Ned Milligan – Considerable (Laaps, 2023)

One of the words that I’ve been keeping at the tip of my brain for the last six or nine months is “balance”. It’s so easy in this modern world to feel like you’re being squeezed in a dozen different directions all at once, that your life is being lead by forces beyond your control and focus is being placed outside of your interests. It’s so easy to feel that loss of ownership over your time when your hobbies split the demands of your attention in the few remaining hours after work, and the weekends are barely long enough to do the perfunctory chores inside that precious period we’re allowed to just do our own thing and rest.

Before you know it, things gets left incomplete, it’s a month since you last wrote a post (how the fuck does that happen anyway?) and you begin to feel a sense of guilt and resentment about all those tasks half-achieved. At least, those are the things you feel when you frame things as “shoulds” and “need-tos” and “must dos”, rather than simply allowing yourself to do the things you enjoy as and when the moment affords and feels right.

It’s taken me some effort to change this mindset, not least because the internet is consumed by capitalist grind mentalities and I find myself around people constantly stressed about time. While their motivational pushes do encourage progress rather than falling prey to the all-consuming apathy of this world, the commodification of the enjoyable – writing, photographing, reading, listening, watching, walking – turns pastimes into allocations from which we must extract maximum value.

I’ve long felt that Ambient is the salve (not the cure) to these thinkings, its cerebral and unhurried atmospheres that allow us to simply exist within and alongside the spaces it creates, teach us or remind us to be mindful and present. Ned’s Considerable, 44 gentle minutes filled with chimes and birdsong and plucked strings and crackling campfires and crunching gravel and caught singing, epitomises this sense and need for being in the now. An effort to counterbalance the struggle of time management, and the pressure we pile on ourselves to feel fulfilled within that system.

None of these moments are particularly remarkable in themselves (maybe excepting lush closer “The Path You Took To Existing”), just simple field recordings blended with gentle instrumentation, but together they spell the fabric of Ned’s life in the quiet moments captured. I’ve always liked this idea of the beautiful in the banal – and that’s not a sleight: life is good whether it’s in those especial moments that come along every once in a while, or in the simple, ever-present everyday happenings.

To quote Dan Bejar in Loscil’s “The Making of Grief Point”:

They say this is the noise that gets made as my life is lived, so be it

So be it indeed.