Now is the Last Best Time
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“I wanted to create a world that made the listener feel like they were floating,” says Tim Mislock. “But I didn’t want it to feel like floating in an unnatural or forced environment – like a sensory deprivation tank – I wanted it to feel like you were in a boundless, organic space like a lake or an ocean.” This feeling of elemental immersion that Mislock has created is on his debut solo album, Now is the Last Best Time, a guitar-centric ambient record inspired by the Alzheimer’s caretaker experience. Throughout the last decade, Mislock has watched his stepfather deteriorate at the hands of the disease while his mother fulfils the role of caregiver – her love, dedication and energy required evermore as time goes on. The purpose of the concept record was twofold. “I wanted to raise awareness of the disease,” Mislock says. “The numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s is growing with each generation. As the parents of those in my generation grow older, Alzheimer’s disease will affect more and more families. I also wanted to develop a historical document to thank my mother and tell her that her generosity and kindness have not gone unnoticed.” It’s a record that envelops the listener in a deep fog, where guitars fizz and crackle among melodic dips and glides; electronics pulse, hum, and whir through the compositions like wind. It’s rooted in emotions, ones that Mislock has experienced firsthand, as he says. “The disease has changed the way I think about time and the importance of being present. I began focusing on creating a musical place where I could vent my fears and emotions about what my family was going through. Upwards of 70% of spousal or familial caretakers predecease the Alzheimer’s patient they are caring for and I was afraid of losing my mom. These musical worlds became places to express and explore those emotions.” Mislock is a previous member of The Antlers and Holly Miranda and has just wrapped up his debut run in the original Broadway cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, worked closely with Dave Harrington (one half of Darkside with Nicolas Jaar), someone he admires greatly. “I’ve always looked up to Dave; he has been a torchbearer for me musically. I knew that Dave was the only person who could help me visualise the music, that he’d force me into improvisational and sonic territory that I needed help accessing. He’s my musical shaman.” Over the course of a year, the two worked to preserve the natural essence of the music and the emotive charge that sparked it. Being rooted in the personal and the human, it had to be by its very nature, imperfect. This was something Mislock embraced. “Technology has progressed to a point where music can be inhumanely perfect and I wanted to leave imperfections in these songs to make sure the human element was felt. I wanted it to feel like digital components in a human world, versus human components in a wholly digital existence.” The album is named after a passage in the Alzheimer’s memoir of Thomas DeBaggio, entitled Losing My Mind. “In one of his entries was the phrase “now is the last best time.” It resonated with me, this heartbreaking description of what struggling with the disease can feel like, not only to the patient, but also for the caretakers, and even more broadly, for the whole family. Personally, I think it’s a call to action—to live in the present, for tomorrow is unknown.” While the album is vastly influenced by the stalwarts of the ambient world – Eno, Stars of the Lid, Eluvium – and some more modern minimalist composers such as Max Richter and Jonny Greenwood, there’s one particular piece of music that connected deeply with Mislock during the process. “The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars was a huge influence because it deals with such a tragic event but, musically, it creates an emotional world that is somehow grounded in respect and reverence for the event itself. I wanted to borrow from that idea, since Alzheimer’s impacts so many people. I wanted to be respectful to their struggles and emotions.” Ultimately, the record is a sonic exploration of respect that pays homage to his greatest influence: his mother.