sensation without definition. I want to return to the hum of the distant highway heard from the crib, the harmonic symphony of the refrigerator, the dance of the moth and the lightbulb, the countertenor scream of the supermarket halogens overhead, the chorus of the Sunday lawnmowers before we knew what a Sunday or a lawnmower was.
VIDEO: ANNA Journey Into Intentions
Sometimes, music can and must feed the always-hungry identity eaters; sometimes music can and must give us more sticks with which to create the wicker man of distractions, fears, and fantasies that we mistake for our actual self. But sometimes music can and must utterly center us in the beautiful, peaceful, wetland of our actual self. When this happens – as it does on ANNA’s Intentions — we are left with gravity, underwater-rules gravity, birthless space and beauty. Switch on Intentions, and ANNA presents us with shifting clouds, seeds of new stars and embers of old, deep space and sunsets, the place where gravity and absence of gravity mix; in virtually all of these landscapes, a Challenger Deep bass-wash pattern keeps us tethered to the starship, while milky way sprays twinkle and tinkle, clasping long fingers with floating, arpeggio guitars (the bass patterns and the guitar dust on Intentions reminds me how extremely influential in this genre both Wobble and Vini Reilly were/are, even if the creators might not be aware). Everything here sounds like a chariot of gravity pulling the northern lights, revealing and reshaping the stars behind it.
It is not so rare. We can find this quality in the weighted spaces within the notes of Morton Feldman’s piano compositions; in the simple, deep, noisy prayers of La Monte Young, specifically The Tortoise, His Dream and Journeys and The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer (each of which, by the way, sound freaking amazing when played simultaneously with the landscapes of Intentions), where we listen to the birth of music conceptualized as the birthlessness of music; in Tony Conrad’s Four Violins, which challenges you to have a single thought in your head except for the Industrial Age Epitaph being described; and others, of course, who made birthless music, that is, music that was an idea before an idea, a sensation that required no arc, a revision of the crib-time between birth and the beginning of grasping/death. Intentions is a new classic of that amazing, sacred genre.
Listen to Intentions. Stop being born, stop suffering. I mean, that, too. Birth brings about the cage bars of identity. Defy birth by just breathing, by becoming lost in soft power. Breathe and act, with kindness and efficiency, but without ego. Certainly, this music was created with ego, but the listener absorbing it defies ego, because we are lost in a beautiful birthless place when we listen to Intentions.
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