When it comes to listening to, or enjoying music, the mind and body are rarely in unison. If you are indulging in the heady tasteful egotism of Dark Side of the Moon, you don't wants to move a limb. The flipside is sweating and grooving along with a James Brown collection and turning off that pesky brain of yours for a moment. Music speaks in extremes and there is no exception with either the physical-self or mental-self.
In honor of our Health and Body theme, here are some prescriptions worth considering for the mind and body during the conclusion of this winter and the upcoming spring.
Boiled down to its essence, music is a primitive rhythm. It goes back to our ape-like ancestors beating on stones and tree limbs (if you believe in that sort of thing). So to appease that carnal vehicle known as our body, one must seek a tangible beat and the transparent energy that translates from the audio speakers to us. Bangers Vs. Fuckers by The Coachwhips immediately comes to mind. The now defunct trio was a consummate garage rock band producing aggressive gritty records that incite the listener's body into joyous carefree romps. The sound of the album is perhaps best re-enacted by thrashing your body about and slamming your head onto the sweaty concrete, while singing along with the often inaudible lyrics.
Or maybe there is more swagger than spazz in your step. Allow me to point you in the direction of the seminal solo debut by rapper Q-Tip, Amplified. The album is part of the rare honorary list of albums-as-perfect-dance-party-mixes. Under the supervision of J. Dilla (a.k.a. Jay Dee), Q-Tip literally knocks it out of the park track after track. With songs like "Let's Ride" or "Higher", the playfulness and positivity that Q-Tip trademarked in A Tribe Called Quest is utilized to move an entire room to the beat of one rapper rapping.
If your body requires more sultry attention than seek no farther than Miles Davis's ex-wife Betty Davis. Armed with a funky backing band that would make The Meters jealous, her 1973 self-titled debut does everything from holler and grind to whisper sweet nothings.
But the mind is much simpler. One could just 'cleanse the palette' as one should with a glass of wine. The cleansing could be as dense as Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, but I prefer the often-unguarded gentle procession of The American Analog Set. From the opening notes of its album Know by Heart, a weight is lifted in the room. The menagerie of guitar, drums, bass, keyboards and vibraphone largely strum and pluck lullabies, while vocalist Andrew Kenny coos along.
For those that prefer the pastoral or bucolic, singer-songwriter Will Oldham, under the moniker Bonnie Prince Billy, recorded the masterpiece Master and Everyone. The album is simplicity in its inception, arrangement and execution. The largely acoustic collection of folk-esque songs tells dark complex tales of everyday existence with musical embellishments of organs or cello. But the presentation of said material is done in such a gentlemanly and nonchalant way that the darkness never resonates. On the closing track "Hard Life" Oldham describes the life of a man suffering because he does not have a wife. The song teeters between the haves and have-nots, those that suffer and those that succeed, the yin and the yang, ultimately the body and the mind.
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