The title says it all: Positive Interactions. The tagline: “an album made from happy sounds in exchange for a happy message.” The entire project is a declaration of faith in humanity, just when we need it most. The project is also a shining example of pandemic peace, a down payment on future in-person encounters, and a reminder of simple pleasures.
The construction is simple: Tommy Perman asked 50 friends to send him happy sounds, and mixed them all together to create an album. To get the album, all one needs to do is write Tommy a happy email. The pieces used in each selection are listed on the website, plus a brief message from each contributor. The more one listens and reads, the more endearing the impression. As many as a dozen samples are used in each piece, and “listen for these sounds” lists make the experience the sonic version of a word search puzzle. For example, in “Saw An Old Friend Today,” we meet some owls and woodpigeons, Midnight the Cat, Baby Rohan and his mum Mhairi. Bells toll, gates open and the waves crash against the shore. Listen really closely and one can hear an old Tom Waits record. From this description, one would think the track would sound crowded, but the sounds are well-distributed, creating an ambient-electronic sheen. Some sounds stretch to subsequent tracks, allowing the set to flow as one.
The impetus for the album was a desire to reconnect with joy. During the lockdown, two types of sound prevailed: silence and fear. Political infighting drained the ears of positivity and filled them with despair. In much the same way as the Life Is Good company was founded to combat media messages that Life Is Bad, Positive Interactions is aimed at restoring our faith in each other. The first standout piece, “The Sound of An Alien Invasion,” comes from a single contribution of Yann Seznec speaking with Kristina Seznec about an Aeolian harp, constructed from fishing wire. One can hear the wonder in their voices. Life is good. The very next sound seems like a child saying, “ribbon recording birds,” but it’s actually “Ruben who is recording birds and then imitating them. “fractal cats” combines two kittens, dishwasher beeps and a cable tie.
Perman has also made simple videos to accompany every track; bespoke videos are on their way. The icing on the cake: one can read all the happy messages as they arrive! If so many people can be happy, as their joy is sparked by such simple, beautiful things, why then, we might all be able to stumble to happiness as well. From pastel yellow to the smell of freshly cut grass to wood burning stoves to learning at age 58 that one has a sister, the list grows and grows and is already expansive enough to become an illustrated book. There is such a wealth of material here that the page itself is highly recommended to anyone with the winter doldrums. The entire living project is far more than the sum of its valuable parts; Positive Interactions provides an emotional and spiritual lift, a gift to the same universe that gave it birth. (Richard Allen)