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on life, music etc beyond mainstream

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2017 21 Jul

Monofisismo

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„When you walk through an urban environment, you take the strangeness of the architecture for granted.“

 

“Ecrivez vite sans sujet préconçu, assez vite pour ne pas retenir et ne pas être tenté de vous relire.”

 

„New York was built at about the same time as Manchester and Liverpool, and they all share the same materials and evolution of architectural style, as if they are all a single city. I feel as though I spend my life walking between them, and at points they all dissolve into each other. Add Paris, Berlin and London as suburbs of that city, as well.“

 

„But gradually our address was completed, it came, with allotted voices: ‚West,‘ ‚Didsbury,‘ ‚Manchester‘ ‚England.‘ The last word was mine, I wouldn’t give it up, I added ‚Europe.'“

 

„The lights are coming on in Summer Hill, the railway yard, the flour mills / Walk along familiar streets to put you back together piece by piece“

 

„Suddenly he couldn’t think what time of year it was. What’s the difference, said the traffic sounds, the sky, the footsteps on the pavement. Winter is always either just ahead or just behind.“

 

„I was twenty-two, just made Second Navigator. She was twenty-eight, a stage designer. On my next downtime in London we hoppered up to Dundee, got a surface hirecar permit, and drove up through Recreation Reserve 7 to the Moray Firth.“

 

„I felt feeling a half Scotch and pottage like roung my middle ageing like Bewley in the baste so that I indicate out to myself and I swear my gots how that I’m not meself at all, no jolly fear, when I realise bimiselves how becomingly I to be going to become.“

 

„Ikkyu held up the pieces of the broken cup, and said: “It was time for your cup to die.”“

 

„What is this. This is what what is.“

 

„Everything is repairable. Everything is broken.“

 

Silk Flowers first appeared on my pop radar with a couple of 45s and EPs around 2008-9. Intrigued, I decided to try and guess their geographical origin by listening for inflections in the music that might provide some clues. North of England, definitely. Not Manchester (the city), or Merseyside or Yorkshire though. Somewhere in Greater Manchester. Maybe Bolton. Maybe Chorley. Possibly Wigan. Yeah, definitely Wigan. Later, I found out they were actually from Manhattan or Brooklyn, or both. So much for inflections.

The music on Silk Flowers is a strange and often unsettling mix. You get a vibe of closed-off gloom from it. As if its authors were consumptive Victorians in a locked ward in a sanitorium, who had nothing to do, then a time-traveller appeared from nowhere and gave them some synths, a drum machine and a microphone. To say that Silk Flowers owe Ian Curtis a debt is to misunderstand what’s going on here. This isn’t a band that are trying to emulate Ian Curtis. They’re taking an element of the Curtis thing, isolating it, and doing scientific experiments with it. Pitchfork (I just looked up a review) said the following in their review of the record:
 

Despite a list of influences eclectic and goth-y, and despite a singer doomed to Ian Curtis and/or Cookie Monster comparisons, Silk Flowers‘ pop instincts are surprisingly strong.

 
I like the Cookie Monster reference, because there is humour here, within these heavy, dank, bible-black atmospheres. The backing music is often sprightly despite itself. What was it Samuel Beckett said, again? Oh yeah – „Nothing is funnier than unhappiness“. I’ve never taken this to mean Schadenfreude though – because it’s fairly obvious that Beckett was dealing in universals. And if life is a one-way street to death, well, what can you do but laugh?

Rather then break this release down track-by-track, it’s probably better to dispense with the idea of constituent parts and see it as if each track is the same track, time overlapping, a musical Tralfamadore. It’s also good to dispense with the idea that you’re, like, listening to a record. Think of it as art and imagine you are walking through a gallery and this is the art that’s on the walls. This record is a triumph. A winner. And no mistake.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Notes: this post is #39 from our Lost Classics series. I think the band Silk Flowers is now no more. Short interview from ages ago here.

2017 19 Jun

Haggis

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2017 2 Jun

Yonder

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Music, maybe it sometimes needs context like blood needs oxygen. I remember getting the train from Warsaw to Łódź last year and (as luck would have it) I’d just downloaded a cracking Jesu album onto my Moto G4 (or was it Moto G3) and as the unfamiliar landscape fed my eyes, unfamiliar music bathed my brain. It was a perfect winter afternoon. And Łódź was definitely my kind of town, and the music was the right accidental choice. Łódź, a perfect city.

Hearing „Yonder“ by Sophie Hutchings for the first time today, my only disappointment was that the moment wasn’t in an out of everyday life context. But that lack of context was a context in itself. When music hits you it kind of doesn’t matter whether you’re on a night train across Russia, a plane over London, or in your kitchen.

If you like, say, Playing the Piano by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Perhaps by Harold Budd, or In a Landscape by John Cage, or whatever, then I’d say Yonder is worth checking out. The compositions on the record are astoundingly good – and what makes this even better is that its originality is half-hidden. Structurally intricate but never for the sake of it. Only on a second listen does this record’s genius start to fully emerge. Then today became tomorrow, six or seven more listens. Yes, this is a sound discovery.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Record: Yonder
Artist: Sophie Hutchings
Label: 1631 Recordings
 
Oh yeah.

2017 26 Mai

Cologne 6

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1. Monocle Scent One Hinoki by Comme des Garçons
2. Soudain L’Hiver by Henry Jacques
3. Terre d’Hermès by Hermès
 
 
 

 
 
 
4. Cuiron by Helmut Lang
5. Endymion by Penhaligon’s
6. Damask Oud by Hugo Boss
 
 
 

 
 
 
Playlist One
Playlist Two
Playlist Five
Playlist Four
Playlist Six
Playlist Three

Happy birthday, Mr. Budd!

Birthdays go along with memories. Even with memories beyond nostalgia and general consent. Harold Budd’s „Bandits of Stature“ isn’t the most immediate of listens. Not because it’s like not any good, obvz. No, more because it is so advanced that listening to it involves a degree of neuroplasticity. Your brain has to form new neural networks in response to it. It is, literally, a mind-expanding work.

I have a problem with neoclassicism – mainly because the term itself is an oxymoron. So any work that’s comprised largely of compositions for string quartets is going to have to make a formal leap way beyond the strictures of genre, lest it becomes cod-classical or sub-soundtrack fluff. Bandits of Stature makes this formal leap, and – perhaps even more incredibly – uses concrete psychoacoustics to lift it out of the composition box. It’s not simply a compositional exercise – everything from the placing of the microphones to the air pressure in the room and the phase of the moon are central to this work.

Is music pre- or post- or super- or meta- or ultra- or sub-linguistic? Does it project senses onto the listener or do we project senses into the music? Does it tell a story? I don’t know, and I don’t much fucking care. What I get from this is what I get from it. And what I get is a sense of noir placed in blinding light, aridity and blazing heat. Of mystery hiding in plain sight. Of wide streets at the edge of the desert. Of illumination so intense that the inner self diving further ever further downward to escape the glare, only to resurface in the time of gloaming.

One of my favourite novelists is Lawrence Block. It’s probably a disservice to call Block a novelist. The dude is much more than what that slightly stupid word is supposed to mean and/or connote. Block is a magician. One of very few writers of stories who fully knows not so much that fiction is fiction but the how of fiction being fiction, and it’s only when a writer of stories has this in their writing that fiction can be more than the communication of the writer’s values or imagination. It’s uncanny and mediumistic, and if you try and work out how some writers can do this, you can’t. Some writers conjure a universe in miniature that you can hold in the palm of your hand. They give you worlds to play with. And none of this is done via ambition or an attempt at immortality. Neoclassicise your writing and it will be dead before you pick up your fucking typewriter.

And Bandits of Stature reminds me, in a way, of Block, for the reasons stated above. And Rothko too, to an extent. And Hopper. All stand at just the right angle from their subject matter, letting the infinite in.

Oh, and this:

Totul este rupt, totul este reparabilă. Ceașcă rupt. Solidaritate, amiciţie, dragoste, pace -intact.

2017 23 Mai

In a landscape

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Thug mise dhut biothbhuantachd
is dè thug thu dhòmhsa?
Cha tug ach saighdean
geura do bhòidhchid.
Thug thu cruaidh shitheadh
is treaghaid na dòrainn,
domblas an spioraid,
goirt dhrithleann na glòire.

 

2017 19 Mai

Jazz lifers! Take your pick

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Ascension
A Love Supreme
On the Corner/New York Girl/Thinkin‘ One Thing and Doin‘ Another/Vote for Miles
Robot 415
Giant Steps
Spanish Key
Sly
Lazy Calm

 

2017 13 Mai

Weltraum

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You’re already in space
 
 
 

 
 
 
Beneath the grass and a stone that bears your name
 
 
 

 
 
 
Trabants still in orbit
 
 
 

 
 
 
And Budapest is a city I can’t get the hang of. Up, down, átváltozás, turn around. Please don’t let me hit the ground. Oh, if you could fall for a city. Staying in the same place, just staying out the time. Touching from a distance. Further all the time. Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the electromagnetic radiation left over from the big bang. (It
 
 
 

 
 
 
was only a theory.) You’re already in Space

 
 
Listens:

open.spotify.com/track/1D1JVTUfH41hJerYNmdLR1
open.spotify.com/track/6fb9lvQ9Bk9WpyA66o16dS
open.spotify.com/track/0OkWcpIp79yy3CjPDj0ips

2017 6 Mai

Elysium FC

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The first thing to say about Elysium FC is that it doesn’t exist, and never did. The club’s ghost stadium – kinda like a Spectral San Siro, a Stade des Fantômes – is an amazing place at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Elysium FC will never die is the ghost chant from the ghostcrowded terraces. Elysium FC will never die.
 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 
There is something in the air here. Something deep, human, full of belief. Transcendental. I walk around. I move like a phantom. I’m at a loss to explain it though, this vibe. Then my phone rings. It’s André Breton. He has this to say:

Everything flows to make us believe that there exists a certain part the mind where life and death, the real and the imagined, the past and the future, the communicable and the incommunicable, the high and the low, cease to be perceived as contradictions.

And I think ‚Oui, André, c’est vrai‘ but the phone goes dead. So I WhatsApp my reply:


Tout est vert, tout d’un coup.

The playlist for the above photos is as follows:

Photo 2: Everything You Do Is A Balloon
Photo 3: Giftwrap Yourself, Slowly! (avoid any unintended Anglo-Deutsch puns on the word ‚Gift‘, though. lol)
Photo 1: Mutability (A New Beginning Is in the Offing)
Photo 5: Our Lives (Lost, Bolivia, New York)
Photo 4: Max
 

The cup is broken.
Everything is broken.
Everything is repairable.
Je me promène.
Principalement, je me promène.


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