I am happy.
It is fleeting, I know, It always is. But I have had some good correspondence with a complete stranger this week, and i have just spent the afternoon buying things. Old things. Old things reformatted to make them new. Old things that could have easily been acquired through Limewire and what not – but would have denied the pleasure of reading sleevenotes, handling the artifact, touching the product.
John Cale biography: tick
Scott 2 (the one with The Bridge) – tick, oh yes, oh, fucking, TICK
Voices on the Air – the Banshee Peel Sessions – from where it all began right up to the point where you can get an absurd Paul Morley overview – T.i.c.k.
Faith – Yes, The Cure’s third album. Please see previous reports for that which made an impact, was buried and, when surfaced, reveals itself to have carved a river bed in your soul and pissed all over your work. Oh, bye bye youth. Bye bye true clear original course of endeavour. Tick.
Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing. Ah, the Old Man of the Mountain, back again to remind the little heart where to hide, where to focus, where to aim. Tick.
You know where you stand. You always stand beside the same litter bin. Its part of the routine, part of the habit. You don’t even know the bin is there. Yet if it was to go, you would feel strange. Come the morning when you go to stand in the place you have always stood, you will feel the vague pang of unease and loss as you feel something to be missing.
Last night I wandered accidentally into a televisual car crash. I could feel my brain weeping, my blood boiling, my senses of desolation and righteous hatred locked into combat… Melvyn Bragg interviewing George Michael. So, I now know that there are certain algebraic truths about art and culture.
Gay = vital, Gay = outsider ergo vital, perceived victim = justification for turgid product. These algorithms only work when you have spent the first half of your career lying about who you are, choosing only to reveal truth, or an alternative lie, when it is financially propitious to do so.
zero charisma x cash + marketing + petted indulgence = airtime… I posted a while ago about the fact that sometimes a farmer will put a donkey into a field with a race horse, solely to prevent the superior animal from feeling alone. Final equation: George Michael = Fucking Donkey.
Listen, about a hundred years ago I got some money paid to me for appearing in a Wham! video. I was paid £35. During the day George would not look up from the floor,would not look anyone in the eye, and had to have his hair washed no less than six times in order to manage his curls. There you go, twenty minutes between takes to get the blow drier out. For the record, Andrew Ridgley (sp? the spell check just suggested ‘ridicule’) wandered around the studio lot all through lunch looking for someone to talk to, but the extras just kept turning their backs and giggling – in that withering way that only club culture can do so well, dahling.
As previously reported, there are various “things” that have fallen into alignment to suggest that Human Greed might actually work as a live performance proposition.
It is a nerve shredding thought to wonder how something so reliant upon process (treating, modifying, deconstructing source audio) and lacking in the dynamism offered by rock posture, singing, physicality, and so forth, could ever be anything other than frankly tedious to watch / engage with. So, despite having well grounded (and, to me, very exciting) ideas of how that situation can be remedied and dealt with it is still something that causes me anxiety.
Particularly when I come across things like Harold Budd’s Agua!
Don’t get me wrong – I love Harold Budd; particularly at this time of year when the soft-edged detachment offered by recordings like The Pearl, Plateaux of Mirror and even Lovely Thunder sit in beautiful counterpoint to the sharpening of the days, the charcoal scratch of trees against piercing blue skies… But with Agua – a Live album, the whole edifice comes over like Richard Clayderman on Mogadon – muzak of the worst possible order. I almost ate my iPod just so that I could shit this monstrous recording back out!
In the morning and in the evening – the two are closer together now that the winter is starting to nuzzle into the house – you can feel the urgent approach of darker days, colder days. The end of the year is looming larger in the minds eye and I can taste Christmas in the morning mist.
I can also see that my little boy is ready to learn about Santa and I am looking forward to that with no reservations – despite the academic jackboots stomping on Christianity, despite the turgid explanations of the basic human need for festivals to break long, lean spells of cold and dark and reify our communal bonds. Yes, despite all reason I am looking forward to instructing my son in the rites of Santa – carrots and Christmas lights marking out a reindeer runway in the garden, single malt and shortbread by the chimney for Mr. Claus, letters pleading the good cause for presents. So with only the slightest trace of a heavy heart I have to report that all the myths we fight against are safe for at least another generation.
In Spain, there are as many books translated into Spanish each year as there has been books translated into Arabic since the 9th century.
United Nations – Arab Human Development Report, 2002
This morning I sat on the train and something strange happened – and it happens quite lot out here at this time of year.
The sky was black, heavy and low, but the low morning sun found a gap and pushed through, illuminating the land while the sky remained dark, almost sub aquatic. The light refracted in from the land and lit up the train carriage. All the faces looked different – the quality of skin had changed, the light on everyone’s clothes and on the carriage itself. We looked healthy and well, in a well lit space, traveling at speed through strangely lit land.
The light itself changed the perception of the morning.
Reminds me of last month when I was passing through Milan and I saw for the first time the infamous railway station. It is a masterpiece of Fascist architecture and there is a strong lobby hell bent on its complete destruction – just as there is an equally vocal lobby fighting for its preservation.
I myself had never quite seen through the fog of architectural hyperbole when it comes to spaces and shapes defining, influencing or reflecting societal aspirations… Until I passed through Milan Central Railway Station.
Thrusting vertical columns of smooth white stone, Northern mythology writ large and bold in the form of hands clutching swords, blazing eagles, laurel wreaths. This was the architecture of undiluted power and will to supremacy, the reification of the leaning of man – northern white man – to become as one with the gods.
It quickened the heart. It was easy to see how persuasive the whole movement was – how any movement could be – if you alter the physical environment to suit your vision.
Now, I look at buildings in a new light and decode the will of the society that was responsible for them. It is like a gauze has lifted from the world – like the gauze that peeled back from the sun to bathe our little carriage hurtling towards the city in the early morning.
I’m still caught up in this notion about the work and its relationship with representations or descriptions of the work.
Suddenly strikes me that although there is no lyrical content – beyond the stolen sound clips of various voices – that to describe Pilgrim in terms of its underlying narrative is more successful than any attempt to describe the actual sounds or the real or imagined emotional impact (or lack thereof) of the arrangement of those sounds.
If, rather than “bleak”, “scary”, “for fans of coil” or “just like David Lynch” or whatever else has appeared in distributor one-sheets and reviews as attempted descriptions to define the work – we read something like “Pilgrim charts the progress of a galleon – burdened down with a crew of human detritus – on its doomed voyage from the old to the new world. During the voyage the crew come to understand that whatever they are trying to escape they have brought with them and that the new world will be polluted with the first foot on the sand – and so it comes to pass”
To me that is so much more instructive, and gives a listener a more than adequate indication of what to expect aurally.
Narrative is often not the most visible of factors present in work – think of the libretto in opera: often trite, overinflated nonsense – yet essential to the event, and, it now occurs, very commonly referenced within dialogue relating to the music. Narrative; the lure.
A few nights ago, an hour or so after I put my son to bed, I heard noises coming from his room. I quietly climbed the stairs – noticing that his room light was turned on – and stood quietly outside his room peering through the gap in the door.
He was playing quietly with a toy; a near blank look on his face – the blankness itself somehow signalling an absolutely determined concentration: the unquestionable seriousness of play.
A few moments later he put his toy down and went to the window. He opened the wooden shutter and looked out for a few moments then came back to his toy. The same blank look, the same lack of self consciousness. The same singularity.
I was softly torn. My son was alone, completely, and semed vaguely content with the condition – his play so serious, his explorations so quiet and punctuated only with soft sighs…
In the morning I asked him why he got back out of his bed…
“No me sleepy, daddy”
Why did you open the shutters?
“Me want to look at the dark.”
I have been out of the world for the past two days. I got some coffee and red wine, some simple food and locked myself in the studio. Dalkeith’s next top model is emerging, as is a piece going under the title Portrait of God with Broken Toys.
The process this time round has elements of formal orchestration, but – now that I have brought my head up for air – the memory of the past few days feels more like cooking a recipe. I have balanced raw ingredients, cooked them in process and pulled in seasoning to – hopefully – the right degree.
The violence is back into the sound and it feels, voluptuous, indulgent, purgative.
I have elected to extricate any organic evolution of ideas in this work. I need this to be forceful, singular, unanswerable. There is to be no iteration, no dialogue – just the pure emotional surge.
My wife returned home this evening and more or less brought me back from the two day trance. I played her a sample of Broken Toys and she said that her “goosebumps got goosebumps” when the first real sound surge fell into the mix. (Of course, this made me wonder whether I had accomplished something good or bad) To me, it sounded like the work of someone else. Like something that had always been in the world. Like something I had no part in making – the way I used to feel at the end of a day’s writing and looked down at the strange, unfamiliar words on the page.