Hello, welcome to An Occasional Diversion #2, the little sister to big brother Anticipating Nowhere as it were.
Why? I guess it is because, whilst these tracks would fit into a regular AN show they are far longer than I would normally include. These tracks take you on a deeper journey than the average 5 minute track and, to my mind at least, require a more focussed and concentrated listen.
But you previsouly did a similar AN show of 3 tracks over 20 minutes each (AN#8: 20/20 Tri-Vision) so why change now? Ah, so you spotted that did you! Again, this is all a learning process for me: as you will see I have also released two other themed AN shows (AN#3 & AN#6). However, over time, as I have put together more AN shows and, in all honesty, gained more confidence in myself, I feel I have given AN a certain style of its own. I feel more comfortable giving shows that are, to me, significantly different, a platform of their own.
It’s a personal thing as these shows are very personal to me. I need to be happy with how I present these and this way, well, makes me happy.
So, on with the show. 5 tracks, all 10+ minutes and one clocking in at nearly half an hour – worth every single second of your time. Several of the releases included here only had 2 tracks to choose from and it was a tough selection. Every track is great but I feel this selection works the best once I had pieced it all together.
I played a shorter track from Phil Hollins & Richard Sanderson’s Grumpy Records release, Social Media, on AN#15 to act as a taster for this show where I could present one of the two longer tracks on the album. Guitar and melodeon drones underpinned with field recordings lead us into where the field recordings take over; the flowing of a stream, bird-song and other sounds of nature. A child’s voice signals the time to move onto our next track.
Hyberus, released on concretetapes, was new to me even if the album was released over 4 years ago. A sample opens and closes the track, quoting two of the most futile and destructive wars being waged across the world – the ‘wars’ on drugs & terrorism. In between those samples this track is at times bleak, sparse, glitchy, droning but never anything less than utterly compelling listening.
I really don’t know what to say about this next track; it genuinely leaves me lost for words. Released on the fantastic Crow versus Crow label, here we have a tape with just two tracks clocking in at over 20 minutes each. I could have put a show out with these two alone! Side 1 (featured here) has Embla Quickbeam and Natalia Beylis working together, the other sees Neil Campbell accompanying Natalia. I chose Side 1 as I had not heard any work by Embla Quickbeam before and have included Neil on previous shows – it really was almost like tossing a coin trying to decide which one to play for you! Either way, this is an astounding journey of sound that I daren’t even try to describe through fear of not doing it justice.
A new favourite of mine (I have a couple of previous albums already but went all in and have been bingeing on all his NYP releases on Bandcamp) is Drooping Finger. Despite the wealth of releases I wanted to focus on his most recent, Bleak Encounter (I also featured a track on AN#16). Atmospheric, hypnotic and just absolutely marvellous. Deep, slow, mechanical drones – brain bliss music of the highest order.
Finally we have the wonderful Alison Cotton from her upcoming solo album The Girl I Left Behind Me. There is no point in my writing about this when the promo material says it all:
Last year, Alison was commissioned by BBC 6 Music’s Gideon Coe to create a soundtrack to the Muriel Spark ghost story ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’. It was broadcast at Christmas and read by Bronwen Price. In the story, the narrator works in a London office, her first job after a long illness. As she leaves work one evening she is struck by a strong conviction that she has left something important at the office, but can’t work out what it can be. Alison based this track (side 1, not featured on this show) around a simple melody composition following the form of the narrative, building up the suspense as the story draws to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.
For the second side of the 10” (featured here) Alison has created another piece inspired by a Muriel Spark ghost story ‘The House of the Famous Poet.’ This is also set in London, this time in 1944 against the wartime backdrop of the Blitz and V-1 sirens. On a delayed train journey, the narrator meets a soldier and a girl named Elise. Elise, a maid, invites the narrator to stay at the house where she works as the owners are away. The house turns out to be the home of a famous poet who the narrator greatly admires. The following morning, the story takes on a surreal nightmarish quality, when the soldier from the train turns up at the house with an enormous box that he says contains an ‘Abstract Funeral’ which he proceeds to sell to the protagonist. Later that day, both Elsie & the famous poet are killed when a bomb hits the poet’s house. It was the idea of the abstract funeral that inspired Alison to create this piece; “The viola has a naturally mournful tone, and I endeavoured to capture the mood of how I’d imagine an ‘abstract funeral’ march would sound. My viola was completely improvised here, recorded in a single take. My layered vocals enhancing the melancholy and the crescendo of cymbals adding to the solemnity of the drama”.
Beauty in tragedy – what a glorious way to end this show. That voice! That viola! Wow.
Please do support the artists and labels where you can; links to the releases are below and hyperlinks to relevant labels, artists and other AN shows are highlighted in the blog above.
Peace : Respect : Compassion