My being mercilessly attacked by a four foot cubed lesbian and the Lord causing a liquid sensation in my favourite curry house aside, it’s been a month and a half of preparations for indefinite somethings as opposed to actually concluding that much. The lack of diary entries has consequently been a tense combination of long time, no write, and long time, no real desire to write.
A Bowness/Chilvers performance at The King Of Hearts along with Alias Grace and Andy Butler was certainly a highlight of the year. Performing stripped down grand piano and voice renditions of ‘California, Norfolk’ and No-Man material, beautiful venue, clear sound and attentive audience combined in an ideal way to provide a reminder of why I do some of what I do. Once more, ‘Things I Want To Tell You’ and ‘Winter With You’ possessed an emotional edge and controlled looseness that pointed at a new direction for the Bowness/Chilvers Hooligan Element.
I joined Darkroom for the first time in two years at the Looping Festival in Cambridge. On the same bill as the always excellent Theo Travis and Peter Chilvers (in electronic mode), and the endearingly peculiar Burning Shed novelty act Um, we pleasurably floated around in sound for half an hour and very effectively rediscovered the lost art of Darkroom.
The Rhinoceros album ‘Tiny Ghosts’ also finally appeared this month and, my guest contribution aside, it’s a consistently strong and inventive offering that along with the more pastoral Marconi Union album ‘Under Wires And Searchlights’ suggests a neglected underground of quietly compelling albums following an interesting and unique post-Trip Hop direction.
This, along with a conversation I had with two highly articulate and musically literate No-Man fans (known only as London Sheffield and Tunbridge Wells Sheffield), leads me to think that the increasing distance between experimental and pop music is producing a generation of discreetly beautiful albums, in which artists are becoming more and more themselves, because they realise that in the world of Christina Aguilera and The Cheeky Girls that they’re less and less commercially viable.
The avant-garde/pop crossover music that commercially thrived from the 1960s through to the mid 1990s (Laurie Anderson, Beatles, Underworld, Massive Attack, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Bowie, Roxy Music, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and many, many others) produced sounds that knowledgeably fused pop sensibility with genuine experimentation. The music sold and a creative middle ground seemed possible. The fragmentation and classification of popular music has meant that operating in-between genres leaves artists with nowhere to go. Metal, Dance, Retro Rock, Jazz, Pure Pop and Country all have their specific radio, TV and magazine outlets, but the truly interesting hybrid musics seem left in a wilderness.
It could be that the psychological impact of this knowledge that the Top 10 single appearance is no longer an option is subliminally affecting the nature of a lot of potential crossover music. For me, the last half decade has been about the generically unclassifiable and serene pleasures of Mark Hollis ‘Mark Hollis’, Bjork’s ‘Vespertine’, Massive Attack’s ‘100th Window’, Sylvian’s ‘Blemish, Beth Gibbons/Rustin Man’s ‘Out Of Season’ and Sigur Ros ‘()’. No-Man’s last two albums and ‘California, Norfolk’ undoubtedly also fit into this ‘quiet world’ of contemporary textures and exposed emotions that exist on the fringes of everything and in the heart of nothing and, as such, are possibly less culturally isolated than they may seem. Hey, a movement!