It’s fair to say that Isuru Kumarasinghe had something to do with the birth of Tuned Mass. Yet the man probably most responsible for saving (whatever that was left of) my interest in writing, is somehow paradoxically, a hard entity to write about.
This was what was (fore)told in 2012: “Outsider music is no longer on the fringes. It is rather, what feeds the very core of the flame, keeping it alive at a time when popular music attempts to slowly suck the soul out of humanity. Isuru’s influences are rich and multihued, and it shows. His best compositions attempt to pierce through and encapsulate that luminous aesthetic that resides where “beauty has blown a fuse“. It’s music of the spirits, moving amongst beasts and waves, caves and glaciers. Isuru’s range, scope and sound are magnanimous. So will his 2013 be, we are certain.” In terms of quantity at least, that prediction hasn’t come true:
Isuru’s releases (on his Soundcloud / under his own name that is, noting that he seems to work with several other musicians and artists both in front of and behind the scenes, most notably at Music Matters) seem sporadic to the point of nonchalant. That is unless of course he has stax of unreleased material sitting at home (which doesn’t seem too much of a stretch).
“Chakra” (infinite cycle) was the one that got me. First, it reinforced the belief that good original music is a possibility in a (seemingly) barren wasteland of the local context. But it was much more: The song transcended beyond, its incensed keys and field-recorded energy pointing towards a more universal truth, teetering at the edge of life and earth’s cathartic force. Its scope was wide, its rhythm whole. It was bigger than music.
In doing so, “Chakra” debunked that first belief itself (…that sources of inspiration should be space/context specific). Waiting for them within certain self-imposed boundaries seemed pointless, and that’s how this space started. Quantum Mechanics denotes that the act of observation (or measurement) itself creates changes within the observed. Compelling art evokes compelling feelings, and vice versa. The cycle continues.
Life is pain. Most of the time slow, unremarkable pain. “That Butterfly in the Chest” unravels in the serene chaos of blaring horns, ‘virindu’ folk music, street hustlers and a kind of melancholy you remember from your dreams. The elements slowly dissolve, and mold into a luminous beacon of sound. The song’s early ambiance is subtly disorienting, the sound signature drifting like a distant memory near sensory range.
And memory is the key to everything: When I was young, I held a certain wide-eyed empathy towards the souls around me. Over the years, this empathy tends to slowly erode away, as your ideals get muddleheaded and your goals make a course correction. The intertwined citylife depicted in “That Butterfly” took hold of me again, the hurried calls for “mahajana sampatha” (lottery) bearing both the tragic inevitability and eternal hope of everyday life. The unheralded, unsensationalised struggles of the common man—neverending—yet hung by a string that leads to a promised land.
As the track culminates with pious force, its title becomes not a play on words, but what the original phrase should have meant, all along. As a wise man once said, “there is nothing as tragic as the disintegration of promise.” The inverse of that is true, too: There is nothing more affirming than that very thing.