Under Blankets sits quietly underneath the sparkling jewellery of the stars. Daylight is not completely absent even when we close our eyes to practice meditation – when the sun’s out, the light peeks through, bathing the lids in a warm, peach-coloured afterglow, and when the night arrives, the breath provides its own fire for the torch, lighting up those darker areas with awareness and acceptance of the present moment – but behind the blind eye there exists a place of unison, where harmony and clarity converge – an illuminated, all-seeing mind, a kind and compassionate mind radiating peace, and shining as brightly as those stars.
Under Blankets is an ambient long-form piece from Fraser McGowan’s project Caught In The Wake Forever. As part of the therapy he received for anxiety, McGowan was introduced to mindfulness meditation, an ancient Buddhist practice which focuses on the here and now, and what leading mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat Zinn calls “…the art of conscious living…to do with waking up and seeing things as they are…the overall tenor of mindfulness practice is gentle, appreciative, and nurturing” (Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn).
But peace and awareness were eluding him. The guided meditations were founded on recycled and stereotypical ambient progressions. McGowan began work on a less intrusive and yet all-consuming ambient piece to softly aid and guide him during his meditation sessions. Under Blankets helped him to reach a calmer state where unnecessary things faded away and others, like the cyclical breath, the sensations in the body, and the muted tones of the music, came into awareness. The ambient tones are canopies of washed-out light. They don’t need to be anywhere else.
The bright and yet smudged tones are like closed lids. The cool flow of breath is felt at the nostrils, a slow and steady stream of oxygen filling the back of the throat. Similarly, these tones ebb and flow, rhythmical and yet flexible, and the music is slow enough to register these vital moments, aware of a pause as big as an island in between the breath, reflecting nothing but a still lake of inner tranquillity and the occasional thoughts which ripple its surface.
The swells are almost invisible, passing by like a thought in the mind. This is rest, where sitting in stillness and doing nothing is more than fine, absolutely fine. Vivid colours start to emerge as you travel deeper; a purple bloom and a yellow wing indicate the activation of a chakra. The colours of the cosmos light up a universe, both inner and outer, and like these ever-changing moments, the relaxing music evolves and passes over the course of its forty-minute sit. It is what it is.
Meditation comes in different forms. Walking in the countryside and being aware of your experience can be a meditation, as can listening to a still piece of music. Under Blankets sees clearly with nothing but a pair of kind eyes. There’s plenty of space to breath, to stay in touch with yourself and with your heart. It’s about connecting to your inner being, and about cloaking yourself and others in love.
released January 26, 2017
Written & recorded at home by Fraser McGowan
Mastered by James Plotkin
Special thanks to Chris Gowers & Daniel Crossley for their overwhelming support with this project.