It really was only a matter of time before sonic tributes to September 11th would appear. Though a few of these tributes have not been very good, I have been curiously awaiting the response from more experimental-minded artists. I'm sure we're only a few months away from records from Sonic Youth, John Zorn or Glen Branca, and I will eagerly await them, because I'm sure they will be disturbing, to say the least.
In the meantime, England's Rothko, a sometimes-band built around Mark Beazley, in collaboration with New York-based artist JS Adams (who performs as BLK w/BEAR) offers the world Wish For A World Without Hurt, an eight song, fifty minute tribute to that Tuesday that grows away from us in time yet has not gone away in our minds. The mixture of Beazley's gentle ambient layers with Adams' sonic manipulation contrast flow gently against each other, making a final result that's directly soothing and inexplicably disturbing.
Rothko's gentle sounds of piano and guitar are augmented by loud and subliminal bursts of static, samples and noise; this effect does not allow the listener to enjoy the peaceful, calming music, simply because one shouldn't completely enjoy the music being offered. Sometimes the noise is nearly subliminal; on "Declaration of Loss," underneath gentle waves of music, if you listen hard enough, you can barely hear the sound of people screaming in terror. At other points, the horror is quite apparent; "Dropped From Clouds" starts off as a beautiful ambient piece, until the music suddenly gives way to the sound of jet engines (or a symbolic representation of) and the faint screams of people in terror.
"I Feel Lost Without You" is the most painful song on the record; it's also the only track that's a pure noise collage. The noise is looped (in an odd twist, it sounds a lot like 23 Skidoo's live at WOMAD appearance), and it sounds as if it's a combination of voices, sirens, scraping and the crackles of a fire, sped up and slowed down over seven minutes. It's a confusing, senseless number; I have yet to sit through it once without wincing, writhing and pausing in stunned silence. Of all the pieces on Wish For a World Without Hurt, it's the only one that really, truly captures the horror of the day.
The real 9/11 was a hellish few minutes that was quickly met with an even louder silence, and that's pretty much the case with Wish For a World Without Hurt. The horrible moments happen quite quickly on the record, leaving the rest of the collection as a healing balm, and though occasionally the horror is hinted at, none of the songs throughout the last half of the record are nearly as direct in recalling the crashes and collapse of the World Trade Center.
Kudos to Beazley and Adams for having the ability to capture the events of that day that we will most assuredly never forget. This is a truly haunting, disturbing record; I hesitate to use the word 'beautiful,' but the healing moments of Rothko help to present a little balm to a most painful day in American history. Listen to this record, be disturbed. Be bothered. Be sad. And then be prepared for healing.