OR:- It seems I’ve developed an Iron mind
When Mana-Yood-Sushai awakes, the world will end. So it was written by Lord Dunsany. The creator of things will also destroy them. Mana-Yood-Sushai comes to my turntable courtesy of a month-long search through second hand websites desperately looking for someone too burned out to want to keep ahold of what everyone assured me from every angle was a stunning masterstroke. I’d been digging Gnod records for a while and only just got over the disbanding of that other soporific Northern soul Wiht who sadly played their last chord in March this year. What is it about the North of England that makes people write such long explorations in the heavy set? I’yunno but I sure like it. I’m loving it because I’ve been lifting and working out to this Northern noise for a few months, it’s so sonically one that it really helps concentration. The use of this Northern rumble as workout music is not accidental. I suppose as this is the flowering topic of this bi-weekly finger exercise routine I better start from the beginning. Almost exactly a year ago I got tired of hating myself, I was nearly 18 stone, and for a man of the extraordinarily ordinary five foot eleven this was not a healthy or a happy place to be, so I went for a walk. I started lifting weights and swimming, but swimming became running and as I type this I’m still recovering from my second six mile (9.6km) run in two days. I would advise anyone of any sort to take up exercise because it is such a wonderous adventure. You’ll discover potential you never knew you had and feel better than you thought you could. I started running on April 3rd, at time of writing it is June 19th, which I calculate to be twelve weeks of exercise and I can run ten kilometres without stopping in a time of 57 minutes reliably. Yah this post may contain quite a bit of figures which’ll impress those of you who work out, and maybe inspire those who don’t. What really gives me a kick is weight lifting though. Now I can look at myself in the mirror and see the beginnings of a sculpted figure, but more than aesthetically exercise of any kind is good for yer soul. Weight lifting is not about being strong, or being muscly; it’s about internal discipline, respect for yourself and for everything else, it’s about feeling powerful; not in any mean or measurable way but simply acquiring the notion that the entire world can be conquered, much the same way one feels surveying the nation from a mountaintop. “Friends come and go, but 200 pounds is always 200 pounds” as Henry Rollins succinctly put it. Weight lifting is about patience, perseverance, power, and respect; as such, the sonic workouts of the Northern noise are ideal counterpoint to my own, they too are mountain-powderingly powerful, perseverant and patient, as they wait in the cave of your record player, nestled and awaiting the time you once again want to confront the iron.
I used to work out to punk, interesting proto and post punk mainly; Wire’s Pink Flag and Raw Power (natch) were my workout workouts of choice, but then I started to get more and more into it, the workouts became heavier, longer, more elaborate and more demanding and so my listening had to improve also. First bill was Wiht’s awesome the Harrowing of the North 2011 record. While listening to this thumping workout where guitar and drums take second bass to a telegraph-wire bass thrum that’ll shake you right to yer bones I began to realise a lot of things about the iron. The iron isn’t your friend and it isn’t your opponent, it’s just weight. Ten kilos is ten kilos however you slice it. It is me that lifts it every time. Sakyong Mipham has written at length about weightlifting and meditation. Superficially both require mastery, effort, concentration on breathing and patterns, as does the comprehensive meditation workouts of Wiht and Bong. Working out can be spiritual, in the best workouts one becomes a machine of motion, where each action takes effort but breathing and concentration line up like holes in pieces of paper, momentarily letting the light shine through and allowing the weight and muscle to connect in a deeply important way. In these moments you don’t fight the iron and it doesn’t help you out, you’re just in sync. It also became clear through extended workouts well beyond what I had previously thought possible that physical strength matters little, what is far more important is developing an iron mind, developing the will and the strength of will to complete a workout, letting go of pain or making a friend of it and becoming a vessel of endurance. Much like the musicians of Wiht have become the exact same ultramarathon exertion players, with these unstoppable trains of noise never holding back time and again blowing my mind as I blow my personal best. Working out is a meditative process; meditation isn’t simply a Tim Leary trip sitting on an Indian-pattern cushion and humming, meditation is any point at which your mind is allowed to be free. Throughout my life, before becoming an exercise junkie I always found going for a walk a useful daily tool. Modern life is spiritually cluttered, with so much unspirituality pervading our existence and soaking into our pores night and day it can be beautiful to take time out from that, allow the madness to collate in your mind, come to terms with it. Now I literally run away from my problems every evening and I can relax. Weightlifting is even less literal. If I can conquer the bar, I can conquer anything, because this bar is freakin’ tough. Wiht’s Harrowing of the North workout neatly mirrored my own workout. Long, languorous but powerful and directed.
You don’t train your body as much as you train your mind. The biggest change seen in people who have put work into themselves is mental, in attitude and mannerisms, no matter how much weight they’ve lost or how many inches added to upper arm circumference. Just as Bong must look into the mirror, and through the old photos and see what became of Beyond Ancient Space’s blubbery rolls and ample waistline of loose lo-fi production and dense low end sound now that the new, tauter, tighter, toned Mana-Yood-Sushai has hit the spectral shelves. The new album is just as vast, it’s the same band for sure but, like after a few heavy months of working out, it’s turning in the mirror, flexing muscles it can see for the first time and marvelling at how it’s jeans seem to have grown by a size. It’s still me, but I’m just better. Bong’s new opus brings a perfect workout with it every time because they understand what it means to indulge in self-improvement in a deeply spiritual way. Not only do Bong return to us once again however briefly sharper, more defined, they also come to us more restful and meditative, contemplative than their previous work. Just as I have become more restful, more contemplative. I have developed an iron mind, just as Bong have built for us an iron record.
Get Wiht's the Harrowing of the North is available on their Bandcamp to pay what you like. Check out Bong's Bandcamp too for all their sounds including a free preview of Mana-Yood-Sushai.
Written under dumbbells by Steven.