Joy Division’s music has been classified as so dark and moody — some might even use the term “gothic” — that what is frequently missed is how breathtakingly beautiful it could be, as well.
And nowhere was that beauty more breathtaking than the dark and moody “Atmosphere,” which was released twice as a single in 1980: first in France as a limited edition, then posthumously everywhere else.
Most of “Atmosphere” — clearly named for its sound more than its words — is Peter Hook’s burbling bass wandering through a forest of Stephen Morris tom rolls. Occasionally Bernard Sumner swoops in with a synth wash and an occasional guitar chord, and that’s pretty much it.
So all the heavy lifting is being done by Ian Curtis, who is looking you right in the eye while crooning very near the bottom of his baritone:
Walk in silence
Don’t walk away, in silence
See the danger
Don’t walk away
And it is absolutely lovely, as well as heartbreakingly sad.
Now, technically, Ian Curtis wasn’t that great of a singer. You could hear him straining as he remembers that he’s supposed to be singing instead of just addressing you, as he’s trying to keep you from walking away.
But of course, as ever, the sheer depths of his emotions outweigh his technical limitations.
Which is why as he continues to come back to that simple point: don’t walk away, you actually considered staying. Hearing him out. But in the end, odds are that you just looked at him one last time, smiled sadly, and walked away, in silence.
Official music video for “Atmosphere”
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