David Newlyn

The Past Increases, The Future Recedes

Sometimes I feel so, I don’t know, lonely. The kind of helpless feeling when everything you’re used to has been ripped away. Like there’s no more gravity, and I’m left to drift in outer space with no idea where I’m going. Like a little lost Sputnik? I guess so – Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

In all appearances, a healthy-looking piano opens the door and steps inside the low-hanging shelter of the music, but if you look closer you’ll see that her head is slightly to the side, lost in a complicated tangle of thoughts. Her body language tells a different story. Synths gently comfort her, wrapping around her like soft cotton towels against the body. She’s been wounded. The glorification of the self is prevalent in the digital age; the Facebook profiles, with achievements written in bold and covering the entire screen, always seem to scream ‘look at me’ at whoever’s visiting. This one is different. She’s downcast, perhaps beaten by trying to keep up with it all. The body image that’s presented and projected to her on a daily basis is an unattainable one, a Photoshop phantom.

Sitting at another table and breaking the serenity is the light but interfering chit-chat emanating from a pair of distorted electronic tones. All of a sudden, the piano’s voice has competition, and as a result the listener struggles to hear her clearly. In The Past Increases, The Future Recedes, cloudy thoughts dapple the mind of the music, keeping its progress tethered back with its thick, strong ropes of despair. On ‘Easy To Be Cold’ the piano suddenly vanishes. She’s replaced by a slim and coolly distant ambient strand, her cold, monotone and monosyllabic response similar to that of a drone. She’s losing herself, confined to an unforgiving process where some critical part of her being is slowly and yet methodically eaten away at by an invasive presence. This new species hangs around for a long time – ‘Easy To Be Cold’ is eleven minutes long. Its metallic texture leaves the lingering, coppery taste of loose blood swirling around in the cavern of the mouth. People live in the past all the time, but if we linger there for sustained periods, those cherished memories can give way to the artillery fire of self-criticism and wishful thinking. In truth, the past has no right to interfere with the present, and yet it happens all the time. Our past can influence our future.

David Newlyn has been involved with melancholic ambient music since 2007. The Past Increases, The Future Recedes is an exercise in deterioration – more specifically, the loss of quality in recorded sound, and that ultimately reflects the labored exhalation of its final breath. Everything is fragile. Every second counts. The piano melodies are damp, almost sodden from the rain. Adding to the piano is a gentle guitar that recalls the warmer side of things. The softly meandering melodies definitely sit in the open sunlight, but the weather’s not yet warm enough to sit outside for any prolonged period of time. Emerging out of ‘Thin Lines of Light’ is a vivid beam of light, a pointed drone that floats and then settles, eventually illuminating the music and then receding into silence. Closer to the end, the guitar replaces the piano. She has gone. She has receded, and a thinly-veiled melancholy ghosts into nothingness along with her. And on the coda, a shimmering ambient texture ripples outwards, reflecting everything that has gone before, casting its light over everything it does, haunting the music.


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