Before yesterday I thought I had a favorite song, and that favorite song was "So Weit Wie Noch Nie" by Jurgen Paape. Now I never want to hear it again.
For something to do, a kind of desk-bound endurance test if you will, I decided to see what would happen if I listened to my favorite song on repeat for an entire working day. Being a good employee/someone without a life outside of work, I usually come in early and leave late because I don't really have a life outside of work and I am a good employee. Luckily, here at VICE UK, we normally start at ten and leave around half past six. Due to the aforementioned lack of life I swan in at half past nine, grab armfuls of the free fruit on offer for us early starters and amble out at about seven. Which gives me about nine and a half hours of solid listening to play about with. Which meant I was in for around 100 plays of my favorite song. What a day this was going to be!
Paape's song has deep personal significance. It was the first dance record—outside of the summer-holiday-driving-to-the-beach-with-Scott-Mills-on thumpers we all know, love, and have heard a million times—that I fell in love with. As a gawky fifteen year old marooned in the corny wilderness of rural North Norfolk I was hooked up to the wider world through my family PC. I was addicted to, and obsessed with, an NME messageboard spin-off messageboard. I spent a decade of my life on there, but that's another story. My musical taste developed as a result of virtually hanging out with people who knew more about everything than myself and while this took me down the odd wrong path—I write this as a man who owns albums by Josh Rouse and cLOUDDEAD—it largely stood me in good stead. At some point in 2005 I was introduced to Erlend Oye's DJ Kickscompilation and everything changed.
That mix kicked off with Paape's song. I was entranced. It was the best thing I'd ever heard. And, again, until yesterday, that was still true. Being a good employee/lacking a life, I made notes throughout what unwittingly became torture.
I remember reading about this song in an article for Pitchfork by Mark Richardson as part of his Resonant Frequency column. It was called 'Perfect World' and Richardson listed twelve songs that he was happy to put forward as perfect. Alongside the likes of Jim O'Rourke, Brian Eno, and Michael Jackson was "So Weit Wie Noch Nie," and you know what? He's not wrong. Everything about it is genuine perfection: the keening, longing vocal, those lighter-than-air chords that float and pulse celestially, the perfectly weighted kick, that handclap 59 seconds in, fuck, it's all too much everytime I hear it.
I love this song! I really do love this song!
The handclap's still cool. I've already stopped really thinking of it as 'music' per se — this song is just there now, just lilting and drifting, drifting and lilting, the eternal plash of the shore, like 5Live playing faintly from a radio in the kitchen while you mow the lawn, like a husband you fell out of love with a decade ago murmuring about the Brexit over another dinner of ham-wrapped chicken breasts and new potatoes. Something inside me has changed. I feel...different. Altered. Resolutely not myself. I try and have a wee just to avoid hearing it for a minute or two. I linger in the stall for slightly too long. I wash my hands in a desperate bid for an authentic yes-I-did-just-go-to-the-toilet-for-quite-a-while-at-work experience.
TWENTY FIFTH PLAY
The interesting thing about embarking on a 'project' like this—a project which isn't actually a project in any real sense of the word, but instead is the kind of journalistic assignment that feels like it has some actual purpose when, really, when you think about it, it does nothing, says nothing much, the kind of project that pales in comparison to actual projects like building scale models of skyscrapers out of matchsticks, or eating every flavour of KitKat currently available on the commercial market, or reading Proust in Sanskrit—that you learn something about the idea of "favourites." You're forced to ask yourself whether or not you actually like the things you think you like, or if you've actually built it up in your head as a totemic part of yourself when, in reality, in actuality, it's just another song, just another film, just another painting. I think I still really do think this is my favorite song ever though. Apart from "Here's Where the Story Ends" by the Sundays, or "Faces" by Clio, or "That's Us/Wild Combination" by Arthur Russell, or "Here Come the Warm Jets" by Brian Eno or "Svensktalande Bättre Folk" by Anna Järvinen, or "Losing My Mind" by Liza Minnelli, or "Love Has Come Around" by Donald Byrd, or "Bonny" by Prefab Sprout, or "Just A Little Taste" by Rowan Martin, or "Yamaha" by The-Dream, or...
As a contemporary office worker, I'm used to forgoing a traditional lunch break, to the point where nipping out to Tesco and walking back at any pace slightly slower than Lad in Year 9 Trying Really Hard to Impress His PE Teacher feels hugely transgressive. Sitting down somewhere for a bowl of soup is basically our generation's version of Piss Christ. Given that, you'll be unsurprised that my 50th play coincided nicely with my lunch. I ate a gritty batch of couscous with some sopping wet courgette and wondered when it all went so wrong. I don't like cous cous. I'm ambivalent towards courgette. I like chips and gravy and chocolate bars and pasties and baked beans and I don't want to eat fucking cous cous and fucking courgettes ever again and I don't want to listen to this fucking song any more either and I really don't ever, ever want to hear myself eating couscous and courgettes while "So Weit Wie Noch Nie" plays for the 52nd time in the space of a working day.
SEVENTY FIFTH PLAY
I only really started drinking coffee late last year. Until about, October, I think I'd had less than five cups of coffee in my entire life. That was it. 25 years on planet Earth and only five cups of coffee consumed. A piss-poor amount by any standards. I never once walked into a sixth form psychology lesson clutching a cup of coffee. I never whiled away Sunday mornings with black coffee and cigarettes. It wasn't part of my life in anyway. I just didn't like coffee. Then something inside me altered and coffee became palatable, then enjoyable, then pleasurable. Now I look forward to drinking coffee. I drink it at home and at work, in cafes in restaurants. This is me now: I am a coffee drinker. I drink coffee. I have drunk five coffees today.
NINETY FITH PLAY
Do you ever think about what actually happens when you die? I mean, what happens at the exact point of death? Is there an exact point of death? Is there one moment when life is completely over and there's no chance of it coming back? Does that happen in a moment? In one moment do you slide from living to dead with consummate ease? Are you aware of it? Do you feel it happening? Is it a sweet release? Please be a sweet release. Please.
ONE HUNDREDTH PLAY
I AM FREE! AT LAST! LORD, I AM FREE!
I now never ever ever ever ever ever ever want to his this record again. Ever.