Now Playing: Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling.
Industrial ghost – winding gear of the Frances Pit Dysart, 08.02.14
Now playing: Matt Berry – Kill the Wolf
Once we looked to the horizon.
How can we see now?
in the white wall
a pulse, a tracing
an inscription of breath.
An acronym, or
an interruption, or
…………………………………………….- the sky
a feathered script
At the ghost pier
the ebb and flow
etched – in wood
a redundancy of nails
A polished pewter sky
dreams a wash of
the pull towards
to sit and stare.
to the lichens
On the cliff top,
who is watching
the solitary watcher
and at the bench
an outward gaze
and once again
the edge of the horizon.
Musings from a short walk in the village of Aberdour, Fife, on 28th December 2013.
Thanks to @emmaZbolland for “Pewter light” in response to an earlier tweet of the Ghost Pier.
Now playing: Translucence – John Foxx and Harold Budd.
Would just like to take the opportunity to wish everyone all the best for 2014. Thank you for your support which has been much appreciated in 2013.
Pause. Breathe. In. Out. Pre-
pare the sounding board you’ll be
for the pell-mell bells.
(Ron Butlin – from Four Haikus for a New Year).
Please excuse the following indulgence. Normal service will be resumed shortly!
A Musical Year: Soundtracks of 2013
Heroine of the year: Éliane Radigue.
As Radigue approaches her 82nd birthday, 2013 finally saw a release for Ψ 847, her c. 80 min electronic piece originally conceived in 1973. Important Records also reissued the rare and monumental Adnos I-III and just before the year end Shiiin released the first complete recording of Naldjorlak I II III. All of this recorded documentation was rounded off by being lucky enough to catch a concert in Paris of her ongoing Occam Ocean series of compositions for her trusted acoustic collaborators: Charles Curtis, Carol Robinson, Bruno Martinez, Robin Hayward, Julia Eckhardt, and Rhodri Davies.
Hero of the year: Ilan Volkov.
Curator of the world class Tectonics festival in Glasgow and (Reykjavik) bringing together works by composers such as Alvin Lucier, Morton Feldman, Iancu Dimitrescu, Ava-Maria Avram and Hanna Tuulikki. A highlight was watching Alvin Lucier lift the lid off his sonic teapot. Performers included Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley, Aidan Moffat, Hildur Guðnadóttir and Volkov himself who took part in a rousing version of Ambarchi’s Knots. In addition, Volkov continues to spearhead ‘new’ orchestral music and has conducted the BBC SSO in many fine performances including works at The Proms by Cage, Feldman, Varèse and Cardew alongside emerging, contemporary composers.
A big shout out also to the Counterflows festival. Another world class event for Glasgow which in 2013 included Loren Connors and Suzanne Langille, Phill Niblock, Jandek, Lina Lapelyte and a blistering closing set from Peter Brötzmann and Paal Nilssen-Love. The line up for 2014 is already looking pretty fabulous.
So in alphabetical order:
The Dead C - Armed Courage (Ba Da Bing)
What they always do, very well.
Kevin Drumm - Tannenbaum (Hospital Productions)
Often reduced to the ‘noise’ tag. Drumm has produced some incredible deep drone music over the past few years. This is a long, unfolding masterpiece. All 2.5 hours of it.
The Fall – Re-Mit and The Remainderer
Because anything by The Fall is worthy of celebration.
Fire! Orchestra – Exit! (Rune Grammofon)
The big band spirit of Sun Ra lives.
Bruce Gilbert & BAW - Diluvial (Touch)
Sounding global warming.
Ramon Humet and The London Sinfonietta – Niwa (Neu)
Zen gardens, haikus in sound.
The Incredible String Band - Live at the Fillmore 1968 (Hux Records)
Long available as a bootleg, but good to have a decent recording which captures the ISB at their creative peak. “They tell me I was there” – Robin Williamson.
Keith Jarrett - No End (ECM)
Bit of a lo-fi curio but a fascinating glimpse into the Jarrett mind (or self indulgent noodling depending on preference). Essentially a home recorded guitar album from 1986, but only recently released. (He also plays bass, drums, tablas, percussion, recorder, and piano).
Dennis Johnson - November (Irritable Hedgehog)
Tremendous piece of archive reconstruction from Kyle Gann and admirably recorded by Andrew Lee. Jeremy Grimshaw’s book on La Monte Young fills in some of the back story on this ‘forgotten’ work and Johnson’s friendship with Young.
Brian Lavelle - My hands are ten knives (Quiet World)
BL has built up a fascinating body of sound work, both solo and in collaboration. Very much enjoyed a more minimal direction in 2013 and could easily have chosen 56 Revealings which was another fine release.
Alan Licht – Four Years Older (Editions Mego)
Blue Humans, Text of Light. Noisy guitar poet
Roscoe Mitchell - Not Yet (mutable music)
Stunning set of concert compositions. Features conductor Petr Kotik who will be familiar to the Cage/Feldman crowd.
Mogwai – Les Revenants
Never caught the TV series but the music stands up very well on its own. A January release for Rave Tapes should get 2014 well underway.
Mohammad - Som Sakrifis (PAN)
Deep, elemental, drone chamber trio.
The Necks and Evan Parker - Late Junction Session, BBC Radio 3
Open is the first Necks album that I found a bit disappointing. In contrast, this session with Evan Parker was a real treat and much more satisfying. A rare collaboration for The Necks.
Phill Niblock – Touch Five
What he always does, very well.
Nohome - Nohome (Trost) (Caspar Brötzmann, Marino Pliakas, and Michael Wertmüller)
Lost track of Brötzmann’s activity in the past few years, but this is phenomenal. Teaming up with sometime rhythm section of Peter B plus FM Einheit. Melting walls, sonic attack.
Jim O’Rourke - Steamroom 1 & 5
These were the only ones we heard of the digital Steamroom series and are superb. The rest probably are as well.
The Pastels - Slow Summits (Domino)
Welcome album return and the soundtrack to the summer.
Pere Ubu - The Lady From Shanghai (Fire Records)
As original and inventive as ever. A holiday in Berlin coincided with a live show. David Thomas luxuriated in overt cantankerousness and necked a bottle of red wine in short order. Table tennis sounds, Ring my Bell
Michael Pisaro - Tombstones (Human Ear Music)
Almost a Julia Holter album. Technically 2012 but CD out in 2013.
Éliane Radigue - Ψ 847 (Oral); Adnos I-III (Important); naldjorlak I II III (Shiiin).
You have to experience Radigue. Words fail. Meditation helps.
Shampoo Boy - Licht (Blackest Ever Black)
Terrible name, but dense, ear pleasing drone from Peter Rehberg & friends.
Splashgirl – Field Day Rituals (Hubro)
An even worse name but combine them Shampoo Boy and you could have a Robert Rodríguez film. A piano trio produced by Randall Dunn with some guest appearances from Eyvind Kang.
Burkhard Stangl - Unfinished. For William Turner, painter (Touch)
Minimal guitar saturated with atmospheres.
Jakob Ullmann – fremde zeit addendum 4 (Edition RZ)
Needs full attention.
Water of Life – s/t
Wire – Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)
Still waving the Pink Flag.
Acid Mothers Temple - Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Glasgow
At their genre shredding best in a small basement club.
Dick Gaughan - Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline
A man with a guitar, a sense of history and political commitment. Great raconteur as well.
Dieter Moebius - Live score to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis - The Arches, Glasgow
Part of Sonic Cineplex at The Arches Glasgow.
Meredith Monk - On Behalf of Nature - Lyceum, Edinburgh
Theatre/music piece inspired by Gary Snyder.
Mogwai, performing live to Zidane, A 21st Century Portrait - Broomielaw, Glasgow.
An outdoor, summer gig in Glasgow. Also intrigued by the moon.
Nazoranai (Keiji Haino, Stephen O’Malley, and Oren Ambarchi) – Stereo Glasgow.
Easily the loudest gig ever witnessed. Earplugs next time but exhilarating
Pere Ubu - Quasimodo, Berlin
Éliane Radigue, Compositions from Occam Ocean - Collège des Bernardins, Paris
This music/sound rearranges the molecules of the body. A big thanks to A who came along on what was a romantic weekend.
Il Sogno del Marinaio (Mike Watt/Stephan Pilia/Andrea Belfi) – Mono, Glasgow.
Mike Watt is always interesting live and intrigued to see Pilia in this setting having previously loved his Action, Silence Prayers album.
Patti Smith and Philip Glass, The Poet Speaks (A tribute to Allen Ginsberg) – Playhouse, Edinburgh
Was a bit apprehensive about this beforehand, as in may not equal the sum of parts, but what a superb evening. Patti expressed her admiration for Robert Louis Stevenson as well.
Television – The Sage, Gateshead
A rare chance to see a favourite band so well worth a trip to Newcastle and saw Schwitters Merzbarn wall the next day.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - SECC, Glasgow
Broke my vow to never visit the SECC again and found electric Neil and the Horse in fine form. Out mbv’d mbv.
How the darkness doubled
Standing. In the dark, enveloped by a light rain on the quayside of the River Tyne. The opening lines of Television’s Marquee Moon are snaking through my head. It feels as if the song is seeping out into the city’s arteries. An energy circulating through the cobbled streets, overhead bridges and the reflecting river. Marquee Moon is an album that has always seemed to stand outside of time and yet evokes a strong sense of place. An almost cubist portrait of New York. Tonight it’s Newcastle that is being pulled into the gravity of the song.
The treacly purr of the Tyne does indeed double the darkness upon which two cathedrals of light are painted. The Sage Gateshead, a silver slug of undulating movement in daylight, shape-shifts into a trio of glass pyramids. Bricks of light etched upon the darkness. Its reflective doppelgänger is traced in the depths of the lipping water. All edges smoothed into Guggenheim-esque spirals of shimmering curves.
lightning struck itself
Further up the quayside, the Millenium Bridge indicates the route of travel over the river to where Tom Verlaine & Co will shortly take the stage for a very rare UK appearance. Once again the city appears to absorb and reflect back the enigmatic lyric. Lightning/lighting appearing to strike itself. An arc of rainbow colours - the illusion of movement a solid sphere – a Marquee Moon?
At the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University:
Pasmore’s description of the Apollo Pavillion as “an architecture and sculpture of purely abstract form through which to walk”.
The Merzbarn Wall
I recall being alerted by Diana J. Hale to Kurt Schwitter’s Merzbarn near Elterwater in the Lake District. Created in 1947 – 48 the Merzbarn was Kurt Schwitters’ final, and in his own estimation, ‘greatest’, piece of work.
The Hatton Gallery has on display, as a permanent installation, the Merzbarn Wall which was part of the original barn construction at Elterwater. The Wall was unfinished when Schwitters died in 1948 and in 1965, after lengthy discussions about the barn’s future, the Wall was given to Newcastle University who undertook its removal, restoration and preservation. The Merzbarn was based on Schwitter’s idea of collage, in which found items are incorporated into an art work. Schwitters applied a rough layer of decorator’s plaster and painted over various found objects, giving the three-dimensional collage an abstract quality. The items incorporated into the wall include:
A slate log splitter
A small metal window frame
The rose of a child’s watering can
Part of the rim of a cartwheel
A china egg
A section of guttering
Part of an oval gold mirror frame
A metal grid
A rubber ball
Stones from Langdale Beck
Some Gentians – which have now disappeared
Asked what the Merzbarn Wall meant, Schwitters replied: “all it is, is form and colour, just form and colour”.
Merzbau – the creation of environments which use the forms and even debris from local places to create a new environment. Initially in the form of assemblages, Schwitters developed the human scale environments which he called Merzbau.
Kittiwakes on the Tyne
From March until August, Newcastle/Gateshead quayside becomes home to around 600 pairs of breeding Kittiwakes. Normally found on coastal cliffs, the Tyne Kittiwakes clearly prefer the narrow ledges of the Tyne bridges. The Kittiwake colony is the furthest inland anywhere in the world and makes Newcastle one of the few cities to have a seabird colony in its centre.
There are no Kittiwakes to be observed on this visit as they will be out soaring on Atlantic winds over the winter. Some will travel as far as Canada and Greenland. However, it is comforting to know that come Spring, they will once again hear the unheard pulse of the city guiding them back to their breeding grounds on the bridges of the Tyne.
The Bigg Market
A lonely carved stone huddles unceremoniously in the Bigg market. The elegance and grace of the craftsmanship still evident and contrasted against the utilitarian tardis of the neighbouring, municipal rubbish bin. The stone, in its displaced environment, is now likely to be a seated sanctuary for the nocturnal fag smokers taking a breather from Club Luna next door. A silent witness to the human stains from last nights excess dried hard against the pavement.
A steampunk kind of city. A collision of multi-level curves and cobbles as retro-futuristic bridges cut across the sky.
Saturday at 12.15pm
Under a shifting sky
a chorus of angels
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . – of the North
sing to the wind.
flood the city
Powered by steam: the tendrils that connect the local into webs of possibilities and extended horizons. Encounters with the other. Creating an expansive map.
The curious case of the virtual building at Trinity Chare on 57 Quayside. Did this building once exist here? It would appear improbable.
Explore behind the facade of the spectacle:
Herbs in the City
Botany scrutinised at the bottom of walls
imaginable palpation raises them to the dignity of
emanated from the earth
to the condition of contention
- Raymond Queneau - from Hitting the Streets
“Dare to be Free”
Turning from the river, the narrow vennel (chare?) of Watergate frames Bessie Surtees House. All wobbly frames of black and white like a hand drawn illustration This was the scene on 18th December 1772 when a young, 17-year-old Bessie, daughter of a rich banker, climbed out of a window to elope with her lover to Scotland. It was considered such a major scandal at the time that people would come to stand and stare at the house.
I stand and stare at the house before learing of this story.
A shift of level. With a final look back to the river, a chinese box of stairwells unfold to lead up towards the (New) Castle Keep and the Black Gate.
So he resumed his walk, but the way proved long. For the street he was in … did not lead up to the Castle hill, it only made towards it and then, as if deliberately, turned aside, and though it did not lead away from the Castle it got no nearer to it either.
Franz Kafka The Castle
A very well-preserved ghost sign built into the brickwork. It can always seen on any train journey that passes through Newcastle.
The building is a is a rare surviving witness to the replacement of the horse by the motor car. Originally built in 1897 as a horse, carriage and cycle auction room it was essentially a showroom for horse-drawn carriages. By the 1920s the future prospects of horse-drawn transport were pretty bleak so the building was adapted to serve as one of the first motor car garages and dealerships. I subsequently find out that the building stands on top of, part of the buried remains, of Hadrian’s Wall.
Layered histories converse in the topography of place.
A fixed departure train ticket means that time is running short so no time to look for a building that I have heard so much about: The Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle Upon Tyne or The Lit & Phil as it appears to be known locally. Serendipity intervenes and I stumble across the building very close to the station only to discover a one day book sale in progress. Twenty minutes to browse before the train leaves. I trust the space and know that the books will call out. They do. It all works and it’s a short walk to the station to catch the train.
As the train heads northwards, I nod to Coopers Motor Mart. No longer simply a sign from a train window but time stacked in layers as a material place which the act of walking has ‘made real’.
A trace of footsteps are left behind. One more scratch upon the city streets and a drift through one version of Newcastle is assembled in memory. A small fragment of fragments. The city, carried within.
Merzbau - the creation of environments which use the forms and even debris from local places to create a new environment.
Now Playing: Tom Verlaine – Warm and Cool
The Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle.