Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lost Among the Rings of Saturn

Astronaut ~ Elisanth

My favourite R.E.M. album has always been Life’s Rich Pageant (1986); it spoke to this, then 24-year-old malcontent during the dying years of Apartheid when it seemed that the world would always be stuck in wrongness and I had but to listen to lines like "we cannot conform" to be assured that I was not alone.
Laugh if you will, but I am one of those guys that believes that cult bands lose their fire when they break the mainstream - so, no, 'Losing My Religion' is not their greatest moment for me.
Growing old(er) alongside some of those musicians has taught me that, while the above is true in general, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
(more on that later)
I read today that Cassini, a dense package of very expensive space-junk, is now passing through the rings of Saturn. This coincidental fact has allowed me to complete this piece of jumbled nonsense that I started over the weekend after listening to R.E.M.'s 2001 album Reveal.
I think I started listening to it 2 or 3 years after it was released; I was writing The Aeon Calling at the time and I’m reasonably sure that some of it did entwine itself into the story, if not in detail then definitely in mood.
All the Way to Reno used to make my heart rise above the melancholic vein that I was tapping into to feed the story, still does but the effect is less since the difference between my state of mind and the song has decreased.
The album is part self-help manual and part an act of spiritual flight.
While not necessarily spiritual, W.G. Sebald's writing is certainly meditative, and reading his 'Rings of Saturn' a few years ago, I found it to be immensely fulfilling in a way which I cannot explain. It’s not science fiction despite the title; in fact it’s not fiction at all as far as I can tell, yet it has about it an tinge of other-reality, or sur-reality.
It describes in various degrees of intensity areas of East Anglia (an area reasonably close to where I live) visited on long walks by the author. It also dives tangentially into a myriad of diverse subjects from the lifecycle of the silkworm to the life of the aptly named Major George Wyndham Le Strange.
Strange as in the title of the Wire song covered by R.E.M. on their (almost) breakthrough album Document. (tenuous link alert)
Track 6 on Reveal is 'Saturn Return' a song which should, in theory, be a piece of navel-gazing bullshit; but somehow isn't - it pulls you into its current and drags you downriver to a waterfall at which point it takes flight and soars among the planet's rings.
I realised over the weekend while listening to it after a break of maybe 10 years, that Reveal has become my new favourite R.E.M. album – It is a mature version of Life’s Rich Pageant, more suited to this 112-year-old malcontent.

Saturn is orbiting nothing
He's off on its own,
He's breaking from home.

1 comment:

Harlequin said...

This was a lovely reflection -- edgy, of course, and unflinching, but, still, so engaged and immersed in what is happening in the cosmos, in ourselves.