There was this charming quality to a lot of ambient music in the ’90s — optimistic and melodic, far off from today’s dominating dark drones. It was a different era, and perhaps the sound reflected a rosy view of what awaited in the new millennium. But what we find in the 2010s are the hushed rushes of disconcerting noise and queasy clashing of synth lines, an ambiance of tension and uncertainty befitting our times. It makes sense — the world is an increasingly scary and debilitating place, and sometimes our music sounds like it. But optimism is resistance — it really is — and that’s what makes Jogging House’s latest album Lure so welcome, special, and quietly radical.
Jogging House — whose name is apparently a letter added to ‘jogging hose,’ AKA sweat pants — states the album is “about accepting the things we cannot change and finding comfort in uncertainty.” This philosophy is the pragmatism of the stoic, and it’s also not being paralyzed with helplessness when the world is out of control. Staying in motion and hopeful as an artist and creator rather than blocked and immobile in the face of hourly ‘breaking news’ and topical turmoil. That’s resistance.
I want to connect Jogging House to Brian Eno, but not to compare him to another composer working in the ‘ambient’ realm. Instead, I think Lure‘s songs closely reflect something Eno said in an interview: “One of the reasons one makes music or any kind of art is to create the world that you’d like to be in or the world that you would like to try. You would like to find out what that world is like.” That’s how I feel when I listen to “Tulip,” Lure‘s opening track. It’s transportive — light and playful, melodies as aspiration and reassurance that’s calm and kind. And it’s gorgeous, on the verge of sadness but not quite getting there. This is a world I’d like to try.
The album’s eight tracks share this gentle atmosphere, evoking a separate era. It’s the optimism of the past looking forward, like the mentioned-above ’90s electronic acts but also not too far from those pioneering the form in the ’70s. I’ll give in and sonically connect Eno anyway, as the beautiful “Weavings” wouldn’t be out of place on a Cluster album.
But I emphasize this isn’t merely a throwback — it’s music fit for our times. These sounds are an encouragement to persevere rather than wallow; to foster hope and the imagination of something better for us all. You may ask, how can something so serene inspire action? It can, I respond. It really can.
Dan Harding says
Great writing as always. Love the line about optimism as resistance. I for one will listen and respond.