Narth said that one day the machine asked him a question: “why do you trust anything I tell you?” He said that at first he was pretty taken aback, I think I would have been too. As he went about his day, he said that the question was always there, in the back of his mind, a distant orbit. Eventually, he returned to the machine, to try and understand why it had asked him that question.
Listen to the EP while reading the text.
I’m ill at the moment. Nothing serious, just a common cold sorta thing. I thought I’d try and spend the time cooped up in my flat waiting to recover trying to do something constructive, so I thought I’d try and get a few recordings done of some of the songs I’d written recently. And so I started putting together Fruits of the Cold. I recorded the songs in my bedroom in a couple of days, to try and challenge myself and just to get back into getting ideas recorded.
A Tale Explores
I’d been listening to some of Shakey Graves’s new songs recently too. He’s made a collection of songs called the Garth Nazarth chronicles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CIp-q1SyO8) where he created a fictional character, Garth, and wrote songs about this character.
This reminded me of Descartes Meditations, where Descartes creates a methodological tool in the shape of an evil demon to help him explore concepts. So inspired by Shakey Graves, I created a character called Narth Gazarth, and built a loose story around the six songs in the ep: Narth Gazarth’s Media Tales.
In the ep, Narth tells a story about his experiences with media to the other two characters: the Narrator and the Reader. Narth’s story is about the internet. I wanted to challenge people’s perceptions of what they take as truth from the internet. Counterintelligence, propaganda, disinformation, fake news, rumors: such things have existed for as long as organized civilization has. I decided to call Narth’s computer “the machine,” as from Narth’s perspective that is literally all a computer is.
I always thought it was interesting how an inanimate object with a screen that displays different groups of colors and patterns can evoke so much emotion and opinion out of people, through how people choose to interpret these messages and symbols. People interpret what they see and hear from the screen and incorporate it into their lives, even if the life that they experience through their senses, the life they are literally living, is quite different.
And it is this idea that Narth’s tale explores. The three characters are shivering at a bus stop, waiting for a bus to finally decide to show up, and Narth sings a few songs to pass the time. But the ideas that Narth sings about are all about a life, a reality, completely separate from the one that the three characters are currently experiencing, about things the machine has told Narth, that Narth can have no idea if they are true or not.
The ep is influenced by and explores the political stories and information I’ve been exposed to through the media in my life.
The first song, Blinkers On, is an idea about the three ages of people integrated into a western society, and also critiques how the state education system in the UK doesn’t promote creative thought or insight, and rather trains children to become used to being told what to do, what is right, what to believe, and not to question: lessons that can endure through the three ages, hence blinkers on.
Narth introduces this song by explaining how the machine feeds his curiosity, and how the machine fills his mind with new ideas and provides answers to his enquiries. As an introducing song, the song is also referencing the ep itself. The danger is that by having opinions on something like politics, it can be easy to fall in to the trap of closing your mind to other opinions and ideas that don’t fall within your personal opinions.
This idea is similar to how language itself can be violent and divisive. Just by labelling a concept with a word, you are making a decision as to what it is, and isn’t, so one must be certain to understand the meaning behind the word used. In this sense language can also be clumsy as well as violent, as more complex, multi-faceted ideas often may not be sufficiently described through one chosen word.
This idea of violent language is explored in Hindu philosophy, for example I believe the Mimamsa branch of Hinduism concerns itself predominantly with exploring how to think and interpret things. The first song is an invitation, to put aside your preconceptions, and experience Narth’s tale, through Narth’s eyes.
The second song is called Bourgeois Paranoia. This song is about how media can confuse and make people feel insecure and scared, and also make people feel isolated. It climaxes with Narth streaming off a list of things that identify him as a functioning individual in his society, in an attempt to understand his place in reality.
Child of Babylon
The next song is called Child of Babylon. This song is really about how even just being alive in western society it can feel like you are supporting evil acts and deeds across the world, and the anger and frustration birthed from such ideas.
Buying electronics that come from factories that have nets around the bottom to stop people committing suicide by jumping to their deaths, being sold clothes from sweat shops, eating meat from factory farms, using power provided by coal power plants. The list can seem endless. Just by being alive as a member of this society it can feel like you are ultimately encouraged to be part of a global problem, and it can seem impossible to live a life free from the grip of this feeling.
In the story, driven by his anxiety and desperation that the machine brings him, Narth asks the machine “why are you here?” and as a reply, the machine sings Child of Babylon.
I decided to call the next song Babylondon. It was originally just called Down with the City of London, but I thought I’d continue the Babylon theme in the ep.
This song is about how Narth tries to understand his place in reality by asking the machine questions as to why things are the way they are, and the discourse eventually leads him to learn about the City of London.
Another in Line
Another in Line is a song about how it can feel as if modern society doesn’t value humanity first of all things, and is inspired by slavery, the Holocaust, and how it feels as if people can be viewed as a disposable commodity rather than as living beings.
This is also the part in the story when Narth starts to realize that maybe the machine is not as useful as he first thought and that it is just a machine with a colorful screen, and might not tell him truths about his place in reality after all.
People That I Know
The final song is called People That I Know. This song looks to sum up the ep and is about how ultimately it doesn’t matter what the media tells you. There’s no way Narth can know if such things are true or not, and that there is more truth, a tangible truth, that can be found in the immediate reality of the human experience; his experience; his reality.
Just like the other characters waiting at the bus stop, the people that Narth knows in real life aren’t that bad when compared to the people and stories he hears rumors about via the machine.
It is also about how there is no shame with feeling good or positive or happy: if you feel these things, it is a blessing. Maybe, no matter how strange and awful life can appear through media, society isn’t all bad when people can still feel and experience goodness.
Sometimes its good to try and be humble, forgive, and be thankful for the things you can be thankful about. You are just one person, brought into this life, and nothing is your fault.
They’re Not That Bad
So the ep is a critique of media, and how media affects Narth, and his reaction to it. The ep is also self referencing, as all the information and ideas provided in it were inspired or taken from the internet, so I ask the listener/reader to take everything with a pinch of salt, to take nothing for granted, except hopefully the chorus of the last song!
Also, the ep is a form of media itself, I encourage people to critique it: you don’t have to agree with the messages in Narth’s songs, it is up to you to decide, just the same way as it is up to you to decide what you think about all media.
This idea of you actively deciding on what you know is another underlying message. Going back to education in the first song, Blinkers On, Narth talks about how people are told to sit and regurgitate facts: isn’t that how people react to media? People are shown bits of information, without being certain of weather they are true or not, or who funded the exposure of this information, then people absorb and repeat it, just like how they were taught to absorb and repeat information at school.
In the final song, Narth is singing about Theresa May and Donald Trump, and this is what he is doing, repeating points of view that he’s heard through media, nothing more. Think about your own views on any subject that you are exposed to through media: how much of that perspective is truly yours, relating to what you know and experience in your own personal life, and how much is you repeating an idea planted in your head that you were told about through media?
The message of the ep is ultimately this: be careful what you trust, but most importantly learn how to trust yourself, and interpret reality through this trust, and no other.
If you are alive, you are obliged to partake in this existence. It is impossible to fight it, creation is immense, so one must accept it and learn a way to navigate their experience of this reality.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my first post. Take care and stay safe!
Common Ground. Bristol, UK. Can be found at open mics in Bristol