I’ve been having one of those difficult weeks. I’m sure you know the sort. They tend to come with an extra thick dose of hassle spread over them, and regardless of how far off you can see them coming from, they still tend to take the breath away once they arrive. If I was the sort of person who believed in a deity, or a great spirit, or even just a vague notion of some overarching, if utterly arbitrary, sense of meaning I’d wonder if these weeks happen just so that we are made very certain of our place in the world. But I don’t. It just seems to be my turn for it again. I’m not sure it helps, especially since it looks like next week will be even worse.
As a species we have developed many coping strategies. Religion is obviously up there in the number one slot, with booze and drugs, and the delights of manually instigated chaos, close behind. Being the sort of fairly introspective chap who would usually crawl away into a corner and feel sorry for myself for a while, though, I’ve often found music helps soften the edges, even if it doesn’t entirely help to close the wounds over.
Carl Craig’s Landcruising album has been part of my coping mechanism for a long time, although I have to admit I don’t listen to it very often these days, at least not as a complete work. It’s one-third of what I’ve long considered my holy trinity of techno albums – the other two being Rob Hood’s Internal Empire, and Juan Atkin’s Deep Space. Each of them has provided a different function over the years. In Landcruising’s case, though, it has been a sort of sonic analgesic taken now and again to provide relief from the more painful effects of exposure to the modern world.
There is something endlessly comforting about the record. I’m not sure what. Perhaps it’s the way it’s themes seem to combine to create something fragile and haunting, or the way its sci-fi elements seem to have less to do with the high-concept end of the genre, and more to do with drawing out the wonder – and some of the shock – to be found in the profound changes that affect us all right now.
Mind Of A Machine is perhaps not the best track on it (that accolade goes to A Wonderful Life, I think) but it remains a perfect few minutes of headphone escapism. While the idea of bringing together a sort of Kraftwerkian feel and applying classically Detroit strings to emphasise the movement and the beauty of the music was not new even when the album was first released twenty years ago, there are few examples I would rather listen to more. Even better, for me, is the way that Mind Of A Machine simply allows me to switch off that part of the brain where real world concerns are stored, to follow the trails the music forms as it flows down insanely complex and yet infinitely simple neural pathways into a vast, ever evolving artificial intelligence that’s somehow more human than anything organic.
It’s escapism, yes, and the problems that drive you into its arms are always there upon return. But for a few brief minutes, they don’t seem to matter so much. If this is all that music is capable of, it is still more than enough.