Trav Nash music: fuel for a creative soul

The year of 2020 gave me a lot of time to think about how sound affects my mental health; inner city living is maddening. The result being that I have grown more particular than ever about the noise I allow into my day-to-day life.

Only recently have I come to appreciate the suburban ambience that comes through my office window. The past few months of a Covid-19 lockdown brought a tranquillity to this city that I am truly going to miss.

So, Melbourne is opening back up and I’m frightfully aware that a return to normality means a return to the sanity-sapping drone of human existence. To combat the ever-present aural assault of the outside world, I must return to the old ways. My brain needs fortification so that I might continue to function and produce creative work.

A most effective form of protection is a soundtrack or musical soundscape and a decent pair of headphones. But what sounds work best?

For writing, drawing, or any other creative endeavour I need music that strikes a balance between engaging and soothing, contemplative but detached. Something not so involving that it demands my full attention, but not so ambient that it lulls me to sleep.

If you want for such things and are looking for something new, Trav Nash might just be the undiscovered muse you may not know you needed.

His latest effort Chronophobia is available free to hear and download in the form of an episode of his contemplative quasi-journal podcast Tales from the Mind Boat.

Even in the face of oblivion, Nash continues to create perfect soundtracks for the creative mind. As his catalogue grows so too does the quality of his production.

You can discover literally hours of synthesized ambience and lo-fi beats among his podcast episodes. Here’s one I found for you (with a review and a little history for those interested).

He won’t tell you what to do and neither will I, but if you’re looking for something that ticks the boxes I’ve listed then dip in and have a listen.

If you like what you hear and want more, you can support Trav Nash by purchasing his exclusive-to-Bandcamp albums including the conceptual NEW_AGE_DEATH_CULT.

Aramis Gothboi – Progress Journal: One step forward… you know the rest

Progress Journal for Aramis Gothboi: Book One

Mog’s ongoing account of completing the first draft.

Total word count: 11,477

~

Fifth Post:

The week has been… interesting. How good is it going to be before COVID-19 is not the topic of every second sentence? I joked with my father that the old existential dread had started to set in from the isolation, but it’s not too far from the truth. When every news story, conversation, and experience is a reflection or reaction to this thing, even the most apathetic person is going to start feeling the weight of it all.

I thought I was getting sick today. Maybe I am. Is it Coronavirus? Probably not. Either way, one can’t help but begin to understand the damned if you do damned if you don’t mentality that so many of us seem to have adopted as we try to keep on keepin’ on.

Even with projects such as this one and a wide variety of activities to keep me occupied in this isolated time, I’m struggling to keep my brain from thinking about the bigger picture. What’s to become of us? How many are we going to lose? Will the rest of us be okay as the world continues to shut down in the hope that we curb this thing? Is there even a point to thinking about what life will be like on the other side? You know, the happy chirpy stuff. Kind of makes me feel like writing a little story about ghosts and magic is a little bit pointless, yeah?

But I guess that’s the thing about magic – it’s the darkest times when we need it most.

 

 

We’re all doing it tough, and so we’re looking to stories in Netflix, comics, and books to see us through to the other side. I might not have a story for anyone today – it just isn’t ready yet – but maybe when I finally will it into existence (and get it published too, I guess) this story can help someone who needs it.

Maybe (probably) my story will go largely unnoticed. If it does get published, perhaps a few friends and family will come along and support the release and I’ll be congratulated for doing a thing that will maybe move a few units through the generosity of my small network of fellow writers and believers in the cause. Perhaps the thing will stick around on shelves long enough for someone to pick it up because they like what’s on the cover. Maybe they don’t really know what they like, but they take it home and read it anyway. Maybe my little story makes a connection and it sets them on a journey to read more, discover more, and take more chances. Maybe it’s just there at the right time in that person’s life to get them through a dark time of their own – and if it helps that person, whoever you are, I’m doing this for you.

…this is the kind of whirlpool I keep finding myself in when I should be sitting down and working on the book.

Speaking of which, the new chapter mentioned in my last entry came easily. I’m yet to edit it, but the writing was free and natural as I put it on the page. I think I may even have taken a side-seat as my characters took over and did what they needed to do. As a result, there were one or two pleasant surprises in how the scene played out, but over-all they were all well-behaved and got us to our destination.

 

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The Worm Boys (2012)

 

Feeling energised and full of confidence, I moved on to another chapter… and promptly hit a wall. I continued to push on in the hope that my team would start talking to each other again, but what came out was stilted and unnatural. I prodded them some more, but I think they were feeling awkward in front of the new characters introduced in this chapter. So, after a prolonged session of staring at a blank screen, I stepped away for a bit to focus on something else.

Over the following days I came to realise that the issue stems from my newly-introduced characters that had not been developed beyond that of placeholders. One of them doesn’t even have a name. As much fun as it might be to continue referring to her as Mrs Loofah’s Mum, I realised that I can’t write what I don’t know – and I don’t know her at all.

 

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Loofah’s Mum Test-02 (2012)

 

I’ve been mulling it over and am considering a few different angles to approach her, but I really need to sit down and write a scene or two to get to know her properly. That’s the first thing to do when I get the time – it will slow progress on the old word count, but you can’t build a house without a foundation.

~

As I stumbled on characters, I think I also helped to hinder the process by choosing the wrong music to accompany my writing session.

Ideally, for me at least, music for writing is either familiar enough that it doesn’t distract or pleasantly generic enough that it simply serves as background noise that I can promptly ignore as soon as I get into the writing groove. Often an album will play itself out then I’ll continue the rest of the writing session in silence. I find music helpful to get the ball rolling – as opposed to sitting awkwardly in a quiet room with nothing but the sound of the neighbours doing god-knows-what on the other side of our shared wall.

Film scores and soundtracks generally work for me if the score is more about mood and atmosphere than the attention-grabbing themes that someone like John Williams is so good at. As much as I like a good overture, all they do for me is trigger thoughts of the film itself.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are near the top of my list for making thoughtful soundscapes that help me get work and writing done. I’ve been a Nine Inch Nails fan since I was fifteen. Angst is a pretty easy feeling to latch onto at that period in life, but it was the more contemplative tracks that led to me becoming a lifelong fan. Since Reznor joined forces with Ross to deliver the Oscar-winning score for The Social Network (2010), the pair continue to make music together for both film and as Nine Inch Nails. Their most recent effort, which was dropped on fans last week, is two collections of ambient compositions released as Ghosts V-VI.

Anyone familiar with Ghosts I-IV may expect a similar mixed bag, but the two new collections are a little more coherent in terms of tone and the arrangement of tracks is perhaps more thoughtful.

Ghosts V: Together is a very listenable journey reminiscent of the soundtrack work we’ve come to know, and was almost instantly incorporated into my writers’ mix for this reason.

On the good word of the former, I stupidly trusted Ghosts VI: Locusts to deliver more of the same, despite the thinly veiled warning on the band’s official site:

 

Ghosts V: Together is for when things seem like it might all be okay, and Ghosts VI: Locusts… well, you’ll figure it out.

 

And I figured it out the hard way. Locusts is more about unease than anything else – and even if it is a timely response and accurate representation of the mood to our current situation, it may take you somewhere you don’t want to go and just leave you there to find your own way home, as it did with me. Please handle with care.

In an effort to share the love, I have a few albums that have been doing the rounds in my writers mix as of late. Not all of them are lyric-free, which may be a bit distracting for some, but here’s my top 5:

  1. NIN – Ghosts V: Together
  2. Devin Townsend and Che Aimee Dorval – Casualties of Cool
  3. Lorde – Pure Heroine
  4. Explosions in the Sky – All of a sudden I miss everyone
  5. Lamb – The Secret of Letting Go

 

What’s getting you through at the moment? Do you have a standard writing mix to get you in the mood? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!

Featured Album: Geedis (2019) by Trav Nash

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Trav Nash is a man of many talents. When he’s not drawing character art for The Quest Inn at the Centre of the Universe or creating nostalgic trips in video game format, you can hear him on his weekly podcast Tales From the Mind Boat (TFTMB).

Over the 170-or-so episodes produced to far, TFTMB has evolved from its humble beginnings as a storytelling podcast for a comedian and his friends into something quite different. Now, the show is more personal and journal-like as Trav shares moments from his day-to-day life in an effort to make sense of his world.

To accompany Trav’s thoughts and stories, the show has a strong musical identity with its evocative theme by the amazing Tim Whitt. This, combined with the additional ambient music created by Trav himself, adds to the overall tone of the project as he explores themes of depression, anxiety, and a sense of disconnectedness that seems so common in many of us these days. The complete package makes for an engaging half-hour of content that I look forward with every coming week.

No stranger to making lo-fi beats and ambient tunes, Trav has produced music under the moniker of Pierre Vanderbee for a number of years now, so it’s no surprise that when he pulls together the isolated music from TFTMB into a collection such as GEEDIS, it’s a competently-delivered and compelling experience.

For me, these tracks sit somewhere in my playlist between Autechre, Boards of Canada, Brian Eno and the less frenetic sounds of Aphex Twin.

As individual tracks, each song delivers a slightly different flavour. Rimdelda, for example, touches on something that wouldn’t be out of place on one of the more mature offerings from Nine Inch Nails or Gary Numan. As a collection, the sounds on GEEDIS take me on a satisfying journey and I recommend taking the time to sit down with the lights out and take a listen.

Speaking as someone who also suffers from anxiety, it’s calming sounds like what you will find on GEEDIS that can help keep the whirlpool of negative thoughts away.

Listen to GEEDIS.

Discover Pierre Vanderbee.