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Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝘿𝙞𝙙 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝘾𝙧𝙮? - 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝘼𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙣 𝘼𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙣
Charles sees beauty in sadness…
Shit happens. Americans eloquently spout this wisdom so often, that it has seeped into the vernacular of so many nations. But as simple as it sounds, it somehow manages to sum up every part of the feeling when something bad occurs. When things are out of our control and take a downturn, predictably or not. It is a phrase not usually used for the abominable sinkholes that life so generously donates, but more for the little nuisances. The pains. Les petits bastards. These things tend to simply make one swear, before muddling through and sorting out the problem. Say for example, if you drop ahammer on your toe whilst working in the outhouse, you will most likely not shed a tear, but tear the shed to pieces in revenge. Stupid revenge, because it was not the fault of the shed. But basically, it is fine. This minor pooey occurrence will be relatively brief and inconsequential. Shit, does indeed happen. However there are times when this mandatory colloquial utterance will not suffice. Say, for example if one experiences years or even decades of the deepest, darkest depression. Or if someone close to you dies unexpectedly. This is not the same as your phone not turning on. This is serious stuff.There will be no swearing. There will rarely be any initial anger. There will be no “sorting out” of the problem, because it will seem like there is no answer. But there will be tears. And plenty of them. The feeling is so deep and complicated that our brain can barely cope. We are not in control. And so the emotional side takes over the rational.
Three months ago, our dear Queen passed away. I was deeply affected. I did not know her, and neitherhad I ever met her. And yet, there I was, feeling very queer indeed. I was safe, but my emotions were unstable and volatile. Sometimes things were fine and I would be getting on with my day, but then it would dawn on me out of nowhere, and I would suddenly and irrationally burst into tears. And this would have been days after the news broke. There is a reason I mention The Queen - more on that later. Emotion is what sets us apart from robots - at least for now…! It is incalculable, unpredictable and random. These are things that robots don’t like. Oh, and water, otherwise they will rust like the Tin Man - or so fiction has taught me. There is something funny about sad emotion however - not ‘haha’ funny. Peculiar, might be more what I mean. I might be alone in this strange notion, in which case you might start thinking of me as a sadistic Nazi - I do hope not, though. What it is is, whenever Ifeel extreme sad emotion (notice I don’t call it “negative emotion”), I feel almost born again. A euphoria comes over me like a ray of golden beauty. You see, I feel as much beauty in sadness as in joy. Beauty, not happiness. Not glee. I don’t turn into a crazed smiling Charlie-boy lunatic, I am simply overcome by emotion and it feels like nothing else. I am still deeply sad, I am still in tears, andit takes me over like a drug. A scientist will tell me why this is, and that it is simply natural chemicals racing through my brain, but I prefer the non-scientific approach. It is like magic. I do not wish to know how it’s done. I do not wish to shatter the the illusion of beauty. But is it an illusion? It is how I feel at that very moment. It is very real.
Several weeks ago I touched on emotion and sadness when I reviewed Andres Guazzelli’s ‘The Sum of All Colors’. From the sorrow of his dog’s passing came one of the two most beautiful pieces I have heard on the New Artist Spotlight so far. Andres managed to transform deep sorrow into beauty. I think only the most talented of artists can achieve this truly successfully and believably. In music, it mustn’t sound or feel forced. The talent must pour as readily as the tears. If it doesn’t, maybe set that piece aside.
At the very beginning of September, Rich Allen got in touch with me and delivered his latest batch of stems for me to work on - his latest song. As always with Rich (I have co-produced and mixed all his recent solo work to date), he didn’t send me a rough mix. Meaning that in order to hear it for the first time, I have to import all the stems into a brand new project and press play. I actually really like this, as it makes the whole process a little more exciting. As always, I did just this and sat back to take it in.Within a couple of lines, I had watery eyes - it was that bad. NO NO NO, I’m joking. I had watery eyes because it was just so beautiful. The most beautiful piece he has written so far. Just gorgeous and warm. And this was before any mixing or editing or anything. It was clear that however rough or smooth this was, the song was something special. The blend of writing and orchestration was so perfectly judged. Rich’s choice of live strings was so clearly the way to go. It was as if the instrumentswere designed and constructed solely for the purpose of this song. And so, with great gusto I tucked into this steaming meal with gleaming cutlery. I needed to treat it with particular care. Even more thanusual. Rich had somehow come up with this classic of a song, and recorded it so professionally, I did not want to screw up the final stages with heavy-handed laziness (not that I would ever treat someone’s art in this way). This was fine art that needed a little TLC, and I was to be the restorer to bring it up to the level it deserved. I was actually nervous. I felt like I was holding a recently discovered original Beatles tape. But I just had to get going - it was not going to mix itself. Six days later, I was still fiddling, but I was getting close. I opened a new EQ, then something instantaneously flipped my world upside down...
I read the news today, oh boy. The old girl is gone. The Queen had died. I froze. For what seemed like half an hour, but was probably only a matter of minutes. I stared blankly at the screen. This empty EQ stared back at me. And then it became out of focus as my stare became hazy. Or rather, my eyes became glossy. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t really know what I was looking at anymore. Then I looked up at the top of the screen. The title: ‘Did You Cry?’. My mind spiralled fast and I felt rather faint. Did I cry? I very much did. And there was no way on Earth that I could touch this or any other music for a while. I needed silence. I needed to give my emotions space to wander wherever they wished. And so I did, for several days. But all the while, this beautiful song echoed through my mind. Those sweetest of melodies, those fond chords, those comforting vocals, those birdlike flute and piccolo parts, those visceral violin and cello lines. In fact the entire piece was becoming visceral to me. It was becoming a part of me and a part of that moment of my life. Lord knows how Rich managed this, but by Jove, he did! So you see, this beauty in sadness of which I spake - it is so very real. After a few days of feeling whatever I was feeling, I got back to work. Something was pushing me to get this even more ‘just so’ than I had intended - if possible. Was I doing it for The Queen? Was I treating the song AS The Queen? Was it even the new King?? If felt more like that. This piece had even more meaning than it did before. Unfortunately, this also made me go slightly crazy, because I had got to the point where NOTHING was good enough. Because I was never aiming for “good enough”. I was aiming for perfection - that was all this piece could have. Nothing less. But of course, with the nature of perfection, that was by definition impossible. So I strived for the best I could muster. It was the least I could do for Rich’s beautiful piece. I had to make sure those marvellous guitars shone when they popped out their heads. The drums had to retain the initial punch of the original recording, but somehow set themselves as a backdrop to the beauty in front. The vocals’ convincingly heartfelt words and melodies had to gleam yet mingle with the bell-like keys and sumptuous strings, not to mention the hopeful flute and piccolo. As the days went by, I realized a strong nostalgia in the song, hence why I mixed it the way I did. Upon Rich listening to the final mix, his reply was: “You must have George Martin’s DNA”. I’ll take it.
‘Did You Cry?’ became the soundtrack of that time. Whenever I hear it, I feel that sorrow, that hope for the future, and that beauty. I hear the old, I hear the new. I feel a fondness for the past, in a time of the future.
How many times did my Mac crash while mixing this piece…? Shit happens.
Interview with Wilco Wilkes