“John Gold Finds Love” is pretty cool, and I mean both literally and figuratively. A blending of orchestral and alternative, the album skits through mixed expanses of purples, blues, and silvers, twisting and churning and offering splashes of warmth through its depths.
“Synesthesia”—pretty science-sounding word, right? Is that any similar to what they use in hospitals to put people under?
Not quite. While anesthesia is a pretty cool concept (I very much enjoy not feeling anything when sharp objects are taken to my body), “synesthesia” is a different kind of interesting: A neurological cross wiring, one sensory module (such as sound) automatically and involuntarily elicits a sensation in another module, such as vision.
Picture looking through a kaleidoscope. A psychedelic layering of texture, shape, and color. Synesthetes (people with synesthesia) experience that kind of visual daily, though it’s induced and in the form of one or more of the five senses. Sometimes it’s conspicuous and intoxicating, other times it’s subtle; sometimes the person is aware of its presence, sometimes they won’t even register it’s there because it’s so commonplace. In my case, when I listen to music, I see sound and hear colors. Note that I do not see things physically in front of me but rather in my mind’s eye, as do the majority of synesthetes. While physical visuals can happen, they are a much more rare version of synesthesia.
I listened to “John Gold Finds Love” from a purely synesthetic perspective, and it brought an intimacy to the sound that differs from simply listening to…listen, the same way an artist can decide whether to look at a painting as an aesthetically pleasing picture or a whole filled with substance and accidents and content and form. Which lens to use?
This particular approach found the intro to “Daylight // Nighttime” as one of the strongest and most vibrant parts of the album. It’s a slow rise that escalates into a cool burn. The whistling is a thin flowing cylinder—tinted an unnamable shade of blue—with the harmony as a parallel cylinder directly above it. Even the sounds of the forest have an ambiguous shape, transparent and gray with bold streaks of navy. And then enter a grand crescendo of red bursting with silky dark blue, gliding even and smooth while diagonal lines topped with yellow dots flit across the soundboard until the vocals start.
Interestingly, overall the song is a beautiful blue. (Much of the album is, actually.) Especially coupled with the vocals, it’s very close to being navy. But in moments like the intro and, say, the instrumentals from 1:24-1:50, the reds demand more attention. An even closer listen reveals almost wispy silver piano keys dancing gracefully across the wide, echoing expanse as it plays in the nearby distance. I think that’s one of the reasons this song was so strong—anything that gives off the sensation of openness, infinity, deep space—that’s an automatic ear-catcher for me. (Other examples: “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, “Avalanche” by Bring Me the Horizon.)
Speaking of open space, the intro of “Thank You Dad” was echoed across a vast plateau of misty indigo. When it ghosted forward, it gathered momentum until the first verse brought expansive fields of lavender and the wax and wane of the 3/4 time signature felt like speeding through dips and bumps in the landscape.
Founded in 2006, home base is Florida, current base is Nashville. The band is manned by the one and only John Gold himself, a devout Christian who describes himself as “Walking this earth with a big voss of water just searching for people that are thirsty and are willing to drink.” So much of the album—nearly, if not all of it—was dedicated to religion and the love that God and Christ embody (to paraphrase Gold’s words). It’s ironic, then, that synesthetes are also referred to as “synners,” though that aspect of religion wasn’t necessarily stressed in the album. Gold took a more positive approach, preferring to talk about love, grace, and fulfillment rather than condemnation and punishment and hatred, intending to nurture rather than condemn, to speak rather than to talk down to. Even if you can’t get on board with religion, you can get on board with this. The coincidence of the religious positivity and my synesthetic positivity was not lost on me.
The respect for this guy…definitely up there.
The only songs on the internet are “New Knoxville” and “Anthropopethia,” but the full album is available per request through Gold’s personal Facebook, links below.
My only qualms with the album were that many of the songs were in the same key (“Anthropopethia,” “Dunamis,” “Logion,” etc.) and from a synesthetic perspective, sometimes it lacked diversity. Though, this could be artistic license drawing inspiration from worship hymns, which would make sense considering the album’s theme. And granted, that there are absolutely unique parts of each song—in “New Knoxville,” for example, the xylophone-esque sounds scattered throughout were glittering bursts of silver and pale purple-blue, like shooting stars, and the final trumpet dissonance was an unexpected swoop to the upper right (sounds have locations, sometimes) that streaked linear and narrow in lines of burnt red and olive green—but the primary information was, in all, very similar, and it made for a somewhat repetitive listening experience.
The in-song conversations really broke up these patterns. Synesthetically, they felt like they were in a dark amphitheater with velvet curtains lining the walls: Everything was soft and sharp at once, consonants enunciated and crisp and vowels nestled and plush. The biggest examples include “Coming,” “New Knoxville,” and “—> Going.” Generally, spoken word can be hit or miss because it either brings a level of enhancement that the music would suffer without, or it’s kitschy and distracting. In this case, it was the former. Whether or not you can get on board with the message, it’s relaxing and almost cathartic to listen to.
Gold himself has synesthesia and it would be interesting to hear (pun intended) how it works for him. That’s one of the beauties of this condition: Each individual’s experience is just as real despite how radically different it is from person to person. Everyone is right.
Even though many of JGFL’s songs have similar qualities, they are like looking at the stars at night. Beautiful even at first glance, you’re only able to see the brightest and most prominent of constellations. Orion and the Big Dipper gaze back.
Dimmer specks of light disappear when your eye settles directly upon them—not unlike synesthesia, where too much focus can result in what I call “manual mode” and you don’t hear anything at all. But look out of your periphery, however, and they come back.
As your eyes adjust, there they are: The other constellations, slowly emerging out of the darkness, relieving the inky blackness with distant-burning suns. Life. Your sky is radically different from what you started with, and yet you are looking at the same scene.
This is John Gold Finds Love. Listen, and listen again, and listen again, and you will find something new each time. Listen, and you will hear the hidden stars.