Towards A Better Question

by Steve Lawson

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In the Summer of 2016 I recorded a LOT of new music. Enough for 3 albums. I handed over the whole lot to my long-time collaborator Sue Edwards to sort through and pick a story from. The album she put together was The Surrender Of Time, and that came out last September, to a very encouraging reaction.

But so much of my favourite music wasn't on there. So first of all I put out the single track Colony Collapse Disorder Pts 1&2 - 20+ minutes that morphs from happy soul/funk into ambient self-reflection.

And now this - Towards A Better Question. It is very much the companion album to The Surrender Of Time. This contains a lot of my favourite music from the sessions. It tells a different story. A lot of it is way poppier and more accessible than the music on the first album. Some of it is more abstract. It's another rich journey, a narrative that hangs together as a complete whole. I'd recommend putting it on headphones closing your eyes and allowing the story to unfold. See where it takes you.

I really hope you enjoy it - please do tell your friends about it too!

credits

released January 17, 2017

Bass things, computer things, photo things, word things - Steve Lawson.

Track list selection (by omission) Sue Edwards :)

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Steve Lawson UK

The UK's most celebrated solo bassist, here with lots of looped/layered solo albums, & collaborations, most notably with genius singer Lobelia. Dig in deep, there's a lot to discover.

Pretty much all the music here is 'Pay What You Think It's Worth', so listen as much as you like, & do what it says on the tin...

As the website strap-line goes, it's the soundtrack to the day you wish you'd had.
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Track Name: Kintsukuroi
Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold. The richness of this as an analogy for so many areas of our lives is hopefully fairly apparent. Pondering how we take things that are broken in our lives and, instead of trying to hide them or pretend the breaks aren’t there, look at ways to move forward acknowledging the breaks, and making something new and beautiful out of where you are is a tough gig, but a vital one for our mental wellbeing. I like the idea of humans being broken pots heading for beautiful repairs... I like the idea of me being that. I have a pretty advanced capacity for making really stupid decisions. And I want both the strength to acknowledge the consequences of those, and a path to reconstruction for the people and relationships affected.
Track Name: Towards A Better Question
This track is another reflection on the mess we find ourselves in. My various social media feeds are full of people earnestly tackling really bad questions. We're responding to whatever nonsense the news cycle throws up, and as such being distracted from trying to refine the question before coming up with an answer... As the famous Einstein quote says,

"If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes."

While I don't think the mess we're in can be solved in 5 minutes, I do think we need to be looking for bigger and better questions. The music itself reflects that search - starting sparse and tentative, building in clarity and purpose, and then heading into a searching, meandering, exploratory phase towards the end...

It's a LONG piece, and doesn't really make that much sense in bits. So set aside 12 minutes, grab headphones and see where it takes you.
Track Name: Reconstruct (Piece By Piece)
Sort of a more practical reflection on the same them as Kintsukuroi - the process of rebuilding broken things - relationships, trust, world-views, self-image - is a step by step one. I have a tendency to want to assume that naming a problem is the same as fixing it. That self-awareness is the aim, rather than the very beginning of the process of self-repair.

It’s also a collaborative thing. Part of our progress comes through self-reflection and development, and part of it comes from reaching out to those who want to help, who are bound to us in so many ways, and with whom we’re on this journey.
Track Name: Wind The Clock (For Tomorrow Is Another Day)
This whole collection of music could’ve been much more sombre - if I’d recorded it a couple of months earlier, it would’ve been pretty dark. The macro-dark stuff, the reflections on global politics and the state we’re in were processed through the Referendum album, so by the time I got to the recording sessions that became this album and The Surrender Of Time, I was in a more reflective place.

The title here came from a something I saw on the ‘Letters Of Note’ blog - a letter written by E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web. Here’s the letter, the last line of which is the title of this piece:

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

“Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man's curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”

http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/01/wind-clock-for-tomorrow-is-another-day.html
Track Name: The Machines Have Fucked Us All
I vacillate wildly between being a techno-optimist and dystopian despair about the world as it is. I’m not convinced by the ‘social media is ruining our ability to relate to one another!’ stuff, in as much as I think we’re in a space where no-one has quite fathomed what the new social etiquette is around social interactions in a tech-connected world. I do know that an awful lot of marginalised people around the world feel far less alone than they would’ve done in the 70s and 80s thanks to the joys of the Internet.

But I’m also horrified by the explosion in state surveillance, by the speed with which we’re happy to embrace online vigilantism as long as those people are on ‘our’ side, without seeing that Anonymous and 4Chan are two sides of the same coin. We’re waking up to this a little in the dialog around Wikileaks’ decisions over the last few months, and the wider conversation within the US about good and bad whistleblowers. Alongside that we’ve got a nowhere-near-big-enough discussion going on about smart cities and data driven governance, as well as the unaccountability of transnational Internet companies...

So the titles is an exaggeration, while the music is a reflection on what happens if the dystopia wins out...
Track Name: Unadorned Pt 1
I’ve had it in my mind for a long time to do a whole recording project without looping and with minimal processing. This is heading in that direction. There’s a fragility to the sound of the electric bass in this context that resonates with me like no other instrument. So it’s often the purest expression of that ‘melancholic optimism’ that permeates so much of my music. It’s the music at the heart of it all laid bare.