The Black Dog - Music for Real Airports

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  • The social dissatisfaction expressed by Black Dog in last year's Further Vexations continues with Music for Real Airports, a concept album exploring the dichotomy between the reality of airports and their ideal: Places of numbness and vacancy as opposed to futuristic gateways to the world. This album forms one half of an art installation, with the physical half being done by a group of interactive artists called Human, whose projects include video material at 2009's Miami WMC. Some will recognise the album's title as a throwback to Brian Eno's similarly ambient (but less rhythmic) Music for Airports: This is Black Dog's reply to that record, which they regard as inaccurate in its mood of hope and serenity, and while most of it was actually recorded and written over three years while waiting for flights in airports on tour, the picture painted is a bleak view of "the way that airports tend to reduce us to worthless pink blobs of flesh," as the press literature puts it. This, however, is only one of a range of angles taken. The album is, broadly, a palette of emotions evoked by the airport experience. "Disinformation Desk," for example, builds morose pads and reverbed drum hits into a looped tension which suggests that they see airports as the embodiment of society's ever-accelerating spiral downwards into chaos and inhumanity. But while it's true that the overarching message is a desolate, hopeless one, there's far more to it than that; there are few acts that would be able to deal with such a lofty thesis with this amount of poise. Oppression ("Strip Light Hate"), limbo ("Terminal EMA") and tragedy ("Delay 9") are some of the moods we travel through, guided by slow, brooding pads and razor-sharp percussion. It never settles into a tedious pattern though, broken by tracks such as "Empty Seat Calculations" whose lush beauty, somewhat bewilderingly, suggests emergence and sad reflection at once. The two "Sleep Deprivation" tracks are very deftly executed, numb and devoid of feeling, with only sleepless purgatory left tick-tocking along. A more straightforwardly impressionistic approach is taken in places, "Lounge" being a recording of a noisy departure lounge, a mish-mash of children's shrieks and general bustle, shot through with digital zapsïa scene that's rotten and faulty at its core. But the thing which really elevates the previous collection of songs into something greater is the last track, "Business Car Park," which wraps the package into a whole by exiting the airport, relieving listeners of the heaviness that preceded it and offering a sort of tear-jerking reflectiveness that seems to ask, "Where do we go from here?" Ideally, this would be a background to the situation of Human's installation, but even without that, Music for Real Airports has plenty to say. It's challenging and accomplished in equally large quantities, and hopefully, as happened in the early '90s, an example of a deeper form of art that will be followed by others.
  • Tracklist
      01. M1 02. Terminal EMA 03. DISinformation Desk 04. Passport Control 05. Wait Behind This Line 06. Empty Seat Calculations 07. Strip Light Hate 08. Future Delay Thinking 09. Lounge 10. Delay 9 11. Sleep Deprivation 1 12. Sleep Deprivation 2 13. He Knows 14. Business Car Park 9