Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
I've been looking for a book like Electric Eden for a while now - one that covered the odd strain of mysticism and melancholy that runs through British history and culture, be it in Blake, Stevie Smith, Coil or Talk Talk. So to hear that just such a tome was imminent, and written by none other than Rob Young was quite something. It should be out this August but for the moment there's a great website with a whole bunch of links to follow - from Richard Jeffries to John Clare (both visionary writers and then some) and beyond...
Artist: Nicholas Szczepanik
Album: Dear Dad
Label: Goat Eater Arts
Given that a) I reviewed Nicholas Szczepanik's The Chiasmus only recently, ii) that the subject matter inspires a level of exegesis that I probably shouldn't go anywhere near, or presume I have the right to explore and 3) in the spirit of David Toop I have decided for the moment not to take up too much space using silly adjectives, I will keep this one short.
Jacques Lacan ended his famous 'Seminar on The Purloined Letter' with the opaque aphorism that 'every letter reaches its destination' - which to me means something along the lines of that the meaning coded in our attempts at communication is often different than we suppose, or different than we intend. Dear Dad has led to me think quite about the notion of music as a kind of letter, or at least a distinct mode of communication; and clumsy attempts at psychoanalysis aside, isn't music always a kind of open letter? A un/coded message that does always reach its destination somewhere, with someone. And this led me to wonder at Szczepanik's use of the drone as a kind of open letter, which, personal or otherwise, seeks to convey something specific, something monumental? Certainly the ether-piercing quality of the opening track - the 37 minute 'When I'm No Longer Afraid of You - would hint at that. It's such a colossal piece of work, of rolling, broiling drones, and so eager to be free of itself, to go beyond the simple confines of the music/listener relationship, that you have to wonder at the proposed destination. Is it a singular message, or something broader? In the sleevenotes to The Sinking of the Titanic Gavin Bryars makes the following comments about Marconi: 'towards the end of his life, Marconi became convinced that sounds, once generated never die, they simply become fainter and fainter until we can no longer perceive them. Marconi’s hope was to develop sufficiently sensitive equipment, extraordinarily powerful and sensitive filters, I suppose, to pick and hear these past, faint sounds. Ultimately he hoped to be able to hear Christ delivering the Sermon On The Mount." Dear Dad is elemental enough, and vast enough to provoke these kinds of thoughts: that the intended listener - personal, universal, whatever - simply wont be able to miss it; that even if it becomes something akin to background radiation, it will be there, faintly audible; and it may be that Szczepanik has managed the feat of turning the personal into a message for all times, and all destinations.
I was re-reading a copy of the Wire from earlier this year, and came across this ace grumpy review by David Toop of the recent Fenn O'Berg record In Stereo. Inspiring stuff, huh?
Aside from that, Toop has a new book on the way - Sinister Resonance - which sounds brilliant:
As if reading a map of hitherto unexplored territory, Sinister Resonance deciphers sounds and silences buried within the ghostly horrors of Arthur Machen, Shirley Jackson, Charles Dickens, M.R. James and Edgar Allen Poe, Dutch genre painting from Rembrandt to Vermeer, artists as diverse as Francis Bacon and Juan Munoz, and the writing of many modernist authors including Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce.
A bunch of interesting stuff that's been up on the M*7 tumblr and Delicious of late:
Big picture images of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland.
Robert Macfarlane on managing Roger Deakin's estate
Oneohtrix Point Never live podcast
Einstein's letter on atheism, written to Erik Gutkind
Klaus Dinger on the Dinger beat.
Frank Kermode on TS Eliot
David Sheppard interviewed about his Eno biography. Mp3 available here.
Marcus Boon's brilliant Wire piece on Pandit Pran Nath
Artist: Broken Social Scene
Album: Forgiveness Rock Record
Label: City Slang
There is something inherently absurd in the rhetoric around rock and indie music (like that needed saying) that there is even talk of an album being a ‘statement’ or a band being ‘important’; but there’s no denying that there seems to be a certain aura around Broken Social Scene, something that steps slightly outside of this usual flappy discourse. I think it’s partly borne out of them, at least historically, undercutting all that scene bollocks by messing with the iconography, by capturing themselves in process – using improv and jazz modes, including take fuck-ups, having a rolling membership, being lyrically obtuse. However deliberate and calculated all that may be, they do seem to have become something apart. And people, the scene, whatever, do seem to expect a certain amount. All of which, aside from internal strife, probably accounts for the 5-year hiatus, and the near-diabolical sense of anticipation around the release of Forgiveness Rock Record. No pressure then.
You can sense all that bubbling behind the album title: Forgiveness Rock Record. It’s both pompous and playfully self-referential – musing on all that daft overblown rock rhetoric whilst acknowledging that this has probably been as hard an album to convene and record as any in the band’s history. It’s also a pointer to the content of what’s inside, as the band have made their most straightforwardly obvious rock record to date – it’s big and earnest and structurally at least, generally pretty gleeful. Lyrically, aside from the titles it’s not imposed itself on me yet, but generally speaking, it’s stuffed, lyrically. For a band that are known for lyrical patterns that tended towards either the spartan or the repetitious, Forgiveness… is positively garrulous. The other big change for me is getting John McEntire – Tortoise wizard and general production Ubermensch – on board. He’s got them sounding sleek and clinical, quite a change from that trademark cavernous warmth that has characterized the band’s sound to date.
The McEntire influence is particularly evident early on. ‘Chase Scene’ is so John McEntire – remove the vocals and the track could have been on Tortoise’s last album Beacons of Ancestorship. ‘Texico Bitches’ has a similar sheen to it, sounding at times like it might have been produced by Trevor Horn – add in some Dan Deacon keyboard squalls and you’ve got an atypical BSS track that somehow still sounds completely natural. ‘Forced To Love’ takes this template and legs it adding more of that Horn influence. If it had some fairlight synths it could be Field Music or The Week That Was. So far, so full, then. But as the album progresses, those tell tale moments of light and air steal in, revealing that the band haven’t lost that ability to pace and to pacify. This is particularly evident on tracks like ‘All to All’ (the first track to feature new vocalist Lisa Lobsinger, who has to fill Leslie Feist’s sizeable shoes) and ‘Ungrateful Little Father’, which builds from a typical rhythm and synth pattern coupled with a bitter Drew invective (‘ungrateful little motherfuck, built you a breakthrough device’) to a gorgeous ceiling-scraping drone. That said, my reaction to the record after living with it for a few weeks now, is that there aren’t enough of these of areas of shade. It feels too on and as such, it feels like too much of the album zips away unnoticed. The shade may well reveal itself over time.
It’s in a trio of songs towards the end of the record though, that BSS seem to completely hit their stride, and it’s during these three songs – the broad clattering tumult of ‘Meet Me in the Basement’, the Emily Haines sung wooze of ‘Sentimental X’s’ and ‘Sweetest Kill’ – that the realization comes that Forgiveness Rock Record is actually something of a disappointment, and another triumphant Broken Social Scene mess. And I use the word mess in the most complimentary sense here: it’s what made You Forgot it in People so refreshing, and so other, and a record, to these ears anyway that is still revealing itself. Forgiveness Rock Record isn’t YFIIP – it’s too late in the day for that in many respects, too much has happened to the band, never mind the way we consume and listen, for an album like to arrive fully formed – but it is evidence that even with the framework of what is a fairly standard rock record, they’re still buzzing with enough ideas and enough zeal, and simple doing more than most to be worth sticking with.
Download/Listen: Broken Social Scene - Sentimental X's