There Can Be No True Beauty Without Decay

Beauty is evident even in the decay of things. Rust will come to claim everything, but the dilapidated, disused building on the corner of the abandoned street still creeps with the secret beauty of intruding ivy, running over its outer walls as it dances silently to the past, and a brilliant shoot of light can still reflect triumphantly through a broken mirror. In the end, you can’t stop the dust from falling over everyone you love, everyone you care about. You can only delay it or accept it.

Once pristine, the first shudder of a bass note is accompanied by a higher, gentle melody, itself a victim to the corrosive, crumbling stone of age. The piano sounds as if it is dusted with age, an old instrument that, despite its years, still revels in tranquil, slow-developing beauty. The major, minor and seventh chords are rich in their timbre, giving the music an unbelievably warm and earthy sound as the decay eats away unnoticed.

The rural, roaming flashes of pleasant, green-tinted scenery rolls in on a tired mind that secretes faded, melancholic memories. ‘Strange Light’ is a hazy, luminescent orb of ambience that undulates quietly and then begins to shake and break up towards the end. The decay can be heard corroding into the atmosphere, masked as a deep rumble that in any other situation would seem highly invasive, that which seeks to rob the skin of life, the theft that goes continually unpunished.

The autumnal brunette changes colour like the shift of the season, but the recent shoots of wispy white hair are just as beautiful a colour as the darker brown; the kind, frail smile has surrendered to the passage of time, but it shines wholesomely with beauty; true beauty. In our youth obsessed culture, true beauty is often lost or dead on arrival, buried under the camouflage of make-up and mascara. Surrendering to the natural beauty that comes with age can almost seem unusual or unnatural deep in the concrete jungle; the posters of a smiling blonde sink into the subconscious and tell you you’re doing it wrong. It’s something that’s almost against the norm, regarded by some as a taboo subject.

Ian M Hazeldine is more concerned with the true beauty that we come into contact with on a regular basis. There is nothing artificial.

Like an ageing leaf waiting for death to arrive, the intense citrus flame of its final burst is as glorious as its once-healthy shade of green. ‘Beauty Becomes the Enemy of the Future’ was released in 2009, but Hazeldine here has revisited and re-worked the thoughtful music. He seems now to have accepted the inevitable decay of beauty – or what we may perceive as beauty – but with acceptance comes an additional layer of sadness. It is the sound of extinguished opportunity, the burning notes that echo out what the heart so desperately wanted but was unable to receive. Antonymes now treats decay not as an enemy, but as an eventual fate, something to be embraced.

Besides, beauty always renews itself. At the time, it doesn’t feel like the heart ever will recover, yet butterflies are testimony to the transformation that the heart can experience, even after the decay of things. And so, remarkably, we find that decay can heal. Where the rust eats away feverishly, avidly attacking the weakened heart like acid, so too can it seal the wounds it once so ferociously ripped open, ripped apart.

The piano coughs out the dusted age of decades; there is a very strong case to be made for instruments sounding better the older they get. The piano plays chords of beauty, but hot on the heels comes a dissonant afterthought, like the family photograph that has been over-run with thick, hanging cobwebs.

The deep, thin crackles pierce the music as the record ages, too; the way that the skin slowly creases and then folds. Ambient sheets that caress the skin fold over one another, but the melancholia of the piano is never far away.

The sound of a church organ breaks free from the piano’s process of mummification; the spider cocooning its victim in a silver wrapping. For a minute, it is the respite that we all need. Those weary heads are strained, bowed to the surge of pressure, and hands are clasped in an appeal for help. Tears trickle the side of the face, helping to wash the skin clean from the ruins of decay back to the years of free youth. In desperation, the still, resonating organ envelops the space and momentarily puts the mind, and the music, at peace.

Sometimes, a moment is all that is needed; to then get back up, and realise that there can be no true beauty without decay.

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