Michael Seidel’s Neon Golden journey of out time

By - Aug 1st, 2003 02:52 pm
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By Michael Seidel

It was Gothenburg. Truly it was, but whenever arrows of time are lobbed at the dartboard of that day, my mind gets tyrannical, wiping out the reality of place. It could have been anywhere: Anywhere International Airport. That’s it. Or at least we’ll pretend it is.

It started like this: an ultra-modern, passenger-choked shuttle bus slid out of the city. Along the featureless outlying countryside, dusk was raining down, incrementally blacking out depth of field until the landscape was reduced to my own face staring back at me. I dug the Discman out of my side bag, sifted through my volumes of MP3s and eventually settled on the bleepy, lush electronic sounds of The Notwist’s Neon Golden.

I’d heard the record before. Months earlier, I was doing a stint of couch surfing and a generous friend offered his room to me while he was away from home for several months. Along with his room came his CD collection, which was massive, and teeming with records I’d never heard before. Everyday was an odyssey of discovery, and it was wonderful. Neon Golden had gotten a few spins and I thought it was great, but its significance hadn’t yet surfaced. That would happen at Anywhere International Airport.

We trudged deeper into what can only be described as “the boonies.” Seemingly out of nowhere, landing lights seared through the dark empty space outside. The shuttle came to a halt, we gathered our things and got off. The hour was a hellish hullabaloo of passports being rifled for, suitcases being dropped onto scales, sundry tongues clashing and competing. For me, all of that was muted to nothing more than tangible action. Sure, I caught snippets in the segues between tracks, but for the most part, it was all over-arched by Neon Golden.

So in that way, on that night, that record became my anthem of transition. For me it somehow sonically exemplified the feeling and experience of transitory life. Over the next few months, I’d listen to it in narrow, pot-holed back alleys; on coaches with faltering suspension systems; on turbulence-plagued budget planes; sprawled out on the mite infested sheets of hostel beds, listless and longing. It gave form to the uncontrollable tremble of vague expectation. It was my empathetic conspirator in homelessness and motion.

In the course of all this moving about, the surface of the CD got dinged so severely that it’s now unplayable. Though I have heard it a few times since I returned to my sedentary domestic life, I have not made the effort to obtain a new copy of my own. I still feel that it’s one of the greatest records I’ve ever heard — it’s just that it now feels out of context: its significance is trapped in my past, when life felt indistinct, boundless and new.

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