What I’ve Been Listening To: ‘Freetown Sound’ by Blood Orange
Release: Album Release Date: June ’16 Label: Domino Records Rating: 8/10
I first became aware of Blood Orange, AKA Dev Hynes, when we saw him at Field Day in 2012. Don’t get me wrong, the awesome indiness of Vaccines, Franz Ferdinand et al. made for a spectacular show, but Blood Orange brought something very different to the table. An Ilford boy, Dev Hynes’ newest album has an unmistakable West Coast (think: California not Coombe Martin) lilt, electro-soul and defined throw backs to the 80’s (‘But You’ could have come straight out of the Breakfast Club soundtrack); dipping in to dream pop and lo-fi in places. I love a good key change, and in the track ‘Juicy 1-4’ he shows us how just how to do it. With the glass clear and silky smooth vocals of Ava Raiin, ‘Thank You’ definitely skates the closest to present day R&B, albeit a left-field version thereof. This is an album through and through, listening on random just doesn’t cut the mustard; the songs, albeit not seamless, lend themselves to each other very well.
This isn’t just a great listen though, Blood Orange winds feminism, homophobia and race issues throughout. It starts out with a poem by Ashlee Haze titled ‘For Coloured Girls (the Missy Elliot Poem)’ which addresses body image and the representation of black women, setting the tone from the outset. It’s a record that speaks to the disaffected – it would be patronising for me to claim that it succeeds, but from where I stand it is thought provoking stuff. A ‘What’s Going On’ for the iPad Generation?
Words from the Brain:
I remember the moment when my slippery slide into the other side of normal (well, my normal at least) began. It was sometime in 2009 (just to put things in to perspective, I’d been living and travelling in London since 1997) and I was on my way to the Piccadilly Line at Holborn Station, I’d made my way down the gargantuan main escalator (the one that I used to bound up in my younger, more sprightly, days), turned the corner to continue down the itty-bitty escalator that takes you to the platform, and froze … right foot hovering over the moving steps … left foot firmly superglued to the ground.
I had no clue what was going on; why wasn’t I moving? But there I stood, for at least 30 seconds until I somewhat came to my senses and realised that I was in grave danger of being shoved down by an angry fellow commuter (never hinder a Londoner’s passage on the tube – you may not live to tell the tale) and took a few steps back on to terra firma. After a minute or two of silent contemplation of my situation I metaphorically slapped myself around the face a few times and got myself down to the platform.
From then on in it was a domino effect; the irrational fear of escalators soon took over to the extent that they were no longer an option, so the London Underground Accessible Map became a close friend, guiding me to the tube stations with step and lift access. Then the panic started setting in on the tube itself, a classic case of claustrophobia you might say, but only the deeper lines seemed to cause problems. So the shallower ones such as the Hammersmith & City lines became my only method of travel. It was only a matter of time until these were an issue – I was fine if I was moving, but as any Londoner knows tube journeys are somewhat staccato. Then, being in any form of tunnel (tube, train, car, soft play!) set off a panic attack, and finally the lifts and stairs joined in the attack on my senses and the underground (and overground for that matter) was consigned to my history. For the remaining years of London life my commute consisted of a 2 hour bus journey each way (on a more positive note, I got through a hell of a lot of books).
Working with a counsellor, it seemed my problem stemmed from an event some 4 years ago that had been lurking in my subconscious, preparing itself to strike. 7th July 2005, I got on the Circle Line at the Liverpool Street, just before Shehzad Tanweer detonated a bomb. Due to having a stomping hangover (and being early for my train) I decided, a split second before the door closed, to get off and buy myself a can of coke … a.split.second … the doors were closing whilst I jumped through them. The train left without me. I had just enough time to buy my restorative beverage from the platform kiosk and return to the platform edge before we were hit with a blast of air and a strange smell (no sound you may notice, just this whoosh of wind and the smell. … strange), a low level panic ensued as no one knew what was going on except that we had to leave the station. The emergency services were beginning to arrive by the time I got overground. I started my walk, not knowing what had just taken place (there were rumours of a power surge, I was trying to get a rudimentary – this was 2005 – news feed on my phone, but to no avail), each street I walked down was cordoned off by the police by the time I reached the end. After eventually reaching my destination (London Bridge Station) I was told I could leave London, but I wouldn’t be getting back in. I decided to walk home to Bethnal Green, it was raining by the time I got close to home, I was knackered. My mum finally managed to get through to me, I answered the phone and just crumpled on to the pavement on Bethnal Green Road with a mix of exhaustion and sorrow (I’d managed to find out what had happened by this time).
I was back on the tube 2 days later, stoic and stubborn (“the bastards won’t grind me down”), I grieved for the victims – we all did – but never did it occur to me that I was in any way one of them. My counsellor banded around words like “delayed PTSD” and “survivor’s guilt”, these made me feel like a fraud. I was not a victim, those who lost their life and limb, those with loved one that never returned home – they were.
The counselling came to an end and, although the daily panic attacks had somewhat subsided, I still wasn’t able to get on the tube. By this time my anxiety had begun to manifest itself in other ways, and it wasn’t too long until I had to leave the city for pastures new.
It would be easy to say that the root of my problems stemmed from this incident, it was certainly a contributing factor, but not the whole story – which I’m still unwinding to this day.