on life, music etc beyond mainstream


Silk Flowers first appeared on my pop radar with a couple of 45s and EPs around 2008-9. Intrigued, I decided to try and guess their geographical origin by listening for inflections in the music that might provide some clues. North of England, definitely. Not Manchester (the city), or Merseyside or Yorkshire though. Somewhere in Greater Manchester. Maybe Bolton. Maybe Chorley. Possibly Wigan. Yeah, definitely Wigan. Later, I found out they were actually from Manhattan or Brooklyn, or both. So much for inflections.

The music on Silk Flowers is a strange and often unsettling mix. You get a vibe of closed-off gloom from it. As if its authors were consumptive Victorians in a locked ward in a sanitorium, who had nothing to do, then a time-traveller appeared from nowhere and gave them some synths, a drum machine and a microphone. To say that Silk Flowers owe Ian Curtis a debt is to misunderstand what’s going on here. This isn’t a band that are trying to emulate Ian Curtis. They’re taking an element of the Curtis thing, isolating it, and doing scientific experiments with it. Pitchfork (I just looked up a review) said the following in their review of the record:

Despite a list of influences eclectic and goth-y, and despite a singer doomed to Ian Curtis and/or Cookie Monster comparisons, Silk Flowers‘ pop instincts are surprisingly strong.

I like the Cookie Monster reference, because there is humour here, within these heavy, dank, bible-black atmospheres. The backing music is often sprightly despite itself. What was it Samuel Beckett said, again? Oh yeah – „Nothing is funnier than unhappiness“. I’ve never taken this to mean Schadenfreude though – because it’s fairly obvious that Beckett was dealing in universals. And if life is a one-way street to death, well, what can you do but laugh?

Rather then break this release down track-by-track, it’s probably better to dispense with the idea of constituent parts and see it as if each track is the same track, time overlapping, a musical Tralfamadore. It’s also good to dispense with the idea that you’re, like, listening to a record. Think of it as art and imagine you are walking through a gallery and this is the art that’s on the walls. This record is a triumph. A winner. And no mistake.

Notes: this post is #39 from our Lost Classics series. I think the band Silk Flowers is now no more. Short interview from ages ago here.

2017 19 Jun


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2017 2 Jun


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Music, maybe it sometimes needs context like blood needs oxygen. I remember getting the train from Warsaw to Łódź last year and (as luck would have it) I’d just downloaded a cracking Jesu album onto my Moto G4 (or was it Moto G3) and as the unfamiliar landscape fed my eyes, unfamiliar music bathed my brain. It was a perfect winter afternoon. And Łódź was definitely my kind of town, and the music was the right accidental choice. Łódź, a perfect city.

Hearing „Yonder“ by Sophie Hutchings for the first time today, my only disappointment was that the moment wasn’t in an out of everyday life context. But that lack of context was a context in itself. When music hits you it kind of doesn’t matter whether you’re on a night train across Russia, a plane over London, or in your kitchen.

If you like, say, Playing the Piano by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Perhaps by Harold Budd, or In a Landscape by John Cage, or whatever, then I’d say Yonder is worth checking out. The compositions on the record are astoundingly good – and what makes this even better is that its originality is half-hidden. Structurally intricate but never for the sake of it. Only on a second listen does this record’s genius start to fully emerge. Then today became tomorrow, six or seven more listens. Yes, this is a sound discovery.

Record: Yonder
Artist: Sophie Hutchings
Label: 1631 Recordings
Oh yeah.

2017 26 Mai

Cologne 6

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1. Monocle Scent One Hinoki by Comme des Garçons
2. Soudain L’Hiver by Henry Jacques
3. Terre d’Hermès by Hermès

4. Cuiron by Helmut Lang
5. Endymion by Penhaligon’s
6. Damask Oud by Hugo Boss

Playlist One
Playlist Two
Playlist Five
Playlist Four
Playlist Six
Playlist Three

Happy birthday, Mr. Budd!

Birthdays go along with memories. Even with memories beyond nostalgia and general consent. Harold Budd’s „Bandits of Stature“ isn’t the most immediate of listens. Not because it’s like not any good, obvz. No, more because it is so advanced that listening to it involves a degree of neuroplasticity. Your brain has to form new neural networks in response to it. It is, literally, a mind-expanding work.

I have a problem with neoclassicism – mainly because the term itself is an oxymoron. So any work that’s comprised largely of compositions for string quartets is going to have to make a formal leap way beyond the strictures of genre, lest it becomes cod-classical or sub-soundtrack fluff. Bandits of Stature makes this formal leap, and – perhaps even more incredibly – uses concrete psychoacoustics to lift it out of the composition box. It’s not simply a compositional exercise – everything from the placing of the microphones to the air pressure in the room and the phase of the moon are central to this work.

Is music pre- or post- or super- or meta- or ultra- or sub-linguistic? Does it project senses onto the listener or do we project senses into the music? Does it tell a story? I don’t know, and I don’t much fucking care. What I get from this is what I get from it. And what I get is a sense of noir placed in blinding light, aridity and blazing heat. Of mystery hiding in plain sight. Of wide streets at the edge of the desert. Of illumination so intense that the inner self diving further ever further downward to escape the glare, only to resurface in the time of gloaming.

One of my favourite novelists is Lawrence Block. It’s probably a disservice to call Block a novelist. The dude is much more than what that slightly stupid word is supposed to mean and/or connote. Block is a magician. One of very few writers of stories who fully knows not so much that fiction is fiction but the how of fiction being fiction, and it’s only when a writer of stories has this in their writing that fiction can be more than the communication of the writer’s values or imagination. It’s uncanny and mediumistic, and if you try and work out how some writers can do this, you can’t. Some writers conjure a universe in miniature that you can hold in the palm of your hand. They give you worlds to play with. And none of this is done via ambition or an attempt at immortality. Neoclassicise your writing and it will be dead before you pick up your fucking typewriter.

And Bandits of Stature reminds me, in a way, of Block, for the reasons stated above. And Rothko too, to an extent. And Hopper. All stand at just the right angle from their subject matter, letting the infinite in.

Oh, and this:

Totul este rupt, totul este reparabilă. Ceașcă rupt. Solidaritate, amiciţie, dragoste, pace -intact.

2017 23 Mai

In a landscape

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Thug mise dhut biothbhuantachd
is dè thug thu dhòmhsa?
Cha tug ach saighdean
geura do bhòidhchid.
Thug thu cruaidh shitheadh
is treaghaid na dòrainn,
domblas an spioraid,
goirt dhrithleann na glòire.


2017 19 Mai

Jazz lifers! Take your pick

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A Love Supreme
On the Corner/New York Girl/Thinkin‘ One Thing and Doin‘ Another/Vote for Miles
Robot 415
Giant Steps
Spanish Key
Lazy Calm


2017 13 Mai


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You’re already in space

Beneath the grass and a stone that bears your name

Trabants still in orbit

And Budapest is a city I can’t get the hang of. Up, down, átváltozás, turn around. Please don’t let me hit the ground. Oh, if you could fall for a city. Staying in the same place, just staying out the time. Touching from a distance. Further all the time. Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the electromagnetic radiation left over from the big bang. (It

was only a theory.) You’re already in Space


2017 6 Mai

Elysium FC

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The first thing to say about Elysium FC is that it doesn’t exist, and never did. The club’s ghost stadium – kinda like a Spectral San Siro, a Stade des Fantômes – is an amazing place at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Elysium FC will never die is the ghost chant from the ghostcrowded terraces. Elysium FC will never die.





There is something in the air here. Something deep, human, full of belief. Transcendental. I walk around. I move like a phantom. I’m at a loss to explain it though, this vibe. Then my phone rings. It’s André Breton. He has this to say:

Everything flows to make us believe that there exists a certain part the mind where life and death, the real and the imagined, the past and the future, the communicable and the incommunicable, the high and the low, cease to be perceived as contradictions.

And I think ‚Oui, André, c’est vrai‘ but the phone goes dead. So I WhatsApp my reply:

Tout est vert, tout d’un coup.

The playlist for the above photos is as follows:

Photo 2: Everything You Do Is A Balloon
Photo 3: Giftwrap Yourself, Slowly! (avoid any unintended Anglo-Deutsch puns on the word ‚Gift‘, though. lol)
Photo 1: Mutability (A New Beginning Is in the Offing)
Photo 5: Our Lives (Lost, Bolivia, New York)
Photo 4: Max

The cup is broken.
Everything is broken.
Everything is repairable.
Je me promène.
Principalement, je me promène.

2017 30 Apr

The Palace of Elysium

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The first thing to say about The Palace of Elysium is that it never existed.
The road to Elysium
Google Maps wasn’t much use. The name of the approach road is marked as „unnamed road“ which is kind of amusing. You follow Unnamed Road for maybe 20 minutes. Then you find a piece of raised earth, like a neolithic burial ground. In front of it, a discarded extraction fan and some sections of plastic industrial piping.

First sight of Elysium
Eventually you get to the building. On first sight it’s unimpressive. It’s completely sealed off by aluminium perimeter fencing topped with razor wire. I had to photograph the building from between narrow gaps in the fence. From this angle it could be a car park, or 1960s public housing in North London. There are – inexplicably – four redbrick cooling towers outside, and someone has painted a mystical four-syllable poem on the front of the building: EXPENSIVE SHIT.

Inside the Palace of Elysium
Like I said, you can’t go inside. These photographs were also taken by putting my phone through gaps in the fence, hence the awkward angles and inelegant framing.


At this point, and for no reason, RD Laing pops into my mind. Then pops back out again, saying nothing.
The TV room & a bedroom window
The TV room, where people once presumably sat watching Kojak, Hawaii 5-0 and Star Trek:

And it’s odd how the blocky, concrete car park shape of the building suddenly gives way to other forms. The TV room is round. What this means in terms of architectural semiotics I have no idea. This cell block also has curved walls. Its window is now glassless and forlorn.

The Zone


It wasn’t possible to get a good shot of The Zone. It’s actually right on the edge of a precipice so you have razor wire in front of you and a 100 foot drop on the other. And so you can’t step back and get the whole of this structure in the shot. It’s like a flattened amphibious landing craft set on a massive plinth, with an observation window at the front, again now glassless.
My phone rings. It’s Ivan Chtcheglov. He says this:

All cities are geological. You can’t take three steps without encountering ghosts bearing all the prestige of their legends. We move within a closed landscape whose landmarks constantly draw us toward the past. Certain shifting angles, certain receding perspectives, allow us to glimpse original conceptions of space, but this vision remains fragmentary. It must be sought in the magical locales of fairy tales and surrealist writings: castles, endless walls, little forgotten bars, mammoth caverns, casino mirrors. These dated images retain a small catalyzing power, but it is almost impossible to use them in a symbolic urbanism without rejuvenating them by giving them a new meaning.

The Palace of Elysium must be built.

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