Quality Time: "Magnetic North"

Single (2012)

By Jessica Faulds | 7 February 2012

Oh, the music writer’s dilemma. Deeply entrenched in “the scene,” almost exclusively friends with the callus-fingered, can’t spit without hitting an unknown savant, practiced at writing the “this stuff is great, but [something about ‘journalistic integrity’]” email, and so, in a wild stab at impartiality, writing instead about the latest Animal Collective record, which is already stained with the sweat and semen of a hundred other critics.

So isn’t it ironic (don’t ya think?) that I’m breaking my own personal no-pals-allowed code to write about a project that probably wasn’t meant for anyone but friends. And even then, only for silent friends, intimate friends, campfire friends—not the “check my shit, bro!” friends so many musicians know and, perhaps by necessity, become. Or perhaps this project isn’t really even for friends, but just for the band itself. It is, after all, called Quality Time, and its membership is just husband and wife duo Franny and (yes, I know this guy) Joe Gurba (aka the Joe), sewing tracks together from old love letters as “a way of keeping their marriage off/on the rocks.”

Perhaps the way this track feels like it’s in confidence is what makes it so affecting. No one creates a Bandcamp page without visualizing an audience, but with “Magnetic North,” Quality Time still manages to keep itself focused on that ebbing, immaterial power that quiet music sometimes (rarely) births, and that two people sometimes (rarely) create between themselves. The track is not what a producer would call “fully realized”; it’s a tinny and time-flexing, with voices tumbling gently as if caught in an indecisive crosswind. But it’s magic, the way that the Microphones or Seven Swans (2004)-era Sufjan were magic in the early aughts, a reminder of what can be done when you lock that producer from the room. It is a sad, snowed-in song that invests its scant two minutes with a romance that the listener may borrow for the song’s duration but cannot keep. Regardless of who it came from, this track will be found fumbling out of my speakers come subzero temperatures.

I trust that this tiny light of attention won’t change the fact that this is essentially a bedroom project, ambitious only in its goal of documenting, shaping, and enduring a relationship. I hope Quality Time keeps writing songs and allowing friends to peer in. But I also hope that they remain looking at themselves—at each other—and not looking back out.