Gone For Walks
The concrete jungle can appear to have no end. The daily commute is a grind through rough subway tunnels as black as the eclipse of a nightly sun. The air, once breathable for a select few – the true subterranean creatures – hits the senses through the carriage fans, with the scorching smell of electricity working its way through the stations and the dusty, dry heat of the underground an invasive presence. Not only does this frequently prompt the need for the nearest escape route, but it substantially increases the feeling of sublime peace when the escape eventually arrives, as if the sensation itself were a late train pulling into the terminal (11:12am). It’s a sure and appreciative state of mind when the only noise left is that of silence.
Escape the grind.
An excursion away from the chaos can drop the rising blood pressure, promote positive thinking, help us to appreciate the natural beauty that is all around – the beauty can be found in the skyscraper sparkle that reflects off the clear glass architecture, but it will forever be counterfeit to the real, intended beauty of nature. The urban landscape is, in the scheme of things, contemporary, succumbing to decay and rust as new shoots push their way to the surface. Excursions can make you feel good about life. It’s rejuvenating, and it’s also important to re-focus on the things that really matter.
The city can wear our hearts down. Gone For Walks confronts this problem, but it does so carefully – through a deeper message of self-renewal, inflating the heart once again with a thankful pause for breath. It’s an introverted, feel good listen that re-connects with your deeper self; it’s the reason you get away when the opportunity presents itself. Pollution doesn’t splutter into the smog-fuelled air, smothering itself over every living thing with a dirty sheet of clouded vapour. Out in the country, there is no rush like that of the urban and its pursuit of inner city ozone annihilation.
Sedately, the field recordings are instant in their evocation, containing a very real quality due to their authenticity, and they make for beautiful, clear images of largely untouched terrains, the population in the hundreds instead of the millions, alongside the acoustic guitar and Felix Gebhard’s fingerstyle approach.
The touchstone for authentic, natural sound, field recordings are unrivalled in their evocation of place, and Gone For Walks inserts them generously. Arpeggios are, at times, stretched out through the effect of tremolo, constantly fading in and out repeatedly as if they too are taking in the fresh air, in need of some deep breathing.
In the inner city, the untouchable sense of peace can be elusive. Germany’s Felix Gebhard has lived in many cities himself, song-writing and playing guitar since he was a teenager. With only his guitar for company, Gebhard leaves the city etched on the faraway skyline. The fraught tension of the city and the stress that is the rush hour commute is exchanged for a natural sanctuary. Gone For Walks takes a trip to a village in Wendland, a rural region by the Elbe River on the former East and West Germany border.
The localised field recordings hazily blend into his beautifully clean guitar melodies, birdsong and string as one. Because of this, there’s a beautiful, rural quality to the sound – the texture of rough sawdust as a wooden gate creaks open; the small churchyard a resting place for departed souls and the green fields on the horizon contrasting the endless blue sky above. The furry buzz of the birds and the bees enter along with the melody (with no commercials promising the fiction of instant love). As the sky darkens, so too does the music.
A chained fence rattles like a shuddering train on ’03.27’, with an almost alien wave of synth pulling you into its grasp. During the night, you experience dreams that never quite allow you to escape the city. It’s the kind of dream – or nightmare – where running doesn’t get you anywhere, leaving the destination in the distance. Slowly but surely, the pebble-strewn country path starts to invert, reeling you back towards the city. The peace vanishes with a growl of cutting distortion. It’s the noise of the industry; the red-to-yellow-to-green of the traffic lights, the rumble of heavy vehicles and the stream of car headlights, a blur of turbulent, white-bright gridlocked graffiti. The same could be said of the flesh as you enter the crowded carriage. The stranger presses close to you: missed you so much.