[LP REVIEW] Mira, Un Lobo!- Heart Beats Slow
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Once in a blue moon an LP transforms who you are. I can count on my hand three before this that’ve gone there. Changed the way you think. Down to the biochemistry. So integral that your neurons need it to think, to pump out instructions on how to re-interpret the world. To me, that’s Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things, The Sound of Arrows’ Voyage, Polica’s Shulamith; and now Mira, Un Lobo’s Heart Beats Slow. And when it becomes a part of you are, when the notes are never not found on the breath you need again, it becomes impossible to review art like this without delving deep into the personal. And so, permit me to tell how Heart Beats Slow became the story of my dying/resurgence, my disconnect/reconnection from an entire generation, and the roadmap that you and anyone can use to exit out of the darkness
See, I didn’t cry the whole time I was dying. I knew I was. Read so many academic papers I’ve got an honorary degree in immunobiology. All the signs were there. Broke my toes by popping them into place. Minor thing, you know. Couldn’t heal so blood filled the space below my toes, spilled out to my arches and made a pool. Couldn’t heal, so I hobbled for 6 months. I knew. Told everyone it was my shoes. I knew I was stumbling slowly down sidewalks and streaming all the I’m sorrys I wished I’d said to people who couldn’t hear me say them seven thousand kilometers away. Thought I’d stumble down these sidewalks saying these things to myself until, one time, at the end of one I’d fall over like it was a period on my death sentence. And they’d find me, some Bangkok cop, look through my laptop I never locked or shut down for this very reason, check out my Facebook and say ‘Well, he didn’t tell anyone.’ I didn’t. I don’t think anyone cared. My connection to other people has always been stronger than the lukewarm love they’ve laid on me. And it hurt. That thought, every step. Unbelievable pain, every step seared my sinew and soul. At one point the top half of my foot was covered in blood trapped under the skin. Eventually it stopped, I felt nothing. So the Tramadol helped. Painkillers and Valium, popped them all. Didn’t want to loop these thoughts through my head. Wanted numbness, so I went loopy with the aid of little white, blue and purple pills by the fistful.
tumbling to my end on tramadol
My connection to Heart Beats Slow as an LP is intricately tied into the story of my dying. See, I had an advance copy, some 8 months ahead of all your ears hearing it. First time I heard it, was the day I sensed. No, was sure. That something was seriously wrong under the skin that shaped me. Listened to it seventeen times straight. I was numb. I remember I told Mira Un Lobo! it was a dark album, sans light (it was—and the addition of ‘Heart Beats Slow’ as a track cured that). I felt like an asshole though, thought he thought I didn’t understand the album. Truth was, I knew it too well. Intimately as fuck. I didn’t want to feel, couldn’t. And light is just biochemistry moving at breakneck speed. It’s neurons racing through your brain’s arteries instead of punching themselves in the corner. Darkness was all I could bear to see.
And this LP, like all of Mira Un Lobo!’s work, moves through your neuropathways like medicine. Like Tramadol it tears through your anxiety. Like Valium it’s vicious toward every pain you swallow that makes you feel like you’re a voice that can never be heard. And like Oxycontin, it gives you an out by finding serenity in the sound of your own suffocating silence. But it doesn’t just drop you there. Damned by your own darkness. Darkness is just blood that says no to moving, anyways. A heart on a strike. A brain wandering off by itself. And if those two fucking organs just could speak, say ‘hey, let’s live, you and I’ blood would flow and neurons would lose their black eyes and darkness would abate. And light, that light I whined to Mira, Un Lobo! about would come.
That’s the real meaning of this LP. Aching in the arteries of every arpeggio that structures these songs is a hope that blood will flow again. And that’s the real journey of this LP. It’s a step-by-step guide through the intimacy of sadness. These songs, they give you a way to know that your heart hasn’t, won’t stop. Not yet. It doesn’t just inject you with artificial chemicals: these tracks dance with your dopamine, sex up your serotonin. They show you sadness and soaring are not separate, just different speeds of the same blood that’s always moving through you. And when I realized that, this LP saved my life.
heartbeats are the sun
See, I didn’t see a way out. But I didn’t need to. I was going to search through PubMed seven hours a day. Talk to specialists. Sign up for experimental treatments. Anything, to save my life. And all I had to do was coast on the promise that someday, some seven seconds straight my heart would beat slow again. I still didn’t want to say a damn thing to anyone. My brain and heart were glaring at each other and it left my vocal cords in the cross hairs of their stares. Saw them as newborn killers of every new sound they started to shape. So they just shivered in silence.
This LP isn’t about reaching out anyways. 9 tracks hang out in headspace and all the hurt you have up in there. It’s a head turned in on itself. Introverted eyes that stare at you silently screaming into your sheets. You can’t see anyone, anything yet. Your neurons are napping nineteen hours a day. Synapses misfiring because they feel drunk. Your eyes may as well be closed. Which is how you want them anyways because pulling them open each day takes herculean grip. All you really want your fingers to do is fuck off, lay by your side and let you sleep.
This is the story of the darkest time in Mira, Un Lobo’s life, as it is mine. And I don’t know how to talk about it without talking about how the story of my dying tied into a complete disconnect from this generation. From fellow youth, fellow humans. How my frontal and temporal lobes saw me as that lobo walking unwanted in the streets. People always think they care about the sick more than they do. And I know they do cos I’ve got years of experience in it. And it’s easy enough to die alone in the digital age. Without even trying.
Sometime, someday ‘sorry [emoticon]’ on Facebook replaced food and ibuprofen to fight your fever. Company, what company? Was always taught by TV that you take food, sit on the couch with your ailing friend. No, Netflix, Care And Chill for this generation. No hearing voices when you’re ill, only the ping of Facebook to notify you that someone, somewhere took six seconds to not even write a full sentence on your status to show that sick people are people too who live or die by your virtual hugs. Then spend the next seventeen minutes Instagramming the shit out of that bran muffin. Because, really. Filters. And my online reputation as a visual tastemaker. What of my reputation as a human?
But platitudes are not drives to the hospital when you need them. Can’t drip emoticons into an IV line and magically feel what those pixels feel. Dying isn’t for platitudes. Either are they for deep, crippling sadness. Destruction of the spirit on the level that Mira Un Lobo! orchestrates here. Dying isn’t for 140 characters or less, half sentences or even half paragraphs on Facebook. Those might make you want to die faster. These richly complex 10 songs barely encapsulate a fraction of the feeling, of all the things that need to be said when the world inside your head is exploding neuron by neuron.
blast. blast. blast away your brain
It’s a reality. A reality of this tech-generation. And I don’t care what people want to think of themselves. That they don’t do this. And I know this because I’ve been there. I know this because I’ve used my apartment in six cities across three countries as a free hostel for the sick. Sick people, abandoned. No money for a hotel during chemo, no friend to crash on their couch. And every single one has shown up on my door, vulnerable. They lie on the bed and I watch them from the floor and sometimes I’d play this LP for them and they’d cry while I sat in silence, aghast at it all.
And I’d watch as they come clean about the wolf’s skin that they live with. That second humanizing thread of Mira, Un Lobo!’s LP: when brain chemistry turned you animal, other. So you could survive. They’d tell me about how they were seen but not seen. Struggling to be seen as even half-human. And sometimes they’d just switch full time into wolf-mode. And their hearts would stop beating. And their eyes’d glaze over. And they’d tell me how they walk through crowds feeling pointed at for looking like the sick-man, seen but never seen. What that does to the brain is beyond the pale. What it did to them by the time they got to my doorstep is unforgivable as humanity. Not isolated cases, widespread enough to be a pattern. And I’d watch as this album gave them the courage to lift their head up off the pillow. Half-smile at me as I held their hand. And I don’t know where they all ended up. Some, alive and well. Some died. Some died in my apartment. But if their heart beat slow one more time, really that’s all that matters.
And I was walking in Yangon one day. All by myself, not even the pain in my feet to accompany me. A cure, it was being trying out. Fingers crossed. And I had this LP on my headphones and I started to cry. I stopped, looked around incredulous. Couldn’t understand I was jealous of Mira, Un Lobo! and his touchable catalyst for new life. This album is a roadmap to recovery and I knew I’m recovering but still stuck on the ‘We’re Not Far’ step. Still, in that moment I leapt forward to understanding how my heart could beat slow again.
I knew I float, without anything to hold onto. And it makes healing seem temporary, like it could be stolen. I want something to ground me. And I don’t know what, or who that could be. But I realized that for all this time, these seven months, that’s all I wanted. Even more than a cure. That came to me by the sound of Mira, Un Lobo!’s child cooing at the start of Heart Beats Slow. It dawned on me and down came the tears. I’d moved past the point of total panic. I was, am going to make it. And I’d moved onto letting people in. Wanting people.
Can’t say it enough, or enough times. If you’re going through trauma or personal darkness, I won’t lie to you and say there will be someone around. Or that you or your neurons could even communicate with them. But let music. Let music like Mira, Un Lobo!’s be your way out. It doesn’t really get better, just different. You get different.
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