Friday, September 4, 2009
Tim Cohen: The Two Sides of Tim Cohen
I have been habitually hard on myself lately, and it has to do with a struggle with my own skepticism. I have come to regard this part of myself as essential to avoiding what Umberto Eco has called "turning metaphysics into mechanics." But in doing so, I am becoming a detective with all the clues but nothing to investigate. Sometimes I forget that the answer has been, and has always been for me, in music and literature. When art aches towards transcendence, (and if George Steiner is right, all art does,) it is the ache that absorbs all the doubts, the loneliness, the emptiness. Somewhere along the way I forgot how much spiritual power exists in the longing, in the question. In the novel Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee, the titular character has a wonderful sustained argument with herself about the stories of gods and mortals couplings. Why, she asks, would a god want to bed a human? What about being human is attractive to them, would stoke divine desire. (desire that often has to be hidden in another form, such as a swan or a bull lest the mortal be destroyed by the pure form of the deity). The answer, she alludes to, is that there is something so unique and wonderful about the human desire for transcendence. It is our longing for them that makes them desire us.
Tim Cohen's album The Two Sides of Tim Cohen is a perfect antidote to my crippling skepticism. There is an unabashed calling out to the heavens, not for perfect answers, but because that is how we claim our own humanity. We reach out and we become more connected to the divine, not because something reaches back (although sometimes it does) but because that we are, like the gods, desirous of each other.
The title of the album hearkens back to the seventies, and while there is a bit of that decade winding its way around the songs, the album is not derivative. These are simple songs made complex by harmony and rhythm, and they carve themselves right into you. There is some texturing, a tiny bit of noise, but these are mostly stripped bare of anything extraneous. Everything sounds like it was recorded outside, in the hollows of a cave or under the bow of trees. Sounds echo from the hills, as Cohen walks along some sacred grove; grooving, dreaming, looking up, looking around, but never forgetting to look straight ahead.
--Take Aim Goliath