Song of the Day

Rhubarb by Aphex Twin (1994)

Everything looks so fake from 35,000 feet up.  Earth’s small details that we inhabit everyday are invisible and all that’s left are the broad strokes of what billions of years of evolution has wrought.  It’s as though we’re looking down on a board game or the opening title sequence to Game of Thrones.  Hills and mountains dot the horizon, rivers cut a winding path through a mixture of jagged land and checkerboard plains, and cities with populations in the hundreds of thousands pass by in a matter of seconds.  Details like roads, buildings, and high school football fields are barely identifiable.

This moving picture requires just the right music as you watch the movie screen that is the window seat on a Boeing 737.  My 10-year-old, go-to travel playlist, called “Ram Air Turbine“, is curated and maintained by yours truly for the specific purpose of flying.  Using it at work is an ancillary benefit, but it’s original intent was to provide the perfect calm, relaxing music I need when floating.  It is mainly a combination of ambient music and movie scores with other songs that meet certain criteria.  The two main rules for how a song makes it on this list are: no drums or overpowering rhythmic devices; and the music can’t be uptempo.  Everything needs to be calm and soothing.  I’m not big on listening to AC/DC while I’m flying.  They’re for keg parties, not flying.

So what’s on this playlist you ask, because I’m sure the five people who read this are asking?  Besides the previously written about Stars of the Lid, I have ambient tracks from Brian Eno (obviously), Eluvium, Brian McBride, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Tangerine Dream, and others.  I also have tracks from movie scores like American Beauty, The Assassination of Jesse James, The Social Network, The Ice Storm, and more.  Quite often when I’m watching movies, I’ll forget the plot and focus on the music, making a mental note to find a particular song from the score and add it to this playlist.  It’s never finished.

My love for this type of music started about 20 years ago and probably the first song that made me appreciate the calming effect it could have was “Rhubarb” by Aphex Twin.  It’s a gorgeous, heavenly song that is the equivalent of a weighted blanket for me in times of high anxiety.  I simply love it like few other songs.

I bought it at the now-closed Tower Records on Sports Arena Blvd. in San Diego sometime in 1996 or 1997.  I spent a lot of time there in the four years I lived in San Diego and I purchased an obscene amount of music from Tower Records and the now-closed Off the Record.  I lived less than 10 minutes from Tower Records and had to drive by it so much, it was impossible not to stop in, do a little exploring, and see what $20 in my pocket could get me that day.  I wouldn’t quite call myself fiscally responsible back in those days either.  More than once, I’d peruse their amazing selection, find a CD I was dying to get, check my available cash, and have to decide whether getting an obscure Japanese import with a Pavement B-side I couldn’t find anywhere else was more important than diapers for my younger daughter.  Most of the time, I made the right decision.

I’m on my way back to San Diego for a week.  Work beckons and I’m only too happy to oblige.  I love coming back as often as I can justify it.  San Diego is like an old baseball glove.  I may not have used it in a while, but as soon as I put it on, it just feels right.  I can tell Square Seed will have a San Diego nostalgic feel to it for the next few days.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

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