On For Us Alone
Since its release in April of last year there has been no other album that I've put on more than Alaskan Tapes' "For Us Alone".
At the start of the pandemic I got really into ambient instrumental music. At first I mainly listened to it while trying to sleep and study. When falling asleep it seemed to help quiet whatever thoughts of school and life were running in my head. For studying the opposite happened and the constant simplicity of the music seemed to encourage focus and deep thought. At other times the music simply felt cathartic. The surprising paradox of how such quiet, seemingly simplistic music can generate such a wide range of emotions in its listeners.
After entering the ambient scene I quickly found Alaskan Tapes, the solo project of Toronto's Brady Kendall. Kendall's "Views From Sixteen Stories" became one of my favorite records in the summer of 2020. Since that summer of 2020 I've listened to Alaskan Tapes, among other ambient artists, every day while studying and working. From this constant listening, songs and records now remind me of certain classes and problems I was working on while listening to them. When I put on Slow Meadow's self titled ambient record I'm taken back to studying for my midterm in theory of single variable calculus course in the spring of last year.
During finals last year I found "For Us Alone" a few days after its release. I believe my first time listening to it was while studying for the final of that math class in an empty lecture hall beneath Madison's law school building. "For Us Alone" instantly seemed to me to present and emphasize the feelings of solace, reflection, catharsis in a new and distinct way from its contemporaries. At moments it feels exceptionally comforting and gentle. It prompts you to acknowledge whatever it is that you need to feel and reflect on and guides you while doing so. At times I feel Kendall on the other side of the music doing that guiding and feeling with the listener. The few pieces in a slow 6/8 make the listener feel as if they are being carried by the music. When I put it on most mornings while studying or working alone the music felt like it acknowledged that I was alone and joined me in thought. The record commonly emotes the mental feeling of the calm after the storm, when your head and emotions settle down and you can begin to clearly mediate on what happened and what's next.
I never gave the title of the record much thought until I sat down to write this piece. Upon reflection I understand the relevancy of the title in that "For Us Alone" is a gift for us, including Kendall himself, when we find ourselves alone and needing a counselor in thought.