Into the Unknown: HONNE from 39,000 Feet
PATRICIA KUSUMANINGTYAS is a Jakartan by birth, a New Yorker by location, and a Seattleite by heart. She's a computer science and linguistics student with a soft spot for music and film. You can contact her through her email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a reason why I’ve always preferred window seats in airplanes. I can be alone with my own thoughts while peering through a window of a big machine 39,000 feet from sea level. In long flights, I can see sunrises, sunsets, and I can physically cross the shackles of different time zones. Eventually, I would feel the sudden realization that I am 39,000 feet apart from the world and all its shenanigans, where civilizations rise and fall for thousands of years. I would peer down and I see territories and seas where every human memory is created and nurtured.
There’s something special—almost mystifying—about looking down through an airplane’s window. And, like an aftertaste to every meal, there’s a feeling of emptiness that follows. Being an Indonesian living in Seattle, I often fly long intercontinental flights, and spending 10 hours in a metal machine in the sky surrounded by strangers feels isolating at times. I’m far from all the bridges I built with the people I love. That exact feeling is magnificently portrayed by HONNE’s newest single, “Location Unknown ◐”—which is why I never let that song slide from any of my plane flight playlists.
HONNE, a British electronic duo who rose to fame through their first LP, Warm on a Cold Night, is known for their smooth electronic beats with lyrics about love and longing, as perfectly summarized by the title track of their first album, “Warm on a Cold Night,” where vocalist Andy Clutterbuck repeats the piece of lyric “Yeah, you can keep me warm on a cold night,” accompanied by the lulling beats made by producer James Hatcher. HONNE’s newest album, Love Me / Love Me Not ◐, was released on August 24th of this year, in which critics, listeners, and fans have considered it to be a creative turning point for the British duo. The dominant electronic sound still feels distinct, however, in their newest album, they exhibit a more varied range of emotions and they are better at evoking it in each song.
“Location Unknown ◐” is a great example of HONNE’s success in evoking emotions musically. The song’s chord changes and trumpets echo the constant humming of an airplane’s machine, creating an atmosphere similar to the layers of the stratosphere where a flying airplane roams. The song features a verse by Georgia, which portrays two lovers longing for each other, separated by distance. The lyrics were written as if the two lovers do not know that they’re longing for each other; an example of this is the parallel of the two lines sang back-to-back, in which Georgia sings “My mind’s running wild with you far away / I still think of you a hundred times a day,” followed by Clutterbuck singing “I still think of you too, if only you know.” This parallel amplifies the distance and the separation between them, which is a similar feeling of separation from society 39,000 feet above sea level.
Space and separation is a prominent theme in “Location Unknown ◐.” Clutterbuck and Hatcher are not strangers to this theme; in “Coastal Love”, their song from their freshman LP, they played with this concept in the context of a person visualizing himself and his lover together by the New York City coast. Clutterbuck sings “I’ll be waiting here for you” repetitively in “Coastal Love,” similar to how he sings the lines “My location unknown” and “Gotta get back to you” repetitively in “Location Unknown ◐.” However, “Location Unknown ◐” addresses a more explicit focus on space and separation, as shown by its title and the song’s frequent use of the words “traveling places,” “miles away,” and the concept of flights and finding a way home, which emphasizes the extreme separation between the two lovers and their extreme measures to get to each other.
Whenever we move, there’s always a feeling of desperation—no matter how small—felt by ourselves and the people waiting for us at our destination. I myself couldn’t help to check the flight status to see how many hours are left of my flight; some of this stems from boredom, yet most of it stems from desperation—I want to get this over with and meet my family and friends. “Location Unknown ◐” portrays an extreme version of that desperation and amplifies that separation. One of the reasons why I enjoy art is because of how relatable that artwork is for me; while being on a plane, “Location Unknown ◐” just reflects that feeling of isolation I can’t put into words.
Despite the separation, spending 10 hours on a flight feels like a liminal space. I am moving from one end of the earth to the other after saying goodbye from people I love to meet other people I love. The feeling of longing disappears almost steadily—little by little as the hours go by. I found my home in both Indonesia and Seattle; when I fly across both places, it’s always hard to say goodbye to one of the places, yet you feel the magnetic sense of longing to the other one. The only way I can feel at peace is when I’m on a flight between the two places; I am equally far away and equally close to both. I might not know where I am, but I know that I am somewhere in between two places that are dear to me, and when I listen to “Location Unknown ◐,” I listen to a piece of work made by a band who just gets that feeling.