I remember when I listened to I Believe in You, from Spirit of Eden, for the entire three hours and 15 minutes of a train journey from London to Newcastle, its melancholy reflecting my mood. A barely audible piano. The quiet cymbals and drums that sounded as if they were recorded in someone’s living room. Soft, muted and persistent bass. The Hammond organ drone, more church than jazz. The voice of Mark Hollis, a murmuration. Blurred words, as exquisite as any of Liz Fraser’s incantations with the Cocteau Twins. And then the choir, the word “spirit” floating above everything.
The track embodies everything I love about music: the creation of atmosphere through sound and silence; its acting as a mirror and container for experience, ideas, mixed feelings and complexity. The music of Mark Hollis is not about show. It’s about listening. There’s a classical influence: Debussy, Ravel, maybe even John Cage. He was an enigmatic, elusive singer-songwriter who once said: “I would rather hear silence than I would one note.” Let’s not say he “retired” from music: he pursued other things in life. Sometimes, it’s the beauty of what you can’t hear that makes a sound.