31 May 2017

The Space Lady in another (Christian) life -- Sister Irene O'Connor

Sister Irene O'Connor belongs retrospectively to that very niche genre of  'Catholic psychedelic synth folk.' She reminds me so much of The Space Lady, and I think they'd make a great duet.

25 May 2017

Unusual voices 3: Cindy Lee

Ok, I'm cheating  slightly with this one because with Cindy Lee it's not necessarily about an unusual voice so much as unusual vocals/effects.

Cindy Lee is one of the best lo-fi projects that I know of. It was started fairly recently by the former guitarist of the band Women, Patrick Flegel. I think it's him singing on the records, but I'm not entirely sure... Either way, the voice is sort of jarring at times and on some songs heavily distorted (on What I Need for example). It sounds sort of like someone has hidden in the attic for a century to avoid human contact and has forgotten how to speak/sing.
 Act of Tenderness as an album has not had the recognition it deserves, in my opinion. It sets its own standards and is truly like nothing I've ever heard before. And it's sad (well obviously, why would I love it so much if it wasn't?)

Anyway... I want to hear more from Cindy Lee.

21 May 2017

The Lake

Sometimes, a song can sit in the deepest recesses of your mind for years, before surfacing  at exactly the right moment to hit you with its full force.
That's what happened to me with The Lake.
A lot of the best things are subconscious, spontaneous, unintended; such was mine and my sister's trip to The Lake. Because we didn't even know that we were going to The Lake, (we were headed elsewhere) and indeed we could easily have driven past it in blissful ignorance if my sister hadn't spotted something between the trees and if I hadn't pulled over.
The Lake was only 40 minutes away from where I live, and I'd never heard of it or seen it in all the years I've lived here. It's tucked away from the main road behind dense woodland, and around it is a stone quarry. The lake is probably manmade. But that's beside the point. Everything is beside the point; everything is extremely mundane and mortal beside The Lake.
Mortality: such was the theme of that very strange day. Before we left on our trip, my sister saw that a neighbour of ours was moving out, and that he'd put out a load of stuff in his front yard, including a human-sized skeleton. 
She wanted to check that our neighbour was definitely getting rid of all that stuff in his yard, because she really wanted the skeleton (two cupboards were labelled 'TO GO' but everything else was unmarked.) So we knocked on his door to check, and it transpired that he wasn't getting rid of any of those things at all and that he'd just laid them all out there for the time being.

'But you can keep Bone Jovi,' he added hastily, pointing at the skeleton.
So we took Bone Jovi home.

Bone Jovi didn't last very long in our superstitious household, and returned very quickly to our neighbour -- that same day. Which was just as well, because he probably didn't want to give it away and just ceded to us out of that awful plight which is British politeness.

And so, with these thoughts of life-sized skeletons, we drove past The Lake, which we didn't know was The Lake because it was hidden by forest, as I mentioned above. My sister pointed out what she thought was a ravine full of chalk, and we parked up nearby to have a look.

It was one of those views which does not reveal itself immediately, one which is almost purposefully hidden away and must be approached slowly, with the sense that a mystery is about to unravel.

The moment when I saw The Lake was like that moment in films where a character receives some unexpected news from another character and the latter keeps on talking but his/her speech is edited out and music starts up instead -- a 'steely melody.'

I didn't immediately make the connection with Antony and the Johnsons' Lake. It was a slow association that gradually grew in my mind and which was fully formed by the time we got home. And as these two experiences gradually became aligned, both were illuminated with a new and unutterable meaning.

A few days later, I still could not fathom why, in the night,

'My infant spirit would awake
To the terror of the lone lake'

...The infant spirit being not necessarily ignorance or lack of knowledge, but just a blinding, sickening vulnerability to the things out there -- to time, to spirits, to the world.

'Yet that terror was not fright
But a tremulous delight
And a feeling undefined
Springing from a darkened mind
Death was in that poisoned wave
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his dark imagining
Whose wildering thought could even make
An Eden of that dim lake'


16 May 2017

Duets (and heteronormativity?)

Ok, it's time to admit I've always had a soft spot for duets and duos. Weirdly, they've always been male-female duets -- and whether I like it or not, that might well be a result of the pervasiveness of heteronormativity. But of course that's not really a reason to discount good music. So ... here are three duets that I like/used to like:

1) Clemence and Jean Baptiste -- Concerto pour deux voix

This one I used to be crazy about. I used to listen on repeat. Looking back, I find it quite cheesy, particularly the way the directing/editing of the video makes Clemence and Jean-Baptiste into a couple when they are both really young and the whole thing is really unnecessary. Why not just focus on the music and not make it part of some kind of forced heteronormative model? It's unfortunate that that's what the video puts forward to me now, after all these years. But I can hardly ignore it.

Nonetheless, without the video it's almost the same for me as it was before. Because in a vocalise for two voices, through the absence of words, something really vital emerges.

2) ASSA - Idu na ty

One of my favourite movies, ASSA, has a deliberately awkward and very memorable duo scene. It was this scene that got me into synths; I looked up the Yamaha RX5 and then ended up on a Vintage Synth Explorer spree that changed my life. In fact, ASSA changed almost every aspect of my life, and still continues to do so four years after I first saw it. (tomorrow it's four years since I saw it -- THAT is how important it is to me. I have an ASSA anniversary.)

3) Liz & Laszlo, Rien à Paris

This is the latest duo I've come across, and it's probably my favorite, because both Liz and Laszlo/ Xavier's voices are just crazy good. (Xavier's main project is Automelodi, which I posted about here. I still can't believe it took me that long to find his music!)

It also works really well as a soundtrack to this (a short film by Claude Lelouch in which he attached a camera and drove through Paris in the early hours):

13 May 2017

Тальник @Powerhouse 18.10.14

There's still a special something about Curd Lake/Talnik that I just can't get over. This song (@8:25 something) is called 'Colour of Hope.'

One thing that S does that I used to dislike is the way he  sometimes stops a song midway and goes back, apparently preventing it from developing naturally. But the conceptual comment behind doing that eventually dawned on me -- aren't things always cut abruptly short just when they start to get good?

Of course, we don't usually like the conceptual in music (I certainly don't always) but it just works so well when the music is actually heartfelt rather than just 'coolly conceptual.'

An earlier EP by Curd Lake was made up of complete songs, but one track was essentially just a recording with S making an existentialist comment along the lines of  'your life is no more precious than the life of this fly. You've made up the idea that it is. You've completely made it up.'

There's something really intense about that, and it got me thinking hard about how spoken word can be incorporated into an album. In fact I'm surprised that no one has done it properly, in a non-cheesy way. It also got me thinking about how the album format, that of a live concert, and the whole structure of the music industry, are almost entirely arbitrary and open to rethinking (for those who have the time and energy for it).

...Food for thought...

3 May 2017

The saddest chord progression from the otherworld

A recent article I came across takes apart 'the saddest chord progression in the world.'

This is the kind of stuff I used to pounce on, because I've always been pretty sad and I like to know what the limits of musical sadness are. But chose étrange: these limits always seem to me to be, well, limited.  As though even in music there is some kind of ceiling effect on the permissible emotional spectrum that no one even seems to perceive. Which means that I am never satisfied with what other people classify under that rather abstract word, 'sadness.'

All I can say is, if that's really the saddest chord progression in the world, then I would like to hear the saddest chord progression from the otherworld, please.