Everlasting music – 1 – The Blue Nile

Some music albums, songs, compositions become a part of you. They hit you the first time you listen to them, they invade you the following listening sessions, and finally you integrate them into your body and soul.

Some music will always be associated with a specific time, period and/or place. As many people, I have discs that are connected to friends who recommended them to me, with whom I attended a specific concert or because they handed me over a certain disc / lp / cassette (yes, cassette…). Travelling by car is also a perfect way to turn a disc into one that will always be connected with a certain trip. Or you connect the music with a certain mood or phase you were in. Afraid to always connect it to a certain mood, I waited several weeks to listen to Radiohead’s King of Limbs because the special “newspaper” edition arrived at my doorstep in a personally difficult period. Of course, trying to postpone it, did not erase the connection I had already made. And listening to Radiohead’s brand new A New Shaped Pool even reflects that fruitless attempt of five years ago… You can’t manipulate music’s echoes, nor play tricks on your own mind… Much other music  luckily has positive connections…

I am planning to expand different examples in future posts. As a start, I want to share an example how sometimes these musical fellows pop up at unexpected times and places. Finishing the first paragraph of this post with the words ‘body and soul’ imediately made me think of a marvellous album of The Blue Nile, Peace at Last.

The short description of the band on Allmusic reads as follows:

Scottish trio whose spare, sophisticated pop and plaintive vocals made for compelling listening, despite an infrequent release schedule. 

I couldn’t do any better – I would only leave out the remark of the infrequent release schedule because I prefer quality over quantity. Four albums in twenty years is of course commercial suicide, but that does not make me love their music less… The album Peace at Last came out in 1996 when I was a student – and those times were mostly pre-internet. You had to buy the album to hear it – or copy it (on tape, of course) from a friend.

It is sonically their most relaxed record, and the songs sound like a glimpse into the soul of Paul Buchanan, the singer. The song Body and Soul is a nice example of restrained hope. The damped strumming of the chords, the strings that do not accomplish the height they are reaching for, their long notes replaced at other moments with short nearly staccato ones. But at the end of the song, the riff gets its own hopeful voice on electric guitar.

I also remember that, to be aware of concerts in other cities, you had to scroll every month through a calendar in a free music magazine (RifRaf, still alive today! Thank you for giving me so many hints in my early music-loving years!). Being printed in very small fonts, you were never sure if you missed something or not. But The Blue Nile nearly never played any concerts, so my hopes were not very high – and destroyed one morning when reading a positive review of a concert. They had played the evening before at Botanique in Brussels, 30 km from where I studied… Damn. I never got the occasion again… I’ll have to settle with some live fragments on Youtube, like this performance in ‘Later with Jools Holland’.



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