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2014 20 Aug

“Little Queenie”

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Chuck Berry konnte sie nicht in Zusammenhang mit Shakespeare bringen, auf Patti Smith konnte sie sich besser einlassen, wenn sie Nietzsche gelesen hatte. Ich hatte sie ueberall in Paris gesucht, als sie gestorben war. Erst auf dem dritten Friedhof, dem Montparnasse, fand ich meine Queen “She is too cute to be a minute over seventeen.” Ich wollte nicht, dass sie stirbt. Ihr Sohn hatte ihre Asche aus New York an den Ort gebracht, an dem sie jung war und Vogue las. Nun ist ein letztes Buch von Susan Sontag erschienen: “The DOORS und DOSTOJEWSKI”. Bei meinem naechsten Besuch an ihrem Grab werde ich ihr sagen, dass ich Eric Burdon: “It’s my Life” besser verstehen kann, wenn ich davor, ja was gelesen haben koennte? Mir faellt nichts dazu ein. Aber ein anderer Song von Tom Waits: “Cold Water” koennte verwebend sein.

On fandom. No, I’m not a fan (as such) of Aphex Twin. I’ve known and know people who are acquainted with celebrities as diverse (and sometimes remote) as Banksy (no, really) Benny from Abba (yep) Brian Eno (wow) and Boards of Canada (och aye). Oddly all those start with the letter B but that’s entirely coincimental. But anyway: I’ve never run into anyone, ever, who knows or has even met Aphex Twin. To me, being a fan means taking someone’s work at too high a level. Investing it with too much, like it’s sacramental. Probably easier to do if the artist is as elusive as Aphex Twin. But nah, still not a fan. Or rather, not a fan as such. I couldn’t give a fuck what the guy’s views on politics are, where he buys his insurance, or whether he shops at Aldi or Waitrose.

On lists. Lists are useful. They don’t seek to justify a career, or join the dots. They provide a useful set of reference points. Like this list below. You’ll see it doesn’t venture into the Rephlex releases. It’s just what I listen to most by the artist.
1. Xtal
2. Mookid
3. To Cure A Weakling Child
4. Btoum-Roumada
5. Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michael’s Mount
6. If It Really Is Me
7. On (mu-ZIQ mix)
8. Donkey Rhubarb
9. Flim
10. Bucephalus Bouncing Ball
11.Tamphex – Headphuq mix
12. #20 [this was, I think, untitled. It's the 20th track on Ambient Works Volume 2]
13. Windowlicker
14. I
On SYRO. If it’s all great – job done. If everyone hates it – job done. Either way, I’m all ears. But if it’s all been a hoax? Well …


… it still defines Mirel Wagner’s music perfectly. It certainly applied to her self-titled debut, which brought folk and blues back to their eldritch roots with songs that fell somewhere between nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and murder ballads. It’s an even more apt description of her intensely beautiful and unsettling second album, When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day.



Wagner collaborated with Finnish producer Sasu Ripatti, best known for his work as Luomo and Vladislav Delay; not an obvious choice, considering that his music is largely electronic. However, Ripatti honors her songs by giving them the cleanest, clearest surroundings possible, highlighting her hypnotic fingerpicking on “Dreamt of a Wave” and “The Devil’s Tongue.”

Perhaps even more so than on her debut, When the Cellar Children’s spaces are as eloquent as the music, while subtle effects and slightly fuller instrumentation hover between real and surreal as needed. When the spectral backing vocals float up on “Oak Tree,” a song about an abandoned child who ends up “dreaming underneath,” it’s spine-tingling. Aptly, the motif of buried children runs through the album, but When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day is more about revealing than rescuing. Freedom usually means death, as on “The Dirt,” where a child is ready to “close my eyes and wake up to a new life.”

This poetic simplicity makes Wagner’s storytelling all the more poignant and often horrifying; as with her playing, she implies a wealth of nuances in seemingly direct phrases. “In My Father’s House” paints a portrait of deceptive serenity as Wagner details a household so full of suppressed terror that even “the pictures on the wall never look into your eyes” over velvety strumming. On “Taller Than Tall Trees,” she distills an ambivalent love story filled with an album’s worth of emotional twists and turns in its opening words: “See a girl dressed as a woman/Here’s a man who lies.”

Wagner (and Ripatti)’s technical prowess only enhances the album’s emotional impact. Where Mirel Wagner was a collection of vignettes, these songs revolve around the terrible things people do in the name of love, whether it’s “What Love Looks Like”‘s bitter recriminations, “Goodnight”‘s murder lullaby, or the eerily matter-of-fact opener “1 2 3 4,” where a child killer professes to have “a big big heart and lots of love.” As accomplished as it is disturbing, When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day is a riveting album from a formidable and yes, haunting, talent.

- Heather Phares, allmusic


“I’ve had a quiet day, I’ve listened to this album over and over. The stories never reach out for false consolation, the things told are nearly as bitter as the the things not told. The calmness of the voice is an exercise not to lose the voice at all. The slow motion simply suggests that some day the terror is over. Luck is a luxury. And victims everywhere. Your comfort zone is samsara. Naked music.”  (m.e.)





2014 20 Aug

Almost Like The Blues

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I saw some people starving
There was murder, there was rape
Their villages were burning
They were trying to escape
I couldn’t meet their glances
I was staring at my shoes
It was acid, it was tragic
It was almost like the blues
I have to die a little
Between each murderous thought
And when I’m finished thinking
I have to die a lot
There’s torture and there’s killing
And there’s all my bad reviews
The war, the children missing
Lord, it’s almost like the blues
So I let my heart get frozen
To keep away the rot
My father said I’m chosen
My mother said I’m not
I listened to their story
Of the Gypsies and the Jews
It was good, it wasn’t boring
It was almost like the blues
There is no G-d in Heaven
And there is no Hell below
So says the great professor
Of all there is to know
But I’ve had the invitation
That a sinner can’t refuse
And it’s almost like salvation
It’s almost like the blues




This has been a day full of surprises. First of all, I tried at least to like that record everybody seems to fall in love with, from FKA Twigs, but it left me strangely cold. Maybe someone can offer me a key. The opposite thing has happened with a record I thought, it would just earn my respect, but then I was stunned by its simple and twisted beauty: David Friedman’s solo vibraphone and marimba record, Weaving Through Motion (out on Traumton, middle of September). Then there were two song albums (I had a lot of time today) that, let’s say it simple, totally impressed me with their simplicity, intricacy and, in parts, double bottoms: Mirel Wagner’s sparsely instrumented song cycle “When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day”, and, okay, an old favourite of mine, James Yorkston’s “The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society” (ups, long titles!) The song (with spoken words) called “Guy Fawkes’ Signature” will belong to my top ten song charts of 2014. The ice on the cake was Arve Henriksen’s The Nature of Connections (out on Rune Grammofon): a textural melange of trumpet with strings, soft pulses, no ego – brilliant. You could make a mixtape of all of these albums, just take your two favourites of everyone, and discover your personal sequence. Ah, yes, and the last track on that tape should be a down-load from Kevin Coyne’s “Millionaires and Teddybears”, the song “People”. Let “People” be the closer, and I’ll bet it’ll make your day (on the quiet side of sounds). But, off course, what do I know? P.S. Ups, just forgotten, the fabulous duo of Anja Lechner and Francois Couturier (ECM New Series) would intensify this imaginary mix tape for a rainy day. It’s a soft killer from start to end, with the spirits of Komitas, Gurdjieff and Mompou drifting through open spaces.

2014 18 Aug

The Cover

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“Gosh, what a movie. Terrific, but I had weird dreams afterwards”, she said, “had to dance the crazy vibes away with my favourite Smoke record.” Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill is a very 1960s metaphysical thriller, a cult item treasured by connoisseurs as the kind of film that – for all its delirious craziness – could even be a truer product of Japan than the higher artefacts of Ozu and Kurosawa. It is an erotic and dreamlike pulp noir, and its disdain for any sort of conventional plot infuriated the director’s employers at the Nikkatsu studio. Jô Shishido is Hanada, a hired killer with a sexual fetish for the smell of boiled rice; a bungled job brings him into mysterious contact with Misako (Anne Mari), a woman who hires him for three hits. He becomes obsessed with her, and finds himself in a duel with the legendary top killer, the No 1 (Kôji Nanbara). The obvious comparisons are with Melville’s Le Samouraï or Godard’s Pierrot le Fou – this film holds up against these perfectly well – with hints of John Boorman’s Point Blank and Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner. It is, however, closer to Luis Buñuel in its gleefully disquieting insistence on sudden horrific closeups: the glass eye removed from the skull, the bullet hole, the bleeding head in the toilet bowl. Where Godard had his jump-cut, Suzuki has his disorientating ellipses, his sudden dreamlike time-slips. Genuinely fascinating and bizarre. (out now on DVD/BluRay)



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