For your listening pleasure
On the last night in August this year, I found myself in a rental car with my boyfriend, driving across southern Ontario from Niagara Falls to the Elora Gorge. We’d had a slow start that day and were running very late getting to our campsite. One of those seemingly pointless, exasperating late night traffic jams whose cause is never revealed had delayed us an additional hour. It was pitch black outside, and even in the daylight that stretch of highway offers little in terms of visual respite, lined as it is with warehouses, shopping malls, and signs pointing to more scenic places, tragically beyond visual reach. I was not excited about setting up a tent and building a fire in the dark. There was rapidly cooling pizza and rapidly warming beer sitting in the backseat of our car. My boyfriend wasn’t hungry and wasn’t thirsty and wasn’t too bothered about the whole situation; I was dying for a beer, starving, and teetering on the edge of an irrational crying jag.
Needless to say, the atmosphere was tense.
At some point I realized that my brooding wasn’t exactly helping the vibe, so I decided to turn on the radio. As I methodically scrolled through the frequencies, the usual assortment of pop and talk radio stations presented themselves unconvincingly.
Almost as quickly as it had appeared it was gone again, dissolved into another and yet another mysterious jungle of sounds.
Then, out of nowhere, the dial landed on something unlike anything else we’d heard: a somber, hypnotic instrumental soundscape which perfectly suited our dark and somewhat dire circumstances. I lowered my hand and found myself surrendering to this soothing dispatch from the ether.
After some minutes of that first bewitching tune unfolding before us, the voice of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver emerged from the haze, crystal clear and immediately recognizable, singing a song I’d never heard before. Almost as quickly as it had appeared it was gone again, dissolved into another and yet another mysterious jungle of sounds.
This enchantment lasted for what could have been hours before the spell was finally broken by the DJ’s voice: deep and slow-moving, enthusiastically describing the minute details of the ‘trip’ he’d just taken us on with the kind of geeky self-seriousness that calls to mind Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity, minus all the caffeine. His name, as it turns out, was Hymns57, and he intended to take us on several more trips that night.
I wanted to stay suspended in that warm bath of ambient, world, electronic, and indie music he’d poured for us indefinitely.
The next one started and was as mesmeric as the first, but it wasn’t long before the signal started to crackle as we drove out of the station’s range. Suddenly I wasn’t in a hurry to get to our campsite anymore; I wanted to stay suspended in that warm bath of ambient, world, electronic, and indie music he’d poured for us indefinitely. I frantically wiggled the dial to no avail – he was gone.
I turned to my boyfriend and said something along the lines of, ‘That was the best fucking thing I’ve heard on the radio in years!’ Though I was too caught up in my own rhapsodic musings to really pay attention, I’m pretty sure he agreed.
Aural Tethers (Hymns57) broadcasts out of the University of Guelph’s campus and community radio station. You can hear the show at http://cfru.ca/recordings/294 or on Friday nights from 10-12am at 93.3FM if you find yourself driving along that same lonely stretch of highway in southern Ontario. This article was first published in the Winter 2016 issue of the Subbacultcha quarterly magazine.