Dau Cefn - Cariad
Chances are you're reading this because your love for music extends beyond the rack of CDs in your local Tesco. Chances are you're seeking those rare moments when a piece of music appears in your life that makes your soul thrum in perfect harmony.
Chances are you'll know how rare those songs are. The soundtrack to my life - the songs that really, really matter - wouldn't burst the seams of an unironic C90. iTunes playlists give the impression that we can fit an infinite amount of music into our lives. But our hearts aren't iPods. We only have the capacity to fall head over heels for a handful of songs. The sheer proliferation of music, its ready access, doesn't mean that we fall in love with more music. It makes those moments rarer. For a song amongst the millions to shake us, it has to have a profound, and personal, emotional charge to it.
I fell head over heels for a song this week. The rest of this piece is a love letter to that song. It's a paean to a cathedral one apparently unremarkable man built in his heart.
I was at DJing at the Eisteddfod's Maes B last Saturday night. In most respects it was an uneventful evening, but something amazing did happen. Most excellent connoisseurs of sound, C2's Dyl Mei and Carwyn Jones (Y Bwgan) - two men whose knowledge of and love for music I have absolute respect for - recommended a song that has subsequently obsessed me like no other in recent memory.
"You should check out Dau Cefn's Cariad," said Dyl as we sat outside not giving up smoking.
"Yeah," said Carwyn, eyes proper glittering. "It's beautiful. So simple. It's the best song I've heard in ages."
I may have extrapolated that last sentence. So we did a bit of drinking. I did a bit of DJing. Some bands did some playing. Including Dyl and Carwyn as part of Dau Cefn. The thought that there was any bias in their recommendation didn't cross my mind. And, with all due respect to Dau Cefn, their performance, marred by malfunctioning DI boxes and sequencers possessed by poltergeists, wasn't a great advert for their music.
But the recommendation stuck. Just something in the awed way Dyl and Carwyn spoke implanted it in my brain like a flag on the surface of the moon.
I did a bit more drinking, a bit more bonhomie, a clatter of DJing, and stayed up most of the night up to no good. My midlife crisis will be over soon, but for now this is the shape it's taking and I haven't the wherewithal or backbone to fight it.
So night blurred into morning and I felt all displaced and emotional and a bit out of love with myself, then I remembered the song.
Dau Cefn. Cariad.
One quick Google and four minutes later I was caught in sudden shower of tears at my desk. Somehow, some other man had managed to write and record a song that blew in through my ears and billowed my heart with an all encompassing, yearning sadness; a giddy soaring vertigo I've spent the last couple of days mainlining. That's not a poetic exaggeration. I haven't been able to listen to anything else. I crave the feeling the song gives me like no other. I can't fathom it. At all.
So, what's in this song? Why has Cariad got me as weak-kneed and happy sick as when I caught sight of my first love from the school bus window? What is it about a succession of airborne vibrations that has me astrally projecting my knackered heart all over the skidding skies?
It doesn't make sense to be so unmanned. It's as much biological use to me as a pair of un-opposable thumbs. What evolutionary advantage do I gain from being left dumbstruck by a four-minute piece of music sung in a language I only quarter understand? Is it some clue to God's existence revealing itself to an atheist heart?
"Okay, you fuzzy-backed non-believer, your science thinks it can explain where My universe came from; you can read the stories of time in the rocks I laid beneath your feet and you can immunize the rich from three quarters of the diseases I sent to move you closer to Me, but - son of sperm and egg - can you explain this?"
It all starts with a few sharply-plucked steel chords. Nothing fancy. Nothing clever. It's a chord sequence as familiar as rain against a windowpane. Then a voice ghosts in, all hushed, all too human, with more integrity and heart in its whisper than a billion parliaments. There's no affectation, no posturing, it's just there; the breath of a breaking heart. It's the sound of the singer reaching for his love, the other heart that makes sense of the riddles and noise. That brings calm and belonging. It's all there.
Then, one minute four seconds in it goes supernova. Oh god, and it's so perfect it makes me teeter with yearning, trips me out, splays my guts all over the floor, ripping through damp cardboard and exposing the molten core. Massive echoing drums, harmonies, harmonics, a glittering stairway up and out. My heart goes widescreen in a high definition not yet available in Currys. If you've ever lain awake in the first flush of love, not wanting to fall asleep because you just want to keep that feeling inside, then that moment at one minute four seconds is that feeling. Nailed. A pin through the most beautiful butterfly imaginable.
Scoff if you like. I am the owner of a Disney heart and I. Don't. Care.
Unexpected diversion alert! I knew Sting was a twit the moment he wrote a song called If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free). Fraudster. The titular sentiment is the plain lie of an internationally successful narcissist. For those of us unskilled in the Tantric arts, too busy surviving to spend three hours taking shallow dips and shallower breaths, who don't have the benefit of millions of pounds in our bank accounts to perpetuate our attractiveness, love isn't about sharing or being magnanimous.
We want to trap love, fence it in, give it a life sentence, circle it with hungry tigers and make sure it doesn't escape. Now, all of these things are frowned on in civilised society, so we trap love in art. For right now, my love is crystallised in that dizzying ascent of harmonies in Dau Cefn's Cariad. It won't get sick of the sight of my hairy arse. It's unlikely to feel tempted by the gym-sculpted wazzock who ostentatiously jogs past our window every morning, tossing his hair just so. Nah, my love is safe in the hands of a song.
I haven't drawn any conclusions or moved myself closer to an understanding of this inexplicable response. The end of the recording is somewhat half-assed too, so I feel that tailing off with a bit of a mumble is in keeping with the spirit of the song.