Bisecting Counties with Sound

In a few hours I will be driving across the English countryside; bisecting the counties and travelling at 70mph towards a glass and steel edifice. As I write this I am sitting on the sofa in my suburban home, half watching TV, while thinking about the music that will accompany me on the morning leg of my trip south.

Music, you see, is essential to my experience of life. Without music life, for me, is meaningless. Two hours without a word spoken or a single note of music is an imaginable nightmare that I can avoid with planning. There will be a CD, of some sort, in the car’s stereo, and the radio mostly works. It has problems with the cuttings on motorways, and as long as I jam the buttons on the front of it at random for long enough I can normally get BBC Radio 4 or Five Live. But it has to be the right music. I am slightly proud to admit that I am one those people who tries to soundtrack their life by finding the write music for my mood.

I do think that it would be a good idea if I don’t repeat the mistake of last week’s trip again. Because, yes, the hour long dubstep mix called ‘Outraged by Silence‘ is brilliant, but listening to it three times in one journey is a bit much when you’ve been listening to it all week.

So the question I’ve been thinking about in my idle moments this week (one of the few questions running through my mind that is acceptable to write about in public) is what album do I stuff in the player? What do I think will keep me alert and sane for the four and a half hours road time?

I have a few ideas:

Dub Side of the Moon by Easy Star All Stars. This was considered early. As reworking of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ I think this nicely matches the habit Dad has of playing bloody awful prog rock when driving. ‘Dub Side of the Moon’ however isn’t bloody awful and, importantly, is not my Dad’s music. (Also remember kids that Pink Floyd is OK; Camel isn’t.) The main argument against this album is that it has been in the car since Wednesday and I’m already starting to get a bit sick of it. The main argument for this album is that it can be used to traumatise old people.

800 Memories Per Second by Taphead. Risto is going to blush about this. I keep mentioning this album because I genuinely keep it in the car at all times. Ambient droning guitars. Music for all weathers. It even has some Erik Satie worked in there for extra class. It does however lack drums and rhythm because it is ambient drone.

Untrue by Burial. This works only when it is raining. All the positive associations I have with ‘Untrue’ come from huddling at the back of the last bus home, in the freezing cold, while rain falls down the windows and the visibility is nil. If it starts to piss it down and fog lights are required then this will be the soundtrack.

The Key to Time by Davros. Doctor Who with breakbeats. Sadly I won’t be driving at night and I have the suspicion that I’ll get caught behind trucks which will break the illusion. There’s nothing sadder than listening to breakcore while crawling along in a traffic jam. Maybe not for this journey.

Brain Electrode Mix This is a mix CD I burned a while ago. It has all the stuff you’d usually associate with me. I know the words to most of the tracks on it and it is weighted down by a good selection Daft Punk and Royksopp tracks along the back of the mix to make even hardened wall flowers dance.

Monoliths & Dimensions by Sunn O))). Tempting, very tempting. I don’t have a copy burned at the moment, and I don’t tend to take original CDs in the car in case they get lost. But burning a copy shouldn’t be a problem; a five minute job. It is a very slow album and it is very droney. Good things. I do however have the suspicion that this album is part of a ritual to summon up Great Old Ones from the earth and sea. Because I’m driving through Cambridgeshire and into Essex, it might be best to avoid alerting the local deep ones inhabitants to my presence with this sonic sigil. Also some of the tracks on this album scare the shit out of me and induce deep paranoia.

Those are my current ideas. The weather is looking like it will be dry with slight cloud cover; the dying days of summer gently cooling into autumn. I’ve no clear impression of what music I’ll have accompanying me. If I was leaving before dawn then instantly the choice would be ‘800 Memories Per Second’ because that would be perfect for watching the fog lift above the fields while the sun rises in the east. If I was driving late at night then ‘The Key to Time’ would be a natural and easy selection. Likewise if I knew I was driving into London, I’d find a drum and bass mix to keep me company because London is all about sitting on the tube listening to drum and bass.

I could just pick something at random from a random shelf of CDs. That might prove interesting and horrible.

Sleep would be smart.

(Worth noting that as I post this I am listening to the Brian Eno track ‘Lizard Point’.)


  1. Alex Williamson September 3, 2010

    Nice selection. On my 6 hour road trips between Aberdeen and Lancaster I have The Resistance by Muse on repeat. The album is written as a story and it goes all the way from rock to classical. Out of interest, and where were you going on the road trip?

  2. Will Ellwood September 3, 2010

    I wish I could listen to Muse for more than a handful of tracks at a time. I doubt I’d be able to listen to them for six hours; especially ‘The Resistance’ because I’d be shouting, “I bloody get it Matt! 1984, Olaf Stapledon* and my Dad’s slightly naff prog rock.”

    I’m driving to Stansted to pick up my parents from their trip to Sweden and the Baltic states.

    * He wrote two philosophical science fiction novels in the 1930s about life on Earth and life in the universe. I’ve reader the latter; very thought provoking.

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