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Time Heals Nothing – Time Heals Nothing

Time Heals Nothing – Time Heals Nothing (2018)

Why do people listen to sad music? There've been some formal scientific attempts to answer this. The general premise of the question posed is: when people reach for music as a strategy for coping with negative emotions, and they select "sad" music, does listening to it actually achieve the desired outcome of improving their mood? From my cursory internet research, the results seem inconclusive.

Inconclusive results are disappointing, but perhaps not unexpected. While I trust the scientists, the range of human emotion – not to mention each individual's own methods of accessing and expressing it – is vast indeed, and it seems like a phenomenally difficult task to pinpoint objective, consistent regions on that spectrum and deduce if-then causality in relation to stimuli affecting them. Still, we can control for all of that nuance with a large enough sample size. What's harder to control for is the specific nature of different music that might be employed in these studies. Maybe it's the music obsessive in me taking undue offense, but it seems too reductive to categorize any single composition of music as either "happy" or "sad". When a person hears music, whatever they feel in response to it is a combination of many internal and external factors specific to their own psyche and environment, and may even have nothing to do with the fact that the music is ostensibly "happy" or sad", but maybe that it reminded them of playing the violin in the fourth grade, or of a random lyric in another song, or...

Okay, fine, so we can control for all this variability too, and at any rate I feel a bit foolish trying to deconstruct the scientific process as we know it. My point is: it doesn't surprise me that the precise reasons people listen to "sad" music still elude us. As some of the studies mentioned above indicate, it's often an attempt to self-medicate a depressed mood; the territory we must be mindful of is when clinically depressed people do this, as it could potentially set them worse off. Respectful of those cases, sad music holds a certain allure, if for no other reason than one that's perhaps self-evident: its particular emotional explorations can yield shades of creativity and aesthetic techniques otherwise unknown.

Time Heals Nothing is a gripping example of such an exploration. A scan of the track names will provide fair warning what the listener is signing up for, if the album title wasn't enough: "cry, regret", "abandon all hope", "falling dreams" – those are the first three. The bandcamp album page describes it as being "for fans of melted audio, occultism, and depression" and that sums it up fairly well. There aren't exactly what I would call lyrics, just warped vocal loops welling up from muffled, corroded beats. Some of the tracks have a familiarity to them, as if echoes of better-known songs, but I can't tell for sure. The overall impression is of trying to claw one's way out of a dank, earthy pit, or perhaps hiding in a boarded-up cement compound somewhere with no sense of time or distance.

Why subject ourselves to this? Why listen to something explicitly marketed to "fans of depression"? As I've harped on in the past, there's an emotional reaction that occurs when our senses perceive art, and, as difficult or impossible as it may be to verbalize that impression concretely, if the art "speaks to us" there's a momentary synchronicity of the art's resonating waves with our own. Put differently: when you know, you know. The emotional payload carried by the sounds on Time Heals Nothing registers as familiar to me, and as dark as those feelings may be, it's comforting to know there's someone else out there – in Minneapolis, apparently – who's felt something similar.

davidcolucci.com  >  An album a day in May