The Unbearable Darkness of Mountains – Uncivilisation 2011

Last night, as the sun set, I wandered into the woods. Dosed up with Valerian and on barely any sleep (third hangover of the year, too soon after the second) I was already hazy, and I became totally and utterly conscious of how terrible my eyes were.

In the dark of the evening, as everything turns into greys and blues, everything seems to dance. When I stopped walking to take stock, the sound wrapped around me. Tiny titters of birds, bleating lambs far away, owls some closer. But closer, there were the snaps of twigs, the rustle of leaves, the shifting undergrowth and mulch. Footsteps not mine. Movement all around.

And me in the middle, vaguely terrified, and unable to tell what movement was my eyes playing tricks, and what was the forest itself.

It was incredible. Not least when I understood, as my sense reached their limits, that this was all playing around me, but I was nowhere near the centre. All around me was life that cared not for me. I was barely a part of it, even as I felt connected to it. This swirl of noise, the clatter of life, slowly going it’s own way.

I was not in the middle. The world was. I was just a tiny thought, drifting across the surface.

This was the evening after Uncivilisation 2011, the second ‘festival’ of the Dark Mountain Project. It was the first time it started to feel really uncivilised, and was an incredibly intense experience. Not quite has scary as returning to the city, and feeling some of those sensations again, only related to the thing I’m supposed to be used to. The swirl of noise and the clatter of life, amplified and drowned out all at once, but I’ll get to that. Maybe.

Basically, it was a weekend for creative types interested in the manifesto of the Dark Mountain, to get together and talk. There was a lot of great talk. There was a lot of fascinating stories and people. There was so much going on in a very small space, often seemingly rushing towards you like the ground as you fall.

My brain is genuinely aching. Though my heart is swollen.

I didn’t really expect it to be like this. I was expecting to hear politics and get fired up. I was hoping to learn and grow and solidify.

Instead, I just feel like I have been put in contact with a part of me that has been missing.

This is also good.

I’m not going to talk too much about the speakers and the talks, or even the bands. I’m sure other people will post much more eloquent responses and critiques of what was said. I don’t remember many huge bombshells in the actual programme. Nobody has many answers about what to do next apart from look after yourself, pay attention, listen to stories, tell your stories, and learn how to live with less.

Possibly the simplest and most obviously true statement of the weekend was something along the lines of  ‘get better at enjoying non-material things, because if you want to be happy, those are going to be the only things you can rely on’.

In shorter, if everything runs out, make sure you’ve got something that can’t run out to make your heart sing.

That wasn’t actually shorter, was it.

I’m not good at brevity right now, maybe. I’ve got a lot of listening to try and take in and and process. At some point I think a lot of things in my brain are going to pop, in various different ways.

The weekend clicked for me about five times, after initially seeming like something utterly contradictory and so somewhat failed. When people who are talking about the end of the world get angry and self righteous about a cafe only having jacket potatoes left, it makes you wonder. Dougald, one of the organisers, noted that someone on twitter had described the festival as ‘luddites with iPhones’, he was aware of the irony. Smari pointed out earlier (quite probably joking, but still quite probably right), the people who were prepared were probably somewhere else, being prepared. This was not a place to learn how to prepare for the apocalypse. This was a place to talk.

Which seemed kind of pointless.

Until. Well. Until it started to feel right. Until I realised that this wasn’t necessarily about building bunkers, it was about building soul, heart, spirit or something like it. There are many sorts of preparedness.

The ‘What next’ talk helped, particularly when Paul Kingsnorth (the other founder) noted that the festival had kind of started out as a place to get writers together.

Once you start thinking of it as a writer’s workshop at the end of the universe, it kind of made sense.

But before that, it really clicked, as I got in touch with exactly the sort of hippy I am.

People call me a hippy all the time, and sometimes I get annoyed, but mostly because I don’t know what it means. I acknowledge that I don’t help myself by wearing skirts and long hair and liking flowers, but, well, it still seems like a derogatory term. Something ineffectual. I guess this could be historiographical. During one conversation, Vinay noted that the cultural revolution died because all the clever people died in the first years of battle, leaving nobody to lead that side in the war.

So; failed and idealistic revolutionary? Possibly not that far off. But there are other trappings.

This weekend, for me, was actually a deeply spiritual experience. Despite me not having any clear definition of what that is. The biggest learnings were not about people (though the campfire was one of the most supportive singsongs I’ve ever taken part in. I’ve never sung solo acappella in front of strangers before, and I felt happy to do it and to fail. Thanks to that fire. If you’re reading this, you know who you are.)

Really, the awesome ritualistic theatre of Liminal, was what bought my heart into action. A small prologue, a procession through a series of unneverving dreamlike vignettes, and a  final ritual, of noise and movement in the depths of a candlelit forest. Through that, I felt centred and connected to all of life, all of the world. Like had taken part in some kind of bonding ceremony. My centre suddenly felt further away from me than usual, but in the right way.

I celebrated by getting drunk, which was almost as stupid as some of the decisions on my cycle out from Petersfield to the campsite, which took five hours instead of one, and almost as fun. (Though it was the cycle that nearly killed me, if it hadn’t been for a spanner and a nice old lady called Anne, I’d probably be dead. Or at least very, very ill.)

The next day I was less engaged, but still picking up fragments, and maybe the odd braingrenade from Vinay. My mind was struggling to keep up with some of the learnings of the night before. Not least a weighty discussion in the almost sacredly intimate space of the hexayurt (which I stumbled drunkenly into at four in the morning).

I think spaces need to be small for real weight to be talked about. A conference or lecture is not a supportive or communal environment, it is a space for hierarchy and showing off. There were problems with some of the spaces, that bought out some odd things in people, and made me shut up and feel alienated. But when things worked, they worked.

And actually, shutting up and listening was what I needed. It wasn’t until everyone one faded back to their real lives and I was left in a quite countryside that I really appreciated that. And that I finally got to listen to what I really needed.

I made a new friend, who fed and nourished me in a number of ways, not least with actual physical real food. I need to get the micro infrastructure for cookery into my camping bike loadout pretty sharpish.

After absorbing some silence sunshine and beauty, we talked about sheep, unicorns and ancestors. Myths and futures and spirits.

The thing is, when you have the space to look at the noisiness of the quieter, less verbal world, you realise that these spirits, while metaphors, are utterly, utterly real.

Our myths and stories are wrapped up together, and they can still be shared around a campfire, and nothing will make you new friends like laughing and sharing them.

We are going to be ancestors. Even if we don’t have children, those around us will. We will tell them stories, and they will tell stories about us. Eventually, that is all we will be. Stories.

After my final commune with nature, the final fire of the weekend was shared with total but beautiful strangers. The chance to bounce around some chatter, to hear our thoughts and stories of the weekend shared and stretched and played with. Repeated and explained from different angles.

With the owls for company.

We were not the centre, we were just part of a stream through eternity. We looked backwards, and we looked forwards, and we saw everything stretching out beyond us.

I think we are tiny. I think we make tiny marks. As a civilisation, we have wreaked huge damage, but still, where it is, life persists. We will, eventually, wash away (barring the definitely real possibility of biotech, nanotech or nuclear catastrophe), and leave a world that will move on without us.

But civilisation is not actually us. Not the deep us, at our core.

Politically, we must make sure we demand the world the world deserves. We must learn how to change our civilisation so it does not destroy everything. This will probably not happen until it’s all gone horribly wrong. This is a tragedy for us.

The world will pick itself up and carry on without us.

We need to do something about this. This weekend was not about finding out what. It was about finding out why.

It was about seeing alternatives and feeling them.

It was restorative to something in my heart. Like a tree was growing there that hasn’t been watered in forever. Finally it is growing again, maybe even bearing fruit.

I still don’t know what to do about civilisation. But I do know I need to distance myself from it. My path seems clearer. Move, slowly and safely away from the horror of it all. Find somewhere I can live a simpler life.

The route will not be simple. I don’t have the wisdom and skills and power of my ancestors. I don’t know how to live off land, and I don’t have land to live off.

But. Well. I need to be out there.

Where the real world is. Living and bustling in it’s own way. I must visit it more regularly and learn how to work with it.

These are musts now, not just idle dreams.

I’m not going to stop talking about the problems. I’m going to continue to try and make the world change. But I am also going to make a tent on a darker mountain.

My spirit belongs with the others. In the darkness.

It’s not easy to see in the dark. This weekend, I practiced opening my eyes wider.

With time. I will work on my eyes.

And my heart.

And my soul.

So I can see deeper into the darkness, and maybe even live there.

This is a first response. It is tired and slightly crazy, for that is where I’m at right this moment.I’m going to use Unstruck this week to explore a few questions that came up over the weekend. This is technically breaking the rules, but that’s what they’re for, right?

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Unstruck at 200 – With bits in

Illustration by Adam.

Today I posted my 200th post on the Unstruck blog. It’s not quite the 200 x 500=100,000 words that that should be, as there are five odd posts without any text at all (and the 500 is a limit, many are dead on, but some are under).

Anyway, for those who don’t know, unstruck is my newer (almost a year old) collaborative and restrictive project. It’s kept me writing all year, and with less self indulgent moping than usual, which is pretty cool. (Don’t worry mope fans, there is a bit of it).

Basically, each day, somebody asks a question, I answer in 500 words, and someone illustrates it in half an hour.

It’s simple, and it’s a way to get me writing, and other people arting, and hopefully even more people thinking.

I love it. Most of the time. It makes me feel like I’m part of a collective. It gives me an opportunity to feel like I had a part in something beautiful.

And occasionally, it means that I write things I like. More often than I’d like to think.

To celebrate, I posted on twitter a selection of my favourites. There’s no system here, just a random pick of things I remembered being good. I re-read them as I did it, and I surprise myself.

I’m reposting those tweets here (including some typoes), for the sake of posterity. It’s not really a best bits. Just a ‘bits that move me or something’.

Enjoy.

Dip into the past here.

Freizeit- The Kindness of Strangers

It’s a little weird.

Hard to get used to how far you can get on the kindness of strangers, with only the tiniest bit of language ability. It’s also terrifying.

I have been weirdly isolated at times, but it’s pretty much all in my mind.

Currently the biggest problem is that this keyboard has a ä in the ‘ place. That kind of brain programming isn’t easy.

Also the z and y is all muddled.

But zou probablz didnät come here to hear me talk about german kezboards.

That was on purpose by the way.

So where to begin.

Now.

I’m in the beautiful Stadtbucherei (town library?) of Münster. This is a beautiful town, full of cyclists and students and oldness and newness. It’s strange and laid back, but in what I assume is a very German way.

I spend my entire time saying please and thank you, and occasionally the more unwieldy sorry (bitte, danke und es tut mir leid, for the curious). I still feel I’m being really rude, except the locals seem even ruder and it just seems to work out fine for them.

Oddly my brain is switching to German in loads of tiny ways.

Like I keep on being about to type zu, instead of to.

The weirdest thing about it is that I’m not speaking much German. There’s a weird crisis of confidence. I keep on thinking about the grammar too much so that I can’t formulate the phrases before the conversation has moved on or become awkward.

But I’m putting off getting to the good stuff.

Basically, hitching across Europe is crazy. Boring. Exhilarating. Amazing. Unreal. Terrifying and satisfying.

All in random orders.

The main emotion that stays with me though is that feeling of progress whenever there is even a tiny bit of moment.

And amazement.

I’ve not done the maths in miles, but we’ve crossed countries in days. We set off at 6ish on Wednesday morning and were in France by lunchtime, and in Belgium by the evening.

For free. Nothing but asking strangers for a little kindness.

There’s lots of rejection to.

After getting two thirds fo the way across Belgium, we found ourselves stuck in a small service station near Liege (60 miles from the Belgium German border). We camped for a night, and then got up early the next day. And we put our thumbs out.

And we put our thumbs out.

And we wrote signs. With destinations creeping slowly closer and more general.

And we put our thumbs out.

And we danced. With our thumbs out.

And we talked to a million people. (well, mostly Josh and Skozl).

They found out a hundred ways of being told no, sorry.

But that afternoon, about three or so, after what felt like a lifetime of baking, baking sun and smelly toilets and the sound of the motorway. Someone picked us up.

We went forwards. The guy was buying a car nearby.

For a while we went backwards. And ended up on a slightly nicer service station just outside liege.

But this was a better one.

And before too long, the loveliest lady in Belgium (a certified Iron Woman Triathlete) took us up to the German border.

That feeling of satisfaction. That feeling that people will help you. Is amazing. Laurie was on her own, there were three of us. pretty much her first words were ‘I hope I’m not being stupid, and that you won’t aggress, violence or murder me.’

You understand why people don’t pick you up, even as it frustrates when an empty SUV drives by.

But it just makes it better when you get somewhere new.

Bivouaccing in Germany. Meeting geologists, Navy officers and ex army doctors. Awkward joking between kind people with no language shared with us.

Fear on our part. A lack of control.

But then you’re closer. Someone offers another hand and you’re in heaven again. Floating on air as you realise how amazing life can be. How far you can get with nothing.

With the help of friends and strangers.

It’s been a week of miracles, to my mind, but just the simple miracle of community and trust.

Josh used hospitality club to find us someone to stay with in Munster, and Chris has been the kindest most generous host you could imagine. Just for the opportunity to meet with new people, she has put us up and given us a bed and delightful food.

It makes you want to be more generous with everything.

It proves the notion of karma.

If you do kind things, then miracles like this can happen.

The more kind things people do. The more everyone can feel happier and trust to chance and the wind to carry us forward.

It’s hard not to get carried away. I feel the negativity in my spine and my eyes. Even at Chris’ lovely house, I’ve found it hard to sleep (too hot? too quiet? too comfy? too amazing?).

But when I think for even a moment about what I’ve already achieved. About what I’ve seen and learnt. And what I can now imagine in the future. It’s amazing. The support of Josh and Jo and the strangers that have got us here is the best birthday present I could ever have. (And thanks to Mum for helping pay for the passport and the preparation).

And I think I want to learn German and maybe one day move to Münster for a while. It feels like Brighton without the sea (but with a beautiful canal, not like an English Canal). The cycling is incredible. Literally seas of bicycles in every direction. And if Chris and Hermanne are anything to go by das Münsterisch are the loveliest people in the world. It’s another half tourist half student town. And there’s lots going on here, judging from the things this weekend. From exploding scaffolding ships, fireworks, harbour festivals, markets and just the most beautiful countryside.

And a cycle network that actually works.

It’s , miraculous.

I’m running out of time, so there’ll be more detail to come. And photos when I get home. Perhaps that’s an entirely different story in itself.

Final thoughts?

Thank you. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, where I am today. And that’s not just in Münster, but in my life. Thank  you to my mother for giving birth to me exactly 26 years ago, and everyone who has made me who I am, to get here today.

I think there’s an argument that you’re always hitch hiking. Relying on the support of the people around you. The kindness and patience of your family and the strangers you meet who may become your friends, but really, whoever they are, you may never see them again.

But they all moved you somewhere, and in some way.

So thanks to the strangers.

Thanks to the kind.

And I hope I never forget that I am constantly, permanently in debt to the strangers and friends and loved ones around me. And I hope I never stop paying them back with kindnesses like these.

Tschuß,

Vielen Dank,

Alabaster Auf Allemands.

(Some assonant creole there? Optimistically.

Not quite unstruck enough.

I kinda wanna post this because I like it. But I wasn’t sure if it was good enough, so I used the end as a seed for the final post on unstruck.

But I wanted my thoughts recorded, even though they’ve been chosen as not good enough for the main site.

Not that this place is now my second favourite (though with the excitement of the new, it blatantly is) and so only worthy of unwanted trash.

I still love you guys.

I’m just excited by the new project a lot. It’s pretty exciting. It’s great to feel creative again, and to not just feel like I’m waffling inanely to myself. Which is what I do here. Mostly.

Anyway, here’s the original draft, for the sake of posterity:

q: Is it sometimes good to lie?

I’m severely in danger of sounding like Polonius here.

Though marginally less poetic, no doubt.

I’m a quite thorough devotee of honesty. Particularly in the big things. Having done the wrong thing many times, I made a promise to myself to be honest.

Honesty can hurt, but it normally means the pain is justified. If the truth hurts, at least it’s the right hurt. The one that should be. When a lie hurts, it’s doubly wrong, and cannot be justified.

But obviously there are times where honesty hurts heedlessly. These are the times I feel conflicted.

When I discuss this with people, I’m always under attack from talk of the little white lies. The flattery that is called for and must be given. Of course your bum doesn’t look big in that.

(I might ask, what is wrong with a bottom looking large? And not just because I like big bottoms, but simply because it seems somewhat unimportant, what someone else might think of your bottom. Someone who judges you inadequate on the basis of incorrect posterior volume is someone not worth knowing. Of course, at the same time, I am hopelessly vain and concerned with what other people think of what I look like, but also have a spectacularly pretty bottom. So perhaps that stance is in itself dishonest.)

So is it okay to boost someone’s ego? Or are you still misleading, taking astray?

I don’t entirely have an answer.

In my case, I am often helped by the fact that I don’t really think before I speak. My brain has a thought and before I know it the thought is in the air, vibrating towards other ears.

I often don’t have time to consider lying.

This gets me in trouble.

Honesty is sometimes noticed. It allows you to be trusted, if not always liked. It helps if you honestly hold positive opinions. The best of both worlds.

In fact, being able to hold two contrary opinions simultaneously makes virtually anything possible.

How about internally?

For me, lying equates to a pain in the gut and a fear in the chest. I know I am doing something I shouldn’t. This is shared with a certain glee when I’m pulling a prank of some sort. Misleading to entertain. But I almost always confess immediately.

But there’s the rub.

There is a time when it is good to lie. Great to lie. Great lies can be wonderful.

Because they are stories.

As the man with a letter for a name said: ‘Artists use lies to tell the truth.’

And that’s what we are doing here.

These answers are fabrications. The illustrations more so. They are beliefs. They are ways of expressing ideas. And I think I am still being honest here. But  not necessarily by speaking bare truth.

But that method of building something. It is built on lies. It is built on artifice.

And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

So sometimes it is good. Yes.

Lie for the truth.

Experiment – Unstruck

Just a note that if you miss my words I’ve got a new project going on at http://unstruck.wordpress.com/.

I’m remaining enigmatic about it for now. But basically we’re running a two week experiment that may continue or change after a while. Will be updated about once a day, as I can manage it, and possibly not all weekend days.

And don’t worry, I’ll still maintain this place, and will update, but it is likely to remain quite sporadic.

Illustration by Lucy.

Moo Sicks to the Ninth Degree – My Music Round Up 2009

The best, most exciting, arresting and fascinating track of the year. For me. At least. – ImagineIAM, Merry-Go-Round.
Right, so it’s a ludicrous review of the year round up. The main problem with which is that I have to work out what the hell I’ve been listening to in the last year.  I’ve got stats, thanks to last.fm, but due to an extended (three month?) offline period, and the fact that I listen to a hell of a lot of records, the results are somewhat skewed. Details are at the bottom of this page, or just diddle around on my last.fm profile until you’ve got the last 12 months.
Anyway, despite the statistical innaccuracies, Arthur Russell was definitely my most listened to artist (I should acknowledge, the reason for the number being so high for him, is partly due to a night when I had someone in my bed who I was trying to explain the magic of Arthur Russell too. This meant we ended up listening to a playlist of pretty much everything ever released through the course of a night. We were mostly asleep).
Of course, the numbers aren’t the point here, what’s important is that Arthur Russell seriously grabbed me. For an artist with such a varied output, from disco to proto-Hip Hop to classical experimentation, this was a man who knew how to touch hearts. His country album is somewhat patchy, but when it’s good, it’s miraculous, life affirming, tragic and upsetting, which I guess is what good country should be.  His disco is stripped back, unusual, perfectly produced and exciting. His Hip Hop is strange and exhilarating. His cello. His cello is just magical. His solo stuff can create new worlds that seem alien and perfect. And then he’ll make you cry with his delicate, honest lyricism.  He really is very, very good. And it isn’t just a crime that he died 15 years ago, but also that it took me (and many others) this long to give him his rightful place in music history.
Realistically, Arthur Russell was many years ahead of the game in terms of music. If you listen to the album Calling out of Context now, you’d think it was ahead of its time when it was released in 2004. To learn that it was recorded in 1985, is incredible. I mean, okay, the drum machines and synth sounds do have that eighties reverb thing, but listening to it in this particular year, that doesn’t sound out of place.  It is of its time, but it is also of now. It is an incredible album, that shifts out of grip constantly. I almost feel like I can’t listen to it directly. The oddness is at times jarring, but as it washes over me I find myself being roped into it’s romanticism.
I don’t have time to offer a full review of his work, and I doubt I’m capable of bringing together enough vocabulary to do it anywhere near justice (one day I’m going to write about the inadequacy of words, but it’ll depress me, so I’m putting it off). There’s so much going on, and so much of it is indescribable. Go and investigate him, I promise you won’t be disappointed. I’ll start you off with the track that started me off on the road to him. You may have heard it before. I beseech you to listen to it many times. It’s simplicity belies a depth that will haunt you and inspire you for months (if not years). At least if you’re anything like me.
If we look at my stats, next up is Radiohead, who are miraculous and fill my hearts with joy, but don’t deserve my attention right now, if only due to them already being huge. I would quickly tell everyone to make sure they’ve listened to In Rainbows as much as it deserved. And to never forget all the others. But you knew that, right?
The Kinks were another belated discovery. Obviously I’d already heard of them, and heard several tracks several times, and I loved it. But I didn’t realise how much until this year. They are everything I want from a band, and that is that.
Marnie Stern comes fourth on the Last.FM list, and deserves to be higher, but doesn’t have the sort of breadth of back catalogue to compete. Basically, with two albums, she has shown me that guitars have more voices than I thought they did. That is important and impressive. She also often manages to sound like she’s satirising 80s hair metal, whilst simultaneously producing incredible examples of it. My favourite track of the latest album was the immensely tumultuous ‘Vault’ which literally sounds like it’s tearing apart metal cliches and use them to inspire an escape into an imaginary forest. That may just be me though.
I wanna demonstrate her 80sness with her cover of Don’t Stop Believing, but I can only do it by linking to a video of stills of weird make up.  You have been warned.
The Books have once again touched me a lot this year. They have a very odd way of doing things. Cut and paste sampling techniques, grabbing found sounds that give them a sense of antiquity or datedness despite the fact that sonically, they are relatively cutting edge. Bizarre drum patterns and guitar loops that seem at times almost random but always focussed (the fact that they are fans of aleatoric music implies that they may be as random as they seemed) and most importantly affecting. The song above, Take Time, from the album the Lemon of Pink, never fails to make me feel incredibly inspired and positive. The odd, almost random structure, the pleasant uplifting non sequiters, the laughter. This is a simple song about people taking their time to enjoy life, and with no narrative, it still manages to actually not just sum this idea up, but also force you, as the listener to do so.
That’s pretty special.
So that’s the Last.FM top 5 covered, but it’s still missing some of my best picks of the year.
Probably my official album of the year prize goes to Micachu‘s Jewellery. This is an incredible and incredibly short album. Barely any tracks go far beyond two minutes long, yet she almost seems to fulfil Brian Wilson’s dream of creating a pocket symphony. There is SO much depth to this tiny little punky ditties. They are angry shouts and violent outbursts, but they are rich. Matthew Herbert’s production clearly helps, but it is definitely Mica Levi’s record. This is emphasised by the live show (probably my live show of the year, even topping my long awaited chance to see MH’s own big band), which was if anything deeper, richer and more exhilarating than the album.
The tone is perfect throughout this album. Machine gun clatters of words and percussion. Tiny toy guitars imitate classic riffs and then descend into violent noise making. It’s an aggressive album, but a welcoming one too. Mica’s heart is quite often laid bare and exposed, but she stands defiant. There is no vulnerability, only positive self expression. My lord that sound ridiculous.
What I’m trying to say is that this album is essentially a rich and deep and emotional punk record. It’s home-made but refined. It’s complex yet urgent. It’s contradictory and brilliant.
It’s nigh on perfect.
So we’re starting to notice that I do trend (and tend) towards the unusual in my musical tastes. Nothing excites me more than something that I have never heard the likes of before. I count one of the miracles of the musical world the fact that this actually happens at all. Especially considering the amount of music I listen to. Micachu was pretty out on a limb, as was Marnie (for me, I’m sure others have heard others that shred as well, metal is not something I’m deep in). Arthur was too, even despite the years that have past since, unique. He remains so.  There is no better compliment I pay to something than saying it is different, or unique, or strange.
So I hail what I think is the most different unique and strange artist I have heard this year. I heap and lavish praise upon something so out of the ordinary, and so immediately present, that I had to start this entry with him. If this isn’t enough, take a look at this live performance. It’s rough around the edges, but I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen anything like it.
That is how you play a fucking Swanee whistle.
ImagineIAM came out of nowhere this year. In fact, to be realistic, I suspect they are still there. With one single release on the excellent micro label Hand on the Plow, they instantly became my most loved new artist. The shock of hearing something so obviously dance music, but also so violently arrhythmic (well, poly rhythmic probably) and personal, was…well… Lets just say that I needed it the moment I heard it. I have played it every single time I have DJed since, and everytime I’ve enjoyed watching people smile, try to move in time, and then look quizzically at me or the speakers. It’s baffling, but it deserves to be listened to. This is exactly what mouth music should be about. It’s childish playground yelling, banging a loud drum and just showing pure excitement. The fact that it all hangs together into something real in interesting, that makes it genius. This is brilliant stuff, and I can’t wait to hear more. There’s an unnamed album (or fragments of it) available on the Last.Fm page I just linked to. It doesn’t have the single tracks though, which I recommend you buy, they are available.  They are also incredible, inspiring and really fucking odd.
Go and listen, I promise you won’t regret it. Though you may be occasionally confused by it.
Which is wonderful.
—-
Stories I’ve not got round to?
Dan Deacon’s thrilling excitement, Moondog, including the fascinating live show, Matthew Hertbert Big Band, who I saw live and got the album, from potentially my favourite ever producer. These are three of my favourite things and I haven’t mentioned them in this round up, apart from now, or slyly. Terrible. Despicable.
Ah well.
—-
Slightly skewed top 15 artists according to Last.FM (with notes from me):
1. Arthur Russell                   737
Virtuouso renaissance man. Sorely missed.
2. Radiohead                           315
Most important band of the last 20 years? Genuinely possible.
3. The Kinks                             291
Old school. Fun, rich and deep.
4. Marnie Stern                       290
Shredded guitars, passionate vocals, strange.
5. The Books                             215
Emotive, jerky and weird.
6. Masha Qrella                       212
Simple, lovely calming music with a sexual edge. Great voice.
7. Portico Quartet                  186
Divine ‘nu’-jazz. Though not utterly nu. Fantastic and engaging.
8. Matmos                                  176
Ultimate in filth and sound sculpture, but with soul. Of a sort.
9. Minotaur Shock                  166
Beautiful, optimistic and uplifting electronica.
10. Tomas dvorak                   150
Soundtrack to Machinarium, incredibly warm and lush.
11. Dan Deacon                         149
Turns me into an overexcited child.
12. Ferrante and Teicher      145
Nice old fashioned experimental piano covers.
13. Andrew Bird                       124
How to write indie rock and still be interesting.
14. Mice Parade                        121
Experimental percussion centric songs with guitars. Lovely.
15. Joanna Newsom                119
I love her rather grating voice. Makes my heart burst.

Three Part Harmony – Different Songs Though

Edie

So this is a dias de los muertos post, in memory of a fine young lady whose died today last year. Tomorrow I picnic with her (weather permitting), and today and tomorrow I will spend thinking of her and others I have lost.

Dying young is clearly a tragedy, but it sometimes makes it easier to remember how brightly some people shine. Maybe it’s a trick of the light, but the two good friends I’ve lost prematurely (both 19 at the time of passing) seem like two of the brightest stars I’ve ever met.

My memories of Edie are almost entirely filled with laughter, the title of this post counting as one of the happiest moments of my life. As we strutted down an autumn path, damp leaves and puddles scattered underfoot, we belted out, myself, Edie and another dearly loved friends, three different songs simultaneously. Edie didn’t know the words to Multiply, so she chimed in with the Postman Pat theme music, Lou had something else on her mind entirely, and sang something different.

The rhythms just about worked, there was a lack of tunefulness, but there was so much joy and absurdity that every time I look back to it I smile, laugh and feel warm inside.

We all need to remember that the world is silly, and we normally need to work to encourage it to be more so.

There is room for emotion and excitement everywhere. That’s something I’ve learnt. It’s okay to feel and it’s okay to express it.

It’s okay to miss people, but it’s better to remember the joys you felt with them. Admittedly, that’s what you’re missing, but never forget that that’s also what you got.

Every moment is valuable, and anything that happens could easily not have. I am incredibly lucky to have known such fantastic people throughout my life. I have acres of memories of connection, contact, love and joy. This is the gift people have given me and it is something I carry with me forever.

Contact with people creates a large part of who you are, so nobody truly disappears. We live on in the people we touch, and the people who touch us live on in us.

That’s beautiful.

I think I’ve mentioned all this before, and this next bit too.

Apparently Marconi believed in his latter years that sounds never ended, they just got quieter and quieter until we could no longer detect them. He hoped to use appropriately advanced equipment to listen to the Sermon on the Mount.

I’m just happy to believe (or even to just hypothesise) that it means that as well as the ripples we leave in other people, there is some part of everything we’ve done out there. The sound. It’s humbling; reminding us that we leave a mark. We must be accountable for our actions, but also, we never lose anything.

The same is mirrored in the Conservation of Energy. ‘Life is not ended; only changed.’ Or something like that.

Anyway, somewhere, possibly, drifting into the ether, is an incredibly quiet (and incredibly disharmonious) three-part harmony, three different songs, clashing merrily.

That makes me happy.

Love you Edie, love you Will, Love you Julie, Love you Nan and Gramps (both Gramps), Love you Alison, Love you Harry.

Love everyone I’ve known and lost. And love everyone still here.

 

 

 

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Now playing: Pan American – [Quiet City #07] Het Volk [foobar2000 v0.9.5.2]
via FoxyTunes