Music Review //
Tristan Welch
"Ambient Distress"
(Somewherecold Records) //

I think it's fair to say that no matter what your situation was in 2020, you have felt some sort of distress throughout this year.   Being laid off (as many Americans were) can cause financial distress or just what we like to refer to as cabin fever, where as if you were still able to go to work you might have the distress of being a frontline worker (shout out to all those in the hospitals making it happen) or even just being in fast food can cause added distress.   I'm hoping that this album can bring some sort of relief to your distress as if it can feel relaxing or at least you can find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

The first song is called "Employment Frustration" and I think more Americans have felt this now than in the last ten years.   There are these ambient tones behind this one, which feel quite relaxing, but then there is this sort of alarm beeping which goes along with it.   This makes me think of how messed up my sleep has become since the pandemic because I used to be able to feel tired and fall asleep at night and then wake up to the sound of my alarm- somewhat like what is heard in this song.   For a while, earlier on this year, I even battled with insomnia, which was not great.   So aside from the money factor in all of this, being laid off also causes distress in the way which is disrupts our daily habits and takes us- and our bodies- out of our routines.

On "Family Stress" two tones go back and forth with some magical wind chime bliss behind them.  The synth backing that up grows, expands, and then it crashes down like waves on the shores.   I'm not going to pretend like I had a great deal of family stress during this pandemic.   There were people out there not getting to see their nieces and nephews after being born and there were others not able to attend the funerals of family members.  Maybe I didn't see my family as much as I normally would during this pandemic, but there are people out there who had it a lot worse than I did and I can appreciate that I had family stress but others had it much, much worse.

I imagine, on "Family Stress", that we hear these sounds like the ocean as it is that calm which would have been a family vacation we might have taken during the summer.  In fact, during the month of September of 2020 I was set to visit Disney World with my son, mother and sister but for obvious reasons that did not happen.   As much as we can think of family stress as being local (in the way of not getting to see our families as much) it can also be that we didn't get to do things with them which we normally might do as an escape from the real world and stress which comes with it.   Luckily, I spent a lot of the summer watching baseball with my son, dad and uncle.

"Environmental Anger" comes out with this guitar part which makes me feel as if it is more post rock than anything else.   It feels like we're drifting through space without a care in the world, which is fitting because if something in the environment doesn't change we're going to have to find a new planet to live in.   Throughout this song I like to think about missed opportunities.  The whole shutdown was a way for us to hit the reset button- for us to comeback in a better way.   But we didn't.  Things are slowly coming back now as I type this and not much has changed.  I've changed things about the way I live though and sometimes that's all that you can do.

We get into this tranquil ambient sea with the song "Social Hopelessness".   Even if you're not someone who believes in going out into a crowd (like me) you have to at least have a little social hopelessness because of the way a lot of things have been handled in the past year.  The fact that we have history books to prove people wrong and yet they still want to be on the wrong side of history just baffles my mind.    Static waves come crashing through this song and it just feels like we're falling asleep at the beach, which sometimes we need to do at the end of the day after fighting social injustice.

"Recreational Anxiety" has these beeping tones mixed with that ambient feel of glass.   It's like the first song in the way that it has that calm about it but also it is fast moving.  I feel this is because a lot of what you can miss in a recreational sense can be as simple as going to see live music.  Recreational activities aren't always calming but not being able to participate in them when it is something which you are used to doing can cause great distress.   I imagine missing a certain artist performing that I wanted to see because I had something else planned and instead of just me feeling that sense of missing out, everyone is collectively feeling it this year.

When we go into "Economic Fear", I really have to listen to this song at least once a day to calm myself.   All too often I'll search for what is happening with the economy and it's never good.    And, in many ways, to me, the best way to describe it all is that if you were a business- if you were a bank, if you were an airline- then the government would have no problems giving you a bail out.  But the economy collapses and people are out of work because of a problem which the government caused (the shutdown, not the virus, just to be clear) and the government of the United States cannot help its own people.   It's upsetting, disappointing and I want to see change but sometimes I fear that change will come through violence.

These tones feel like I am centered.  I feel relaxed and at one with myself and the world around me.   This is when I am at my strongest.   This is when I am at my best.   No distractions.   This is the music we need to get us through uncertain times.   Again, I listen to "Economic Fear" at least once a day to calm my nerves and I think everyone else should as well because it just seems like something we all are in need of right now.   

The final song is "Educational Depression" and I think we've all felt this in some way.  Students could not have proper graduation's while other students were stricken with headaches from too much staring at a computer screen.   I will say though that when school first closed my son only had to do a certain amount of work per day online- which usually took him less than an hour- and then the rest of the day we did as we pleased.   That was nice.  Staring at a screen from 9 am until 3 pm or so is no way to spend your time, especially as a child.    As an avid baseball fan I also think of all of those not being able to play- missing a season- and how it impacts their entire life should baseball be something they wish to pursue into college or beyond.

Perhaps my favorite part of listening to Tristan Welch is that the music can make you think about so many answers without asking any questions.   Other artists can exhaust their words trying to say what these songs can do without any.   I'm going into 2021 with somewhat of a hope that we can get back to things we didn't get to do in 2020, but until then and just to help keep us all a little bit more level-headed I suggest we take the time to really listen to "Ambient Distress" regularly.  


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