A Flood of Blood to the Heart
An Awesome Wave
To me, the early years of the second decade of the millennium were filled with a sort of technological liberation. All of a sudden, mastering a physical instrument was no longer a requirement to a musical career. Instead, one hundred percent virtual creation of music seemed not only possible but actually trendy, with the democratization of music producing software for everyone who owned a MacBook.
Think about all the songs you made on Garage Band in 2011 – we all did it (and all held on to the idea that our song was good enough to drop everything and start a music career an embarrassingly long time).
This led to an influx of content created because someone could and not necessarily because they were good at it. However, the technological era ushered in some of the strangest, most forward-thinking and experimental artists that music has seen. In an ironic twist, technology allowed many artists to more comfortably vent the anxieties and worries that a more technologically driven society made them feel.
In a remote corner of the internet – Cambridge, England to be precise – the beginnings of a legacy were starting to come to light. A quartet of forward-thinking musicians took the musical liberation that technology provided to orchestrate a brand new sound, full of glitchy vocals and layered instrumentation based off grooves from instruments you couldn’t quite put your finger on. The group embraced technology so much that their name was derived of a Apple keyboard shortcut – the two buttons needed to create a triangle while typing.
Not long after some songs reached the internet sphere, the group known as alt-J released their debut, An Awesome Wave, in 2012. The album was heavy, overwhelming, and uncomfortably captivating. The group found a way to make the rigidity of technology sound surprisingly natural, being hit by wave after wave (no pun intended) of taste bud and ear drum popping sensations. It was unique, infectious, and commanded one’s full attention, showing the world what a world without instruments looked like.
Spicy Pork Pad Thai
To most, pad Thai comes to mind as one of a traditional Thai dish dating back centuries into their timeless culture. To the surprise of many, pad Thai is only a few dozen years old. In the 1930s Thailand was divided. Coming off a civil war, the new government was set on taking any measure to unite the nation. One of the initiatives they undertook was taking Chinese noodles (as rice was at a shortage with flooding) and mixing it with Thai spices, calling it pad Thai as a way to unite the nation.
Now pad Thai is a world-renowned dish, growing beyond its nationalist roots. Pork and chicken have been added to the dish excellent results, letting the chewiness of the meat add a different texture to the smoothness of the noodles.
This dish leaves no taste buds unaffected. The crisp pork infused with chillies melds seamlessly into the glossiness of the noodles, anchored back down to earth by the bok choy. Spice and sourness compete for your mouth’s attention the entire journey and both end up winning, creating a tinging sensation that remains enjoyable throughout.
An Awesome Wave and pad Thai are two engulfing experiences that do not back down from one another. Instead, one’s ears and pallet are doused with powerful and explosive sensations. This leads to a memorable experience, changing one’s perspective on how flavours and tones can be received.
Yet neither the food nor album are exhausting – if anything, they are invigorating. The noodles leave your mouth watering and excited, while the album parallels a computer reset for your brain, washing over with a new sense of peace. The combination evokes new ways of thinking, jumpstarting your mind’s creativity by challenging its normal expectations.
Each flavour of the food or sound loop in the album is distinguishable, but easily rolls up into a greater force that washes over you. It is exciting, new, and invigorating. It's a rush. This experience hits you like an awesome wave.
Boil water. Once boiling, add salt and egg noodles. Cook based on package instructions.
Head oil in a pan. Snip the base off the bok choi and place them in the wok, put a lid on top to steam, and let sit for 10 minutes. Shimmy the pan to ensure the bok choi rolls around and doesn't stick.
In a wok, heat oil over medium heat. Chop up two cloves of garlic and a nub of ginger, and toss them in with salt. Follow that up with two whole chilli peppers (give and take, depending on spice tolerance). Let cook for 3 minutes.
Add ground pork, breaking up and stirring until cooked - around 6 minutes.
Add a pinch of sugar, a healthy portion of pepper, a tablespoon of soy, 2 teaspoons of sambal oelek (or any other Asian-style chilli sauce) and 1/2 a tablespoon of sesame oil (very important - separates pad Thai from boring white noodles). Keep stirring.
For the serving sizes, this one you can play by ear based off the flavour you're looking for. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, a tiny splash of hoisin sauce, and water together until smooth. Pour the mixture into the wok with the cooked noodles and bok choy. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top.
Serve immediately and garnish with limes and chopped green pepper.