A quality of Leslie Winer’s work is that it resists or defies any analysis that could really come close to revealing its dynamic, questioning nature. In the same way that the songs themselves demonstrate the struggle to capture the elusive noumenon of objects, feelings or experiences, so the language that is necessary to describe both the music and the words is inevitably drawn towards (and, as a look at reviews elsewhere will show) must resort to easy analogies or trite categorisation. To really grapple with these songs’ concerns is to enter a vertiginous, dizzying, but exhilarating vortex where, if there are any ‘answers’ then these are not to be found on the level of language (the Soviet psychologist Vygotsky compared a thought to ‘a cloud shedding a shower of words’) – which is merely the point of departure ; better to follow the example of the characters in the Ealing comedy the Lavender Hill Mob, whose descent down the spiral staircase of the Eiffel tower – shedding accoutrements en route, gives them the opportunity to achieve an altered state of consciousness by letting themselves ‘be’ in the moment – beyond thought-language-reason and enter into something that looks like pure joy – or madness. Dunderhead, for example, the fourth track on the Purity Supreme ep ‘Always Already’ – a collaboration between Leslie Winer and Christophe Van Huffel, could easily be labelled with the nearest glib adjective such as ‘cinematic’ or ‘macabre’ etc. or use references to ‘Badlands’ or ‘Deliverance’ (just as I have myself made an (easy?) reference to an Ealing film) and yet whilst it is not hard to see why those labels/references might be used, to do so would not be so much to scratch the surface, as to gorge on the surface alone – to the neglect of everything else – like a pig hunting truffles (well, a not particularly well trained pig). In Japan there is a bath toy that resembles a bar of soap and which, when immersed in the water, begins to spin, effervesce and disintegrate, to eventually reveal the plastic thing concealed within. This track – as with each of the other three songs on the ep, works in a similar way; except that the fizzing, coruscating nature of each, as its concerns are addressed – I hesitate to say ‘revealed’, is ongoing – and whatever “meaning” can be inferred has to be continually revised – refusing to yield to the final death knoll of any fixed interpretation. The concern is with the liminal – with exploring the reality (the word itself is inadequate) that whatever we experience or perceive can only be unsatisfactorily described through fallible words and senses. The words used are just the shed skin of the thing that was experienced.
Each song on the ep is ‘about’ ‘being about’ things – and the references within the songs reflect this: ‘what you notice is the flaw’; ‘The words that I like. Are you revolting’? (‘revolting’ could be the sense of the dynamism of words themselves as they are constantly interpreted and their meanings fixed and then reassessed; their limitations and their recalcitrant nature – Scott Walker likens his own relationship to words as that of a military commander to his troops: where the troops can as easily run amok as meet their military objectives; or it could simply mean ‘revolting’ – in the literal sense of being ‘nauseating’) This view of words recalls the work of French New Novelist authors such as Nathalie Sarraute or Alain Robbe-Grillet. There are repetitions of very precise references to specific moments in time and place (in Milk ST. and ‘Half Past 3 Cowboy’, and yet, as a line in the former puts it: ‘the more specific you get, the more general you’ll be’. As in other songs in her earlier work, statements are made which are overt assertions of certainty: ‘This is….’ or ‘I am….’ and whatever the predicate happens to be – but at the same time this certainty somehow seems to undermine itself and be rendered unobtainable. At the end of Dunderhead the woods woman too is subverting her own narrative – if that’s what it is, by almost caricaturing it in an hallucinatory, playful, riffing manner.
This might give the impression of a dry, intellectual exercise, but the converse is true: there are some drily funny lines; ‘I got a couple of drops of Indian blood, mostly on my hands’; ‘I got a tiny phial of ‘come to me’ & a gallon of ‘get the fuck out’; ‘Mama’s got a brand new fag’; there is brio, attitude, empathy and anger. For me the most affecting song is ‘Famous Inhabitants of Louth’. I have no idea what the references are to, but it doesn’t seem to matter – this is a song that contains joy, sadness, yearning and mirth. The seemingly (and possibly consciously) aleatoric references to the residents of a Lincolnshire town – accompanied on a voyage by an orchestra and cow, to acting as an intermediary for in-fighting pirates, to flies ‘locked in a JSTOR-logo embrace’ and to ‘English sweat’ might seem to be a recipe for distancing or losing the listener altogether – but instead they captivate – cerebrally and emotionally: who would have thought that a detailed description of a Mr Pig watch costing 21 quid could move you to tears? There is something beautiful and pathetic in the meticulous description of this banal object. The music itself is suitably fractured, dramatic or understated – conventional in parts or idiosyncratic elsewhere and the incanted narration is snarled or plangent, playful or vituperative, according to the inflection that the words demand. As the final track says – ‘it’s all good’.
I’m not sure how many people have listened to this ep, but I hope that it gets the exposure, love and critical praise it should – because listening to music doesn’t get much more stimulating and enjoyable than this.