It bears repeating: nostalgia is a powerful thing. When used for nefarious purposes, we get horrible people like Donald Trump trading on delusionary illusions. When used for sentimental reasons, well, that’s when lines blur, and comfort starts to go through that inarticulate process of myth-making. What starts out as a simple idea, present a reflection on simpler times, might turn into a meditation on what do we exactly assign worth in this stage of our lives. Questions like: How much value and profoundness do we place on innocence? (Innocence from what?) Those are the questions half-posed and half-answered through any form of art.
There’s a great complete answer to all of this: If the music sounds bittersweet, well…isn’t that the taste of nostalgia? Ernest Hood’s Neighborhoods is that amazing bit of unplaceable music, a half-idealized dream, that intertwines all sorts of deeply symbolic puzzle pieces — sepia-toned images, idyllic communal field recordings, electronic zither and synthesizers — into an immensely personal, some would say haunting opus on the joy found in reminiscing. What is known is that very little is known about Ernest. The few facts that exist note that he was a dedicated jazz musician in Portland that would later help found the legendary KBOO radio station. That’s it though.
What we can piece through Ernest Hood’s one and only recording, this privately pressed record, is that it seemed to have no peer to compare it to then. It was singularly a dedicated vision of something special. It’s rare to find music this intimate; I’m forever thankful it exists. Being that as it may, I think it’s best to leave Ernest, as stated in the back cover, to explain the purpose of this astounding recording:
My purpose in creating this album is to pay a debt to some beautiful and loving people. To older folks everywhere, but especially the ones who put up with my childhood pesters, those who played such an important role in the formation of comfortable memories…I hope this brings back something warm and joyful to your hearts. It saddens me to know that the predominately commercial music purveyors of today give such scant consideration to the enrichment of your gentle spirit. Perhaps they have forgotten where it dwells. Young people looking for something other than plastic novelty music played on military weapons may find here a balm for the mind. It hardly matters in which neighborhood you sprouted. The games we played, the mocks, the terminology and the feelings we experienced as youngsters are tantalizingly familiar. If I didn’t exactly capture your territorial terms forgive me and just let the mood suffice.
This is not a social record in the sense that it be played at a gathering. Indeed, it is a rather personal thing to be reflected upon (as musical cinematography) alone, or with a dear, close friend. It is a social record in that it reminds us of the fact that most of us made our first social contacts and early transactions in our neighborhood streets. How familiar, how indelible the pictures are: aromas of soft velvet days, strong friendships, fears, hates, loves…our first brush with such mythical elements as sex and power. If the music seems a little bittersweet, well…isn’t that the taste of nostalgia? Mostly it is meant to bring joy in reminiscence. It’s for all of you who still have that little kid inside you, robust and eager to be let out to play, I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
– Ernest Hood