So I went away for a while, hence a mammoth post of four things in one. Briefly, they comprise;
- Ten albums that I consider to have played a sizable role in forming my musical taste and, more importantly, are tied to specific memories and transitions at various points in my life (though largely spread from 1998-2002)
- A short list of what I have been listening to in the past week+
- An example of one of five maps I have been working on, and an explanation of why.
- An explanation of the several projects I am contributing towards.
It’s long, at over 3000 words, so feel free to cherry pick. Without much further ado:
1. Recollective Top Ten
One of the directions I am taking in terms of my research is to look at the relationship between certain sounds and certain memories, and how the formation of a transient idea of self is influenced by past events, spaces, places, sounds. As a way of breaking this in to a more managable chunk, I thought about what I would consider to be a top ten of formative music, that is an album that has made a lasting impact on me and instantly reminds me of a specific place and time, and the people I shared that with. I’d be quite interested to develop this further, and I’ll discuss possible directions for this in section 4, so feel free to avoid that if it’s of little interest. The psychogeographical maps are part of this too I think,a cartography of social memory that I hope I can plot with the assistance of a few close friends before we start forgetting where the things we say and do come from.
For this blog, I decided the most effective thing to do as way of demonstration would be to list my top ten, and briefly mention the associated memory with each album. Some are hazy, vague, barely there; others are fully formed to the extent I could probably tell you the exact day if I needed to…
Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
The second album I ever bought, The Bends being the first. I wasn’t especially interested in music until mid way through high school, content to simply listen to whatever was presented to me, so this symbolised the beginning of making my own choices. It was primarily chosen on the basis of hearing it mentioned as a ‘classic’ and liking the confusing art work on the cover. When music eventually started to burrow in to my body, and I decided I could contribute something, I went for the drums, unable to really master anything but one song on piano (though I’m better now). I learnt to play the drums listening to Bonham and trying, and failing, to emulate him, that booming far away bass drum, the power in the restraining of the fills. Bonham started playwith four drums, so I played four drums. Led Zep IV remains one of my favourite albums of all time; it marks the point when I knew I was able to contribute something (though it has moved away from percussion to computer production…if I had the space, I’d try the two together again)
Music Has The Right To Children – Boards of Canada
This album is inextricably linked to a memory, most likely a composite one, of myself, Liam and Pank playing Quake 2 on a spring afternoon (or many afternoons), in the back bedroom of my Luton house. I bought it from HMV, though Our Price was still in existence then as I recall, after reading about it in an old issue of Mojo I had found. It was probably my first experience of electronic music, or rather music that was solely electronic rather than just music which incorporated electronic elements, like synths in prog or what have you. It is the sound of long brown corridors, a noisy lift, the ping of an explosive round bouncing of a wall and the curled cobalt trail of a rail gun. It is also the first of three albums tied to Liam and Pank, the other two being detailed below.
Texas-Jerusalem Crossroad – Lift to Experience
Indistinct, but reminiscent of the Refectory, occupied by Mark De Caux, Ben Barry, my appalling attendance record and skipping lessons, hiding from Mason the history teacher with one good eye, and possibly even meeting Tom and Danny for the first time (which returns as Danny mentioning something about me being a good drummer, and Tom reading either Stand on Zanzibar or Infinite Jest in the Lower Refectory where we tended to loiter…not sure how accurate this is). The occasional presence of Pank, who started and finished at random times, never completing anything. Lee, and Liam and myself being exposed to a larger world, new friends, new ideas.
Madonna – And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
Football on Butterfield, Pank dazzling everyone by being simultaneously adept at scissor kicks and a complete shit for punting the ball in to the same group of trees near the car park. We listening to this afterward, astounded at the ferocity of some of it (obviously now considered tame by all our standards). This was also the soundtrack to afternoons spent playing Perfect Dark, my penchant for guided rockets against Pank’s love of the Farsight. Yet again, Liam proves he is the master of angles and trajectories using the grenade launcher, a skill on par with my deft positioning of remote mines in Goldeneye (and I suppose Pank’s accuracy with the Golden Gun on Basement).
Ok Computer – Radiohead
Aside from being a defining album for the odd generation I consider myself to be a part of, between Xers, Yers and The Millennials as I believe Mr Lippard put it once, this album also reminds me of working at the fire station in Stopsley where a short fat man who shared my first name says ‘…all we get is washing machines on fire…’ or more significantly, the after school prep for the Duke of Edinburgh award, in an upstairs Maths classroom next to what became a computing room, talking to Chris about Climbing Up The Walls and how grubby and brilliant it was. It somehow became the favourite song of the Moonface.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Lift Your Skinny Fists
A very specific recollection. Sixth Form College, cleaning, midweek. I worked in the computer classrooms, C Block, which afforded me a nice view of the office where Les and Colin the ‘overseers’ were housed. I had this album on on this particular afternoon when Chris Baker and cohorts came in to explain how free internet was available. It resulted in pretty much the entire cleaning staff (well…Ben, Simon, Chris etc.) being reprimanded for skiving and taken off to the office for a bollocking. Using my observational skills on the office, I managed to hide in one of the teaching offices like a coward. All cowards hide in teaching offices.
Cinematic Orchestra – Every Day
Vague – Driving across fenland between Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, eventually heading in to Thetford Forest, when I started University, or indeed returned via back roads that magically emerged in Hitchin. The voice of Fontella Bass echoing across fields and hedgerows. Not necessarily formative, but one that has etched a mood in to me. It came about at a period of transition, when I moved away from familiar places and began to realise how much I had to do to go where I wanted. The destination is still somewhat obscured.
Camel – Mirage
Mirage is here as a distinct reminder of Dad attempting to educate me in the ways of prog, which coincides with his ‘education in the way of ale’. It comes at the same times as the discovery of Umma Gumma and Echoes by Pink Floyd, Argus by Wishbone Ash and much of what I later discovered to be part of ‘The Canterbury Scene’. Properly going through Dad’s extensive vinyl collection of prog classics was a revelation. I think my Dad was definitely instrumental in forging an interest in numerous differing musics, which is now a symbiotic relationship of suggested listening; I will produce an occasional play list which he will download and vice versa. As a result, a man who is 60 this year continues to enjoy Boards of Canada, Sonic Youth, Do Make Say Think, Mogwai and Antony and the Johnsons, whilst firing folk classics in my direction (Planxty, Pentangle and so on).
Japan – Oil on Canvas
Listening to an old reel to reel when my Dad was at work (ancient, precious machine…do not break) and Nightporter was what he had recorded on to it. I learnt to play it on my little keyboard, making it possibly the first and last piece I ever bothered to learn, and off by heart, just from listening and trying to hit the keys that sounded right. I picked up this CD, it being displayed at the front of the Japan subsection and seeing Nightporter on the tracklisting, I immediately bought it. I remember being a bit miffed at it being ‘live’ and then also happy when I subsequently discovered that Nightporter was actually a rerecorded version that they had made sound live to fit most of the rest of the record. I also remember being concerned that they were horribly unfashionable, and later deciding that it didn’t matter if they were or not, because I liked them. This was also true of Madness, and much later The Pet Shop Boys, as I’m sure Chris will recall/dispute.
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense (1999 Release)
An amalgam memory. I played this album at one of the many parties that happened at Zoe’s house on Long Close, so it is tied to numerous memories of the time before we started seeing each other, including; Darren Taylor throwing himself down a flight of stairs, a cat being shot by some unknown man with an airgun, drunk rugby players gatecrashing and watching porn in the living room, my attempting to form some sort of relationship with Lisa despite the now obvious futility/pointlessness of such an attempt, Ben Barry putting his hand through a door, Dalmatian babies, DJGJ in a former life cleaning the kitchen with a teatowel tied to his waist, Michael pissing in an airing cupboard, Liam and Isabelle gradually coming apart, my eventual development of the courage to talk to Zoe, certain hostilities with close friends as a result which are resolved nicely by the passage of time. And, of course, the conspicuous absence of Stokes and Sweeney.
Other albums could be added to the list, including The Bends, Different Class, some ASMZ and perhaps even some of the shit that resulted in us going to The Rock and being gloomy, sitting under tables, being banned, drinking disgusting coloured/tasting booze, dancing like twats, developing confused love triangles, making and losing friends. Perhaps another time.
2. Recent Listening
I have still managed to get in some semi up-to-date listening. In the spirit of my favourite pastime, namely ‘listing’, here they are, in order of preference.
Christian Wallumrod Ensemble – Fabula Suite Lugano
Gowns – Stand and Encounter
(no image for that one, but it does sadly mark the end of Gowns as a group. If you’re not familiar with their output, please go and grab Red State)
Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here*
*see ‘4. Plans’
Scuba – Sub:stance
Tindersticks – Falling Down A Mountain
I say order of preference, but over the last week or so pretty much everything I’ve listened to has been enjoyable. I’m not sure whether this means I am losing any sort of power of criticism, if indeed I ever possessed any, or if I am simply feeling a little mellower. Either way, I shall purposefully listen to some real shit between now and the next post in an attempt to add some sort of scathing personal attack up here.
3. Mapping for Beginners
So this map is part of a series of 5 sketches I have done in the past week that relate to certain places I remember as a child/teenager. Like a normal map it is seen from the top down, and is to some extent accurate, but only to the degree that my memory affords it. The woodland detailed crudely above sits with Wandon Park to the west, the school playing field to the north (along with a haunted house that was eventually redeveloped in to a weird gated property with security cameras etc.), the housing estate of unpleasant new builds called Copthorne where Lee lived for a while (I still have the keys to his house for some reason) in the east and the curve of Telscombe Way/Hayling Drive to the south/south east. The field behind Copthorne (to the north of it) was set on fire once, and I cycled through it with some friends who may have been called Phil and David…people Clare Gale knew I think. I had my eyebrows burnt and got covered in soot. A similar thing happened on D of E.
I’m hoping to create a large canvas of similar maps of recollected locations associated with my childhood. I’m hoping to put them together with the help of those who were there at the time. Part of the reason for this, aside from my interest in the nature of space and memory, and how perceptions alter or are transformed via social experience (in the sense that, for example, I remember differently depending on who I am with), is that, as Chris has pointed out elsewhere, these things are starting to slip away, largely because we have all moved away, and the idea of basing a project around such reminiscence is an effective way of cataloging and discussing formative experiences. It is, I feel, also important in being able to analyze and develop a narrative of transition. The friendships I have developed are maintained now over long distances, and on the infrequent occasions we reunite, shared recollection is a tie that seems to continue to hold things together, in the wake of our constantly diverging lives. I think many people from outside our little gang find the constant self referencing a little annoying, or more likely alienating, but it is something that we are unable to escape, a scaffold for self definition, and a method for distancing ourselves when we need/want to.
From the actual map above, you can see the track of the sports field, and the features mentioned above. You can also see that I have drawn the map from the perspective of Telscombe Way, which is probably because that is generally where we came at it from. For a long time, I thought this wood was called Slaughter’s/Slaughterer’s Wood, but that is in fact to the south. Robert Lavender, a one time hanger-on of ours who got a pin through his hand for the trouble, was told that the hut in Slaughter’s Wood was the entrance to a secret underground nuclear testing facility. This is not true.
Much of my childhood involved woods in one way or another, which probably account for my continued fascination with them. A post on tree based recollections may appear in the following weeks.
Currently, I am working on:
- A ‘hip hop’ album, under the I think provisional guise of ‘Mic Hammer and Doctor Ironfist’. This will possibly be completed by the end of Feb, when Tom returns to York to perhaps record some vocals, and perhaps collect his things. The music is somewhat about the place at the minute, but contains a tasty selection of samples from the likes of Smokey Robinson, Gil Scott-Heron’s new work (particularly track 2), Autechre, Deathprod, Sa-Ra Creative Partnership, Shape of Broad Minds, various musicians from the Anticon label, Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs and Baby Dodds. Track previews will emerge in March I think. This album also fulfills one of my New Years resolutions, which now take the form of projects – produce one funky album.
- An EP of Heroines material, currently four tracks, loosely based on the cycle of the day, but not in the way the Dawn of Dogs EP was. I am going to attempt to get this released by an actual label.
- Aforementioned maps for potential exhibition.
- A series of composite songs culled from personalised memory soundtracks, similar to the one above. I’m interested to explore the potential to have a past summed up in one piece of music which comprises parts from songs related to specific times/places in peoples memories. Am not sure how practical this is, or whether people will offer up such details.
- Continuing writing ‘Amputee Angel/Last Night Tree’. 56000 words and counting.
- PhD, obviously. Much reading on CCCS, the idea of tribus, Thornton’s development of Bourdieu’s idea of capital, where hauntology sits in amongst this. Up next, the sociology of space.
- Have recently completed a short soundtrack for a short film called Sky Attack, using Tomytronic sounds. Took ages, but am happy with the results.
The purpose of having this written down is largely as a tool for me to understand a perennial problem I have; thinking I am not doing enough. I have a semi-constant nagging feeling that I am ‘wasting time’, and that I should be, at least whilst I am a part-time student, using the time I don’t spend at work (Uni or paid) doing something constructive. Writing down a short list elaborating what I actually have going on at any one time is a good way of reminding myself what is actually happening. It also makes me virtually accountable. If I say I am doing something, even in the realm of the relatively small number of people who read this regularly, and I don’t, someone somewhere will know, and this bothers me in to action. Odd perhaps, but ultimately helpful.
So, as I began by saying, I went away with work etc. for a while prior to writing all this down. The same is sadly true in the coming weeks, with posting sporadic, though I have numerous pointless ideas and such to share. I am likely away until a week Thursday, with work, Uni work and various minor organizational tasks demanding more attention.
To conclude on a brief stylistic note, I’ve decided to go from preformated text to default, owing to my own annoyance at manually changing text sizes etc. Despite the fact I prefer the look of preformat, I simply cannot be bothered with making things line up. Plus this is easier to read.