the storm before the calm

the storm before the calm

When the pandemic took hold in 2020, Alanis Morissette was on the verge of releasing a new album (Such Pretty Forks in the Road) as well as celebrating the 25th anniversary of the one that made her an era-defining star (Jagged Little Pill) with a massive tour. “All of that,” she tells Apple Music, “just stopped short, as everyone's lives did. And yet I was so inspired, because of the whole buildup to the tour. I wasn't quite ready to write a whole record with lyrics, but I wanted to provide something for people.” That something is the storm before the calm, an LP unlike anything the Canadian singer-songwriter has released to date. Written and recorded entirely over Zoom with DARKSIDE’s Dave Harrington, it’s a set of ambient music intended to serve as a companion for listeners during moments of reflection or meditation, a practice that Morissette—now a mother of three—has maintained since her early twenties. And like meditation, the process of making the album, she says, proved especially vital amidst the stress of the last two years. “It’s a selfish pursuit, in some ways. It kept me super connected and accountable when I felt like I was just going to disappear and float away.” Drawing influence from musical traditions around the world, each track offers a theme or intention—an invitation to come into one’s body and focus on what Morissette calls a “felt sense.” Everything is completely free of lyrics and narrative, her voice unrecognizable and diffuse here, not the focal point but one part of a larger expanse. “Music can be a lovely transition, to mark a state of being or to remind us of different aspects of our humanity, whether it's feeling grounded, feeling inspired, feeling agitated, or just letting what emotion is happening actually happen,” she says. “If someone is meditating for the first time, if they're a little scared to go within, if the emotions coursing through them are kind of intense, this would be a compatriot for them. It could also be a comfort.” Here, Morissette takes us inside a few songs from the album. “heart—power of a soft heart” “COVID really crunched us into the corner of that hot, hot kitchen. Some of us didn't make it through, and some of us have made it through in body, but not in spirit. ‘heart’ is for those of us whose survival strategy is to be intellectual or to be cognitive or to be academic. Yeah, it might be scary to go on the heart. That might have been where we were wounded or might be where we’re most vulnerable. But this song is saying, ‘Permission to feel, ma'am.’ Go for it.” “space—pause on violence” “There's just so much violence in here and out here that I'll notice. A lot of this is dependent upon our legacies, something that we carry from hundreds of years of both sides of our DNA. My family on my mom's side escaped during the revolution in 1956 from Budapest and Hungary. When I've gone there to visit multiple times, my mom would tell me all these stories, and I'm like, ‘How can that energy not have been somewhere in my bones, too?’ And that's just a little tiny tip of the iceberg. All of us have these families riddled with histories, a lot of which we don't even know.” “purification—the alchemical crunch” “Just the idea of taking something that's really hard or scary or painful, and healing those rocks to the point where there's an artistic expression that is validating for some. That's all I live for. I live for being in a room with people or in a venue or in a conversation where we come out of the interaction more refreshed or having a little bit more of a sense of what we're doing here, or why we're here, or who we are, what matters the most. All those things.” “ground—i want to live.” “I think in terms of frequency a lot, especially when I'm writing. But I also think in terms of color. There's a thing called synesthesia that I have, where, when I'm listening, I'm thinking in color. So when I'm making these songs, it's color. ‘ground’ is earth—I see the blues and the browns and the blacks and the grays.” “safety—empath in paradise” “The more recovery I do and the more therapy I do and the more my relationships demand that I keep growing, I have to keep evolving. Safety is it, because there's no conversation to be had if my body is in fight, flight, freeze. If I'm shut down, there's really no conversation to be had. Safety is the prerequisite to enter into this. If we have to seek safety in the arms of music, if it has to be in our imagination because of our histories, that's fine. Imagine it, start there. It’s the felt sense of what it feels like to be across from someone, imagined or real, where we feel calm, and we feel like if we say anything, we're not going to be judged for it. There's going to be inquiry, and curiosity, and kindness, and empathy, and room for the messiness of it all.”

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