Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners
the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days
Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
Have you forgotten what we were like then
Selkirk's Frightened Rabbit come on like bluster playing scruffy guitar music with its chest ripped open. It's honest and consuming and could be from pretty much any time in the last 25 years or so. The new album (out in April) is immense. And they're coming to Winchester soon. No one comes to Winchester...
Listen: Frightened Rabbit - Good Arms Vs Bad Arms
More tracks on the MySpace page and at the ever fine Line Of Best Fit
A Misguide to Anywhere
Book: A Mis-Guide to Anywhere
Publisher: Wrights & Sites
ISBN 13: 978-0954613013
In Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit calls walking ‘the most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world’; and it is: at once quotidian and functional yet – and more so now than ever before - oddly subversive and hidden. Suburban and particularly urban life doesn’t encourage walking, or at least it doesn’t encourage a certain kind of walking – any beyond the purely functional; we’re funnelled, corralled, caged by streets and architecture, driven by lines of force between our cattle trucks and our homes, dissuaded from nomadic revelries and haphazard acts of discovery. We don’t map, recreate, these spaces, they map, create us. So that’s why the alternative radical history of walking, that which is still coming into being, is one that relies on metaphors of disappearance and misplacement, alchemy and dream states – ancient methods of (re)discovery transposed into the most modern of settings. Learning to get lost so that you might find your, or another, way
The Wrights & Sites collective are a group of artists and pranksters based in Exeter who formed in 1997 and whose core remit is to produce multi-media site-specific explorations of space and place. They (they being Stephen Hodge, Simon Persighetti, Phil Smith and Cathy Turner) began by focusing much of their attention on their home town of Exeter, going as far as to produce a mutated guidebook to the city that suggested ‘a series of walks and points of observation and contemplation’ – a Mis-Guide, a distorted method of exploring the familiar. But this site-specificity had obvious limitations and the group wondered ‘towards the end of 2003…whether they might make a ‘Mis-Guide’ that deliberately set out to provide transferable ideas… in this case, the work will be completed by the walker and will become specific to its location only in the walking (we intend ‘walk’ to be interpreted as journey, hop, skip, jump, negotiate on wheels etc. as appropriate to circumstances and mood)’. Essentially what the group intended was a portable Mis-Guide with enough broad thematic content to enable it to be adapted to any city, town or suburb anywhere in the world.
The artefact they have produced (I’m loathe to call it a book because it longs to be separated from itself, torn apart and left in underpasses and dank stairwells) is firmly based in this alternative tradition of walking and travel. This Mis-Guide to Anywhere can be ‘used’ ‘anywhere you can walk slowly down the street without being shot by Western contractors. Anywhere you can reorganise buildings without permission. Anywhere you can stand still without being questioned. Anywhere you find abandoned beds. Anywhere the movie you always wanted to see is playing. Anywhere you legged it’ and as such is a portable manifesto for ‘disrupted walking’ is a ‘utopian project for the recasting of a bitter world’. The artefact itself is thin, ring bound; the polished pages adorned with soft-focus photographs, the familiar rendered unfamiliar, radical discontinuities; each of the 115 pages offers a different disruptive method of walking (Follow your shadow. Repeat at different times of the year, and at different distances from the equator) or a statement of fact (I walked for three hours in London between the Strand and Monument and I did not see one child). It seeks to make and return the cities and blank suburbs we inhabit into the labyrinths and playgrounds they are; and by enabling you to get lost in them to rediscover what you might not have known or simply what you might have forgotten. It’s a reclamation of a space that is already ours.
In terms of influence it is the Situationists who loom largest. Guy Debord had seen a map in a book called Paris et l’agglomeration parisienne in which the movements of a 16 year old girl had been mapped. Her life fell between the three points of a triangle – her home, her school and the home of her piano teacher – and there was little deviation outside this strict geometric cage. Debord was horrified and outraged ‘at the fact that anyone’s life could be so pathetically limited’. Thus the idea of the derive was developed a ‘technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances’ in which ‘one or more persons during a certain period’ is to ‘drop their relations, their work and all other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there’. In other words practice a freedom of movement otherwise discouraged by everyday living, and in doing so achieve a certain kind of mental state – a state that was at once exploratory and political but also playful and childlike, (indeed Debord compared it to the method of free association in psychoanalysis )- which could open up new areas of possibility.
The Situationist literature and mythology, saturated with metaphors of mixture, of recombination, involves the using of a kind of thaumaturgy of travel to rearrange place, subtle methods of navigation unlocking new possibilities and new layers of meaning – all modes of separating and splitting the horror of totality, an aspect of capitalist society that Debord abhorred. The Mis-Guide is very much part of this transcendent urge, using, in Jean-Cristophe Bailly’s memorable phrase, ‘the generative grammar of the legs’ to subvert this totality and to create narratives on the hoof.
City as dressing up box
The question that has to be asked of this artefact is: what do we do with it? In some respects it is hard to ascertain what level it is pitched at. Is this a manifesto, a subversive document designed to politicise and aggravate; or is it a pamphlet conceived with play in mind, gentle groups ambling across the cities of the world pointing out hitherto unexplored objects, monuments? Does it matter? I’m not so sure about its political aims, at least not on a macro level – there aren’t riots trapped between these glossy pages; but on a micro level there is a sense of a minor personal politics at work, concerned with what Michel de Certeau called ‘The Practice of Everyday Life’, the instilling of a rigorous sense of discovery that penetrates to the core of the seemingly most banal and obvious aspects of day to day life. There is, in a sense, a liberatory knowledge in simply paying attention to what you do most often, and this slim volume provides myriad ways of doing just that. What intrigues me - and it’s what it doesn’t tell me – is what to do next
Some Radical Walking Resources
Wright's & Sites 'A Manifesto for a New Walking Culture: Dealing with the City'
Guy Debord's 'Theory of the Derive'
Debord's 'Introduction to A Critique of Urban Geography'
Ivan Chtcheglov's 'Formulary for a New Urbanism'
Henry David Thoreau's 'Walking'
An excerpt from Sadie Plant's 'The most radical gesture: The Situationist International in a postmodern age'
Mary Zourzani's 'Walking with the Surrealists'
Donna Landry 'Radical Walking'
The Arcades Project Project
This album, which came out last year, is the soundtrack for a Swedish coming of age film which I haven't seen. It's a series of hushed folk instrumentals full of creaking porchwood and gently missed handclaps, but with the odd processed or glitchy moment that almost passes by unnoticed. Something like Papa M, or Labradford with acoustic instruments. Accumulatively it's genuinely affecting, and it moves to a climax with this gorgeous polyphonic hymnal:
Download: Erik Enocksson - The Lingering Procession
This looks like it'd be worth a visit. I'm not sure which pleases me more the fact that these three are going to be in the same room together or that there is a Museum of Garden History...
Tuesday 22nd April
Evening Event: The Wild. Authors Mark Cocker, Richard Mabey and Robert MacFarlane in Conversation.
The autumn of 2006 saw the publication of three masterpieces of writing that explore our relationship with the wild at the beginning of the 21st century: ‘Crow Country’ by Mark Cocker, ‘The Wild Places’ by Robert MacFarlane and ‘Beechcombings’ by Richard Mabey.
The authors of three of these publications discuss their relationships with the wild.
Talk at 7pm, drinks from 6.30pm. £10 or £5 Museum Friends.
Tickets for events can be booked by calling 020 7401 8865.
Previously at M*7: Robert Macfarlane in China
Band of Horses
This interview was first published in 2006
There seems to be an almost unspoken consensus about Band of Horses, a quiet thrumming collective joy that they've released such a great record, that they exist at all. And they inspire a strange kind of anti-criticism, with people falling over themselves to draw in the long verbals and shout about What A Great Fucking Record Everything All The Time is. And it is. It's a record you listen to with the blood, it's huge widescreen production the sound of travel and of disappearing into the vastness of America; meaning does come but it's slow: Ben Bridewell's lyrics guarded, elusive and impressionistic are the story of this disappearance and the high of being found. As it goes at the end of 'Monster': 'If I am lost it's only for a little while'.
Cheers to Ben and the band for a great album and for answering these questions we sent over last week.
poacher: So has it been a crazy year for you guys? How have you been coping with the (ahem) adulation?
Ben Bridewell: As far as people enjoying our stuff, I guess it's a little scary. We just played a bunch of large shows (for us at least) this past week and it can be scary. I just don't want to let people down who like our record and when there happens to be a large audience of them all staring in our direction, I have to say that it's unnerving. At the same time, it's a wonderful position we're in right now and could disappear tomorrow, so it's important to not think too much and just do what comes naturally.
poacher: Could you tell the ignoramuses among us a bit about the forming of the band and what you were up to beforehand?
BB: Before the band really started I was down at our rented practice space just messing around with all the instruments we'd acquired during our tenure of Carissa's Weird (previous band). Once I had some songs I enlisted a rhythm section and worked constantly to just keep writing stuff, even if I thought it was garbage. Took a while but we decided to play a show, and it's been off to the races (moan) ever since.
poacher: The reaction to the album seems to have been really, really positive- could you tell us a bit about its creation and recording etc?
BB: The album was harder than I thought it'd be. We wanted it to sound raw and live-ish but those hopes were dashed immediately by lack of talent to actually play the songs well enough live to tape. It's also my first time recording for real as a guitar player or singer so I had my hard times during the process.
which leads me to:
Artist: Band of Horses
Album: Everything All The Time
Label: Sub Pop
poacher: It’s got a fabulous widescreen sound- was Phil Ek your first choice of producer, did you intend it to sound so big?
BB: Phil was great to work with and helped us realize that we had to create the record he knew we could make. Although he's an absolute slave driver, Phil Ek gets results. We'll be working with him on our new record beginning in February.
poacher: Do you read much of the music press? It seems to me that since the rise of blogs there has been a proliferation of over-interpretation of music (Jesus, we’re as guilty of it as the next erm, blog) with every last detail being examined for meaning (A.J Weberman in Dylan’s bins has nothing on these guys). I don’t know how much this would mean to you but it seems to me that much of the press has found Everything All The Time strangely resistant to criticism and that if they could they’d simply put out a one sentence saying something like ‘Great Fucking Record’. Is that a fair call?
BB: Press is the best and the worst to me. I find that most things in this business are. Example: I’m glad they like the record, I wish they'd leave us alone. Or I'm glad so many people showed up to the concert, I wish they'd stop staring. I just hope people don't read blogs as the gospel. Anyone with an opinion is free to say what they want which is great and terrible. I only read sports blogs and I never comment.
poacher: As a direct corollary of that some of your lyrics are pretty impressionistic (evasive?) and yet have got an intensely personal presence as well, so as such there isn’t a distinct message coming through. Is there a sense of communication with lyric writing or is it solely a personal thing?
BB: My lyrics are meant to stay hidden on the last record. I write in code sometimes hoping only I know the meaning of the words. this is also spawned from the insecurity of being new to the song-writing field. I kinda like not knowing the words correctly to some of my favourite songs as well.
The sound of travel
poacher: I’ve read that you’re originally from South Carolina, now Seattle- what influence has geography had on your sound, if any, or is the record the sound of travel?
BB: We're actually moving back to South Carolina in 2 days. that place had a lot to do with even wanting to start this band at all. The chance to sing about where I come from or make my family proud. I’m a sucker for geography songs as well. I find travel to be the most inspiring aspect of being in a band, yet I never can seem to write a decent song while on the road. Strange.
poacher: How’s the ceaseless touring been? Are you still sleeping on floors and tour buses or are you living in opulent glamour now?
BB: Thank God we travel comfortably now. I slept on floors and in freezing vans on the road for a good ten years. I’m over it. At the same time we're not overboard about it. I want the following: safe vehicle, beer, and bed. If they happen to have internet and cable so be it.
poacher: You’ve talked about the notion of being on stage as an uncomfortable one, and that you inhabit a dream-like state to cope with it. What happens to the songs in this sense, do they belong to someone else, are you just channelling them?
Band of Horses
BB: Every show is a different beast for me. I’ll get too sensitive about the crowd seeming bored or the sound being fucked or something. You just have to trust that everything is fine and try to make someone feel some emotion. I'll sneak small peaks at the people’s faces and I’ll sing with that face in my mind and know that I want them to cry or smile or lose their shit. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't.
poacher: Is there such a thing as an aesthetic of disappearance in American culture, is it fair to say that it’s one of your grand myths?
BB: I'm not sure America has ever had much of a defined culture to lose. we've been playing a lot of shows with our friend Chad Vangaalen (and friends) who are Canadian and realized how much funner they are than yanks. Fuck it though, America is still a wonderful place to live and I wouldn't trade it for any other.
poacher: When you guys going to head to the UK?
BB: Unsure about a UK tour. We'll do it when the time is right I’m sure.
poacher: What are you guys reading, watching, listening to right now- any recommendations for us?
Band of Horses: This week I like:
Willie Nelsons new "Songbird".
I saw the movie "Prestige" and liked it very much.