Looking back whilst moving forward.
In continuing the theme of forward momentum into November, I rolled through some of my old playlists. In one of them, I rediscovered one of the gems that got me into yoga in the first place.
I’d been “doing yoga” as part of my YMCA exercise routine. I was in my mid-20s, just out of college, trying to figure out what this whole adulthood thing was about (I wouldn’t say I have it figured out yet, either). At some point, I figured I knew just enough asana to be dangerous; enough to start doing some of the poses (the few I could remember) at home. I knew classes had music in them, but I didn’t have any of the Disney-level Indian immersion music that permeated the few studios I had been to.
To be honest, I kind of hated the whole, “Let’s put a slice of fantasy India into our big city,” deal that came with that music. It’s one of the reasons I first began sharing music. Yoga, in my mind, was not about getting away from the city. I didn’t want to get away from my city; I wanted to learn how to live and how to move within it. My music had to support that mission.
This album helped me come to terms with that.
Ratatat has absolutely nothing to do with any sound you might imagine coming from an Indian yoga shala. They’re an electronic duo that makes use of heavily modified guitars in rich harmonies and flowing melodies that seem to chase and argue with one another. The result sounds almost like someone had updated 8 bit video game chiptunes for the modern world. I would actually not be surprised were I to learn that video game music had a heavy influence on Ratatat’s music.
The reason I’m recommending the entire LP3 album is because, for one, I can’t find a single song to select out of it without saying, “No, but really, listen to the whole album,” and for two, the composition of the album lends itself well to an asana practice. You can hit “play” and get going without worrying about an artist’s fully legitimate desire to express high and low energy throwing conflicting energy into the room (Black Sands by Bonobo is another album that shares this characteristic). “Shiller” is an oddly out-of-place seeming opening tune that stands on its own, emerging and returning to silence before an entirely new vamp and upbeat energy rolls in with “Falcon Jab,” and from there, it’s off to the races. I’m particularly fond of the exultant chorus in “Shempi,” and the curious playfulness of “Black Heroes” even fits in for savasana.
Ratatat’s music is mostly instrumental, and LP3 has no spoken/lyrical vocal samples that I’m aware of, which I know some of us prefer when using music as underscore for workouts or yoga routines.
Deciding to practice with Ratatat changed how I viewed asana, not because I found the right way to do it, but because I learned that there is no right way. Just your way. The music’s just another reflection of that.
Photo: Kim Seng/Flickr