Given the fact that we are in a period in history where maximal data bombardment is happening everywhere at all times, like a perpetual green shower of Matrix bits, having a genuine moment of surprise is a lovely thing.
This past weekend, I was in the KCRW music library doing prep work for Saturday nights show, when I found myself stopped in my tracks by a song Jason Kramer played towards the end of his show. A lightly picked guitar and a pleasantly warbly voice singing something about pictures, fear, and God made me sit down and pay attention. This artist’s simple production choice of acoustic guitar and lightly reverbed vocals with a background overdub, reminded me of the mighty Grant Lee Buffalo at his most vulnerable.
Being particularly electronic and dance music fixated by nature, I was shocked by my own reaction to this acoustic sentimentality. But I was totally transfixed….like a child or startled animal.
I sat there in stillness and raised the volume. As soon as the song was over, I went into the studio and asked Kramer what it was; UK singer/songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s “Pictures.”
Later on as I researched the song and artist, I was frankly a little disheartened as I watched the puzzlingly over-produced music video with weird slow–mo shots of snakes, and again when I learned the track had been used on a very popular television show, no doubt to somewhat schmaltzy effect. Disheartening as it was, I was happy for the guy as it meant he’d been able to turn a profit in this increasingly difficult economy and industry.
However, I was reminded of the unique power of radio. The way that a voice and a song, divorced from edited image, is it’s own pure work. The radio as a conduit for the song. And the song as conduit for an emotion.
The intimacy of being a listener and allowing that emotion in. We do a lot of things while listening to the radio, driving, cooking, eating, working…but actively listening becomes another kind of experience altogether. A surprising, disarming experience.
Thanks Kramer. And thanks Benjamin Leftwich. But, more than anything…Thanks radio.
I love you, too.
— Mario Cotto