Bandcamp Hunter Album of the Year 2013
Think Tone - Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk
I can scarcely believe that I have limits, that I am outlined and defined. I feel myself to be dispersed in the atmosphere, thinking inside other creatures, living inside things beyond myself.
- Clarice Lispector
It’s been a very formless year for me. This word has continually cropped up in my life, not just in my online endeavours but in my day to day experiences and, increasingly, in informing my own perspective on the world. I have always held the belief that the pursuit of definition is a futile one, that rules are crushing impositions, that there is a place for structure though mostly we must embrace uncertainty. This past year I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the beautiful ambiguity of many things while coming to understand that the rapid change of modern life is incredibly exciting; it should not be feared but celebrated. I believe this is why Think Tone resonated with me so, it seems to be a capturing of these notions. As elusive as they are.
I think I called it a “paean to the formless” when I first considered it back in the middle of the year. As such it’s a difficult album to describe, even more so than most music. I’ve been flicking through quotes to inspire this reflection and have found a few that get close to what it is I appreciate about Think Tone.
Ah! these sounds and this motion
Must enter my poems and say
For me the unsayable in my life,
My stubborn childish life that moves only
Toward an eternal aspiration for vague things.
- Closing lines of “Ode” (1908) by Valery Larbaud, from The Poems of A. O. Barnabooth, translated by Ron Padgett and Bill Zavatsky
(With thanks to but does it float)
"Eternal aspiration for vague things". Such words have a more profound effect on me than any religious passage I’ve encountered. It makes sense to gain inspiration the vague things, to not seek answers but to be driven by wonder. I don’t want sing along choruses. I want art that connects to untouched places. Ventures to unseen depths. Lifts new rocks at the bottom of the garden.
We have understood nothing of life until we have understood that it is one vast confusion.
- Henry de Montherlant
The songs of Think Tone are not what I’d call “atmospheric” though they are evocative of something. Something ambiguous. Blissful inward journeys. Not harrowing introspections. These songs conjure an atmosphere of the inner landscape. Philosophy and science reach only so far, it’s art that captures the intangible experiences of waking - and dreaming - life.
Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenom.
- Jorge Luis Borges
For me Think Tone achieves a rare combination of aesthetic beauty and subtle existential probing. And it does with hardly any words. Formless phrases. Distorted incantations. Bodiless voices intoning from a late afternoon winter haze, urging you to join you in their ceaseless drift.
"He felt himself pulled outward toward the whiteness, which spread as far as he could see, and which was a part of the darkness from which it glowed, of the clear and cloudless sky without height or depth. For an instant he felt himself go out of the body that sat motionless before the window; and as he felt himself slip away, everything-the flat whiteness, the trees, the tall columns, the night, the far stars-seemed incredibly tiny and far away, as if they were dwindling to a nothingness."
- Stoner, John Williams
I listen to it now, fill my house with it, and I have that feeling you have for music that you’ve come to adore. I don’t seek words to sing along with. I don’t want liner notes, packaging, or any superfluous distraction. Who Baby Birds Drink Milk are does not matter. It matters to be with this music. To be enveloped within its shapeshifting bliss. Think Tone asks questions, it probes, but it does not expect answers. What you draw from its vast formless field is entirely up to you.
To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.
― The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin