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"Did you write any songs during lockdown?"

During the long 2020 winter of our discontent, due to happenstance I found myself locked down in a ramshackle cottage in the Otway’s forest near the Shipwreck Coast of the Southern Seas. Leaky roof, windows that wouldn’t shut, red-gum wood fires, beanies, long johns, scarfs and old jumpers for warmth, all the strange hours of the day and night.

The house looks down through a valley down to the ocean 700 metres away. Tin roof, wooden structure, decaying mud brick. As The Go-Betweens song goes, “It's Cold and Dusty in here”

This is Gadubanud country, place of the King Parrots, pretty much the wettest part of the state, rainfall figures tallied daily. Off the grid, tank water, shit wi-fi and minimal phone coverage.

At first, like many in the music industry, for that matter any industry that deals with people in public places I was gutted. I’d put a few years into the making of The Wisdom Line album, really wanted to push it out there with the especially curated films, rehearsed meticulously and ready to go 'round the country a few times and over to Europe and the US. But the metaphorical carpet was completely yanked out from beneath our feet. We were all thrown into a weird malaise down here, in Victoria especially, but in a global context, it was and still is this massive existential threat. It has disorientated and mentally affected so many of us.

I am highly sensitive to sound. It kind of goes with the job. Gigs and films are often spoilt by listening too deeply, thinking about the process too much; how the soundtrack was compiled, why they chose this instrument. It makes a noisy restaurant with hard tiled floors and glass surfaces impossible to hear in, cacophonous and incessant rock music at the MCG irritating in the extreme. Infomercial channels in a doctor’s surgery, Air Supply’s “I’m all out of love” in the supermarket.

Wind through the forest trees, like an orchestra in surround sound, variants of white noise, wild and invigorating, it ebbs and flows, swirls from one side of the valley to the other, and then down through the gully. Wild spirits and ghosts, the approaching storm, the trembling sky. And then the rise and fall, the Aeolian sound, the harmonic whistle when the wind blows the through gaps in the slat windows. The sudden squall, a violent wind blows with a dull roaring sound. Sometimes the trees up the top of steep hills are wild with fury, the branches are violently thrown about, they should break but they don’t. Down the bottom of the gully it is dead still, not even slight movement in the leaves. Like a presence, I shut my eyes and listen to the directional song.

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Some nights the waves hit the distant shore, every twenty seconds, all through the night When it's still and calm that’s all you hear. In bed at night, the waves beat and echo up the valley. It is like a wonderfully sonic 808 kick drum with portamento decay. The waves crash constant, repetitive, metronomic, permanent. The rise and fall. The fall and rise. Draws you in. Shut your eyes, lie on your back and before you know it two hours have passed. But not just any two hours. It is music, it is beat, it is beauty.

Waves crashing at the shore are proof that something as vast and powerful as the ocean also needs an end to break down for comfort- the waves wash away their worries.

Other times black rain and bursting hail. When the rain squalls from the south, thunderous, dramatic, wild. Thunder and frenzy. You don’t hear the waves so much now. It is squall, it is tin squeaks, window rattles. The single person, me in this case, is insignificant

There is no one around, no light, no human noise. Just this soundtrack for the whole winter and autumn through.

At night, I open all the bedroom windows, the cold pours in but so does the sound. I learnt to love sleeping this way. To wake up with beanie hair. A good friend of mine taught me this. She lives in the high country east of Canberra on Walbunja land. Anyone who has been to Braidwood in winter knows how cold it gets. She sleeps on an iron double bed outside of her house in the bush, season by season. The glass of water next to the bed freezes over by morning. But she chooses to lie, with hot water bottles and listen to the sounds of the bush night.

People often asked did you write songs during the lockdown, did you use the time creatively and the answer was a definite no to the first question and a yes and no to the second.

All I did for the whole of the lockdown was listen, listen intently.

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Wait up your hurry

Poke along slowly

Soften your hastiness down

Move your eyes left to right

Flounder then flap about

Come on, keep up with the game
 

Rain smashes the tin roof like orchestra cymbals

The pine forest whistles and whirls

Play it like paper cups flapping around in the wind

 

The candlelight flickers then catches the air

The wax turns to liquid and flares

Where once words are spoken, they fall and collapse on the ground

Where they fossick around, fossick around

 

Somewhere there's a heart in this town where we live

Where the laughing clowns, they are laughing with you

Where the drunk man is singing "The Candyman can” and he does

 

The record is over, the playout is scratching

The back-door latch opens and closes and bangs

By getting distracted we finally forget where we are.

So, wait up your hurry

Poke along slowly

Soften your hastiness down

Move your eyes left to right

Flounder then flap about

Come on…keep up with the game

- David Bridie