Fluid Radio

Manic depression is touching my soul
I know what I want but I just don't know
How to, go about gettin' it
Feeling sweet feeling,
Drops from my fingers, fingers
Manic depression is catchin' my soul

So sang Jimi Hendrix on "Manic Depression" – a song he wrote, recorded and first released in 1967 on the 'Are You Experienced' album ...

The relationships between depression and art are countless and diverse. Instances of poets, novelists, and musicians quickly spring to mind who have vividly portrayed depression, usually from personal experience of it. Recent research by health experts indicates that artists and musicians are the fifth most likely professionals to suffer with depressive illness. That's a chart that definitely isn't 'top of the pops' for performers.

Many people are drawn to the arts in order to fulfil a desire for acceptance and affection from their audience; they need that confirmation in order to feel good about themselves. But having a love affair with thousands of people you don't know is bound to lead to discontent, despair and distress – often as soon as you exit the stage, or go home to an empty mansion.

Alcohol and narcotics have featured in the lifestyles of so many musicians for so long that sometimes it's difficult to tell if depression is the symptom or the source. The phrase 'rock and roll lifestyle' is an all too familiar one in the obituary column when a famous musician dies, usually in tragic circumstances too. Some artists have a 'swig' or a 'sniff' to steady their nerves before performances; others have a 'sip' or a 'smoke' to come down from the high of the performance.

So does depression attract them to the arts? Or does making 'art' make them depressed? Does true creativity come from a place of suffering? Are the greatest writers, composers and artists the most tortured of souls? None of these questions are easily answered but we do know that Daniel Thomas Freeman (Rameses III) has certainly suffered for his art.

The Beauty of Doubting Yourself, written over six long years, is Freeman's own personal and at times painful account of depression. The album is laid down into three distinct movements:

The first movement is traumatic and opens with Dark House Walk, the small London street where Freeman experienced his descent into the abyss. Here a transmuted soundtrack of Westminster Cathedral bells is mixed with percussive scrap, drone debris and stifled strings to create acoustic psychogeographical gloom.

Staring into Black Water is a 25 minute spite stream that creates tidal terror by merging despondent drone, disparaged percussion, voices of reservation and keyboard desolation. A heavy sense of hopeless perception and feelings of self-hate exist in this dark and disturbing deluge.

The second movement proffers hope and opens with The Beauty of Doubting Yourself, an instrumental imbroglio that signals that the worst is over. But with his self-esteem shattered the artist asks himself, 'do I deserve happiness?'

The Might of Angels uses a minimal core refrain of expanding vastness to assuage any internal angst. Eventually stringed coils gleam and glitter as they rise high into azure skies.

The Devil Would Steal Your Joy employs irregular blemished drone monoliths and detached choral shards in what are failed attempts to overpower the dulcimer and the veritable virtue that it expounds. The vulnerability of evolution is exposed.

The third and final movement extends harmony, as Elegy And Rapture (For Margaret), a lament to his deceased mother, uses much more approachable and established musical motifs. Layered violin revisions, dronish dignity and horns of hindsight fuse to form a hiatus in which the past is re-examined.

Finally, Staring into the Light, an epiphanic drone echo that strongly references western metaphysical salvation, brings the album to a close. Stringed solace, electro-mechanical piano poignancies, and vocalised alleviations remind us that it really doesn't matter how dark may be the night, we will find our way — if we walk toward the light. It might only be a glimmer or a soft gentle glow but it will dispel the darkness on the path where we go.

Dean Rocker
Sunday 5 June 2011

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