BLK w/Bear – Wish for a World without Hurt

BLK w/Bear
Wish for a World without Hurt

The indie-rock world didn’t have much of a response to Sept. 11, 2001. Sure, I Am the World Trade Center changed its name (temporarily), and The Coup changed its cover art, but few artists responded with anything more complex than a written statement. There are probably a couple of reasons for this. First, the underground music scene is filled with a bunch of cynical pricks, and sometimes it’s tough for people like them (ok…um…us) to shift focus and do something truly heartfelt. Many artists detested the “nationalism” that followed the tragedy, and as such, chose not to say anything at all. The second, more practical reason, is that an event like 9/11/01 is of such a magnitude that it becomes difficult to capture feelings and emotions about it in music. After all, the underground need only look to Paul McCartney’s “Freedom” or Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising to see how reactionary 9/11 material can humble even the most legendary artists.
Time, as they say, heals, and it also dulls – impacts, reactions, and emotions. Fittingly, Rothko, a bassist from England, and BLK w/Bear, a tape manipulator from DC, don’t take a lot of chances with Wish for a World without Hurt, a tribute to 9/11. Over two years after the fact, no one will accuse them of being transparent opportunists, and the bands’ ambient, voice-less collaboration yields very little potential for awkward lyrical insights or sophomoric poetry. Wish for a World without Hurt is an atmosphere piece. Its eight tracks are barely discernible. Instead, the listener is treated to one long instrumental, and even then, there are precious few memorable moments – no big crescendo’s (impact?) or a squealing white noise (terror?) that could be linked to that day.
BLK w/Bear seems to be the dominant presence here, as the artist’s field recordings and warped washes of sound dominate the mix. Rothko’s bass guitar is less pronounced, but it hardly makes a difference. Where the record succeeds in interesting noises and gritty textures, it fails in ultimate purpose. The record could be about the Rape of the Sabine Women for anyone without access to the liner notes. So while the artists successfully avoided any sort of contrived poetry or forced emoting over 9/11, they have failed in their mission to pay tribute to it. What of that day the listener is supposed to gather from gray, digital noisemongering and gray, sloth compositions is frustratingly unclear.
The underground rock scene lacked a true voice after the tragedy of 9/11, and while neither of these artists are trying to assert themselves as the scene’s conscience, their homage falls short. The intentions were laudable, to be sure, but Wish for a World without Hurt is a tribute in name only.