The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Friday, May 12, 2006
THE DRIFT

COSSACKS ARE

When he wanted to experiment with lithography, Niépce, who lived in the country, ran into the greatest difficulties in procuring the necessary stones. It was then that he got the idea of replacing the stones with a metal plate and the crayon with sunlight.

Click. It clicks.
The citadel next to Ebury Bridge; not quite Victoria, not quite Pimlico; or is it an electricity station? In 1994 it was the centre of the last time. Pass it at 7:15 on a grey Friday morning in August. Karma before the coma.

There comes a time; those two groups of four notes. The guitar which plucks from a decade passed, in preparation for the massive attack of drums and bass, and this field, these white roses will bleed into red ones, the boundaries crossed, those bloody nails again.

someone should have stopped the birds from singing today
hammers from striking nails into clay


and those drums. He marvels at the encyclopaedic fullness, how seemingly only he can go into that miracle that is a recording studio and come out beyond cinema’s scope, so how ya doin’ at this specific midpoint, and the lemon was bled out some while ago, you see him once a decade, but really

In times when nothing stood,
but worsened, or grew strange;
there was one constant good;
he did not change

is it his fault that everyone else did?
and stop, there to stop, dwell, consider what has just been said,

You could easily picture this in the current top ten

Those quotes, here from a dictator elect, there from a review of a treatise on cannibalism, toss them like saddles of yellow pollen in our direction, the words closing in, divorced of context and use, and the pellets are expeditious and determined enough to wound; what is the meaning of blood?
but this quote.
He wonders, ever the egotist despite himself, whether that quote was his. He has voiced that sentiment several times in multiple contexts, both online and in print, definitely somewhere in Uncut, but look, you’re not the only one, far from the only one, who’s said that or something akin to it. Certainly he can picture “this” in his easily (re)current top ten.

The pulse which ends nearly every track or punctuates them at just the one rate, that of a slightly fast pulse, not quite in atrial fibrillation but certainly verging on the tachycardic. Nails ® hammer ®

crucifiction

CLARA

As a person he was not unintelligent. He had read widely in history and thought he understood its lessons. But as dictator he had made the fatal mistake of seeking to make a martial, imperial Great Power of a country which lacked the industrial resources to become one and whose people, unlike the Germans, were too civilised, too sophisticated, too down to earth to be attracted by such false ambitions.

Birds.

Birds.

Like a radio signal, or Parker’s soprano.
Not like those birds.
Not the ones which sustain Bertie.

Then the medieval pageant, the stolid, solid procession to the pyre, the ducking stool, the guillotine, the rope.

dipped in blood in the morning
like what happen in America


Is that putting the oppressors in the same donkey cart as the oppressed? All matter, no matter. It is a plea for humanity and compassion for people who “deserved” neither. Not “a cornhusk doll,” not yet anyway, but then the summary of their not yet solid bodies is VIRTUALLY SWEPT ASIDE BY baying mobs of strings BLOCKS OF PARTISANI jeering and cheering

then a clearing, is that clear?

SHE KNOWS THIS ROOM

quiet, restful sound design undertow, a long-held breath, nearly the last, breathes good, the palazzo no permanent refuge but she can imagine dying in there, the ceiling not yet visible

HIS ENORMOUS EYES

as his doors open the romantic orchestral steals in, just like it was, like he used to do and everyone else still does, but she will clutch his head in sleep to obscure the dangerous moon

THE PIG THE PIG THRASH HIM
the meat punching, in tempo but not in tempo with the rest of the drums and strings, herself soliloquising as her sparrow flaps uselessly against the chimney confines of her penultimate resting place, so you can tell he’s heard some Hermann Nitsch pagan farming ritual operas

then the medieval roundelay again as the cornhusk doll is reduced to that, and what happen in America is the 9 and the 11, the
terrapin with its shell torn away

STILL COMING THROUGH
LAST DAY IN THE LIFE

a narrative, him and the sparrow,

I opened the window
Then I opened my hand


It flew into a wall of bloodied brick.
We will die like they do in Aida
proud and gaunt
not fattened and slaughtered like PIGS

She was the youngest of eight children, all of them and their parents, and for four years, 1941-45, they were effectively kept prisoner in a corner of the attic of their own home. The Germans had come in, ransacked the house, burned the crops, slaughtered the animals, and it had to be a corner of the attic because for three of those four years there was an unexploded bomb in the other corner, so they were scared to breathe, and eventually they were set free, they being in the Province of Isernia, just over the hills from Monte Cassino, but the Americans and the English couldn’t decide whether to shoot the lot of them or simply take them prisoner. Then the Scottish troops came along, were kind and generous with food, supplies and physical effort, and they were escorted to freedom.

Similar experiences were recorded in other parts of Italy, and it is said to be the main reason why the vast majority of the post-war Italian diaspora made their way to Scotland to resettle, including my mother, but not the youngest of the four brothers, who stayed behind in Torino, my uncle Benito, who was named after Mussolini at a time when the population of southern Italy felt that, all factors considered, he was a good thing. My mother still holds the belief that he was good for Italy until he got mixed up with Hitler. I haven’t the heart to tell her.

JESSE

Those guitars of Portishead again, and didn’t they all do this a decade ago, anyway, cold and quietly howling, but what if the King Of The Mountain, stripped of his superfluous goods, can only exist by virtue of his talking to his doppelganger ghost?

Famine is a tall tall tower (with tall strings to match)
Jesse are you listening?

Nose holes caked in black cocaine

He couldn’t save the Towers. Not even by standing astride of them, holding them together, rebuffing the ‘planes as they came through.

Six feet of foetus
Flung at sparrows in the sky


Benito’s other half eats Presley’s other half.
Pow! Pow!

Whispered, not punched, where’s the power, but then in that American Trilogy, the poor dumbly dutiful southerner who ends it with a loud glory glory halle instead of the nearly silent slave song, and those girls, what the fuck are they screaming at, didn’t you just feel listening to it that he wanted to disappear into and die within that “all my trials Lord will soon be over” and never have to come out and live again?

I’m the only one left alive

He sings it alone, full-toned, like Domingo dutifully and decently finishing the aria amidst the wreckage of a newly-bombed La Scala, not like Larry Heard in “Survivor,” and the noble man crumbles but he’s too proud and blinded to show it.

A few tears, the thing with the face. “Show emotion.” That’s what those cocksuckers always told him. Some people don’t, he’d told them. But they always wanted the monkey faces.

Face on the pale monkey nails

JOLSON AND JONES

Writhing, like rock music pinned against a wall of barbed wire like a deformed moth, and that
grossness of spring
which
lolls its head
its bloodied head
against the
twin towered
windows
A TUMOUR BALLOON TO SQUEAK AGAINST THE WINDOW

and somehow he is in Dublin, but
Curare! Curare, curare, curare!
Shoot that poison arrow to his heart

lust among the ruins;
some sawdust where a ring had been

and the old days when the nice girls were turned into whores Jacques, are you listening with those old echosome strings

Sonny boy and SQUAWK LIKE A DONKEY BRAY THROUGH THAT SELF-PLAYING ALTO SAX Caroline Kraabel hm? and the fair senorita ah
those footsteps are we going to hell?

Laura asked me to order a CD compilation of the ‘30s work of the singer Alan Jones, whose big hit was “Donkey Serenade,” the full-length version of which was included. I got the card from HMV a week after she died. I still don’t dare to look at it, nor to play it; it stays securely out of sight.

Donations to the Donkey Sanctuary would be gratefully appreciated; the words on the invitations to the funerals of both Laura and Dave Godin.

We couldn’t stand bloody Al Jolson.

If you descend from the top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, you have to climb down a total of 521 steps.

dipping into the street
the paralysed street

an echoed conversation with the Brogue:
“Yes, it’s a lovely afternoon”

What a lovely afternoon
What a lovely afternoon

It can fairly be said that, in a Carla Bley/Michael Mantler sense, The Drift is to Aerial what No Answer was to Tropic Appetites. You can’t imagine listening to one without having experienced the other, in whichever order. When she puts her hand outside of the boat, The Drift is some of what she feels. Those footprints traipsing all over the house, remember, or was it too early to have washing machines in the Palazzo?

“I’ll punch a donkey in the streets of Galway”??

For fuck’s sake don’t cite The Third Policeman
Then me: “TOO LATE!”

The heartbeat of the man descending the stairs, whose ankles will never again contact solidified ground.

CUE

By the turn of the century, tuberculosis was slowly retreating in most of western Europe, but it was still nearing its peak in northern Europe, one reason perhaps why it was northern artists who most memorably portrayed it.

The Catholic Church teaches that some actions are sinful, sexual acts outside marriage among them. St Thomas Aquinas taught that not every sin is necessarily a crime, and not every crime is necessarily a sin.

A peaceful end of all worlds. Out of the forest of Fennesz drifts a well-known flugelhorn; echoing; Derek Watkins, lead trumpeter with the James Last Orchestra and the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, a man who played on his earliest records, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” among them, a link with his only partially-disowned past. The heartbeat flashes as the strings and electronics gather quiet menace and then two loud climaxes, both sounding a prayer of entreaty, rising and falling Haitian voodoo cadences, trying to ward off the plagues engendered and aimed in their direction, and then that of Africa. The first time it is the staggered 6/8 R&B swing (from a rope) like an Elvis revue gone moulded, the second rock and roll is left to hang as the strings and voices encroach in common, communal anti-worship.

and that launch of deep 1967 strings behind “the fat black crocodile” smirk that he can do it of old if he wants, but there’s the old if that’s what you want to do, brings it back though, to push others forward

And then the heartbeat, the sad unstoppable journey – from herpes to clit, stars led to sky, tumour to breast, then stopped

Songs stop when he feels they naturally need to; melodies arising from thoughts moulded into expression, serve the words but those motifs, discernible and only too familiar

don’t want to listen

HAND ME UPS

AoR snagged on a rope of dagger, rock as it’s never rolled before, guitars not coming forth but Last Trump bottom saxes, pinioned to its spike like a deracinated wasp wails of beat the band, then jazz-rock through the Back Door, might even be an old Back Door riff, but from the “splintering bone ashes” of 22 years ago to “splintering white bone” of now, and the televisual celebrity sold his children to the biggest brother’s house (“Twelve bunnies in a hutch for nine new weeks”) so he becomes the non-Barabbas Jesus, wriggling on the cross erected on the wood of his children’s screams, the ululating counterpart, the full-grown “choirboy,” and the one hand clapping “The audience is waiting.”

I tried I TRIED

and he not being a He will rot
Brain running down along spear from the wound in the eye hole

The hammer nails his heart to the starving stave of sacrifice.

It is quite entertaining to watch a computer simulation that starts with a strong majority of suckers, a minority of grudgers that is just above the critical frequency, and about the same-sized minority of cheats. The first thing that happens is a dramatic crash in the population of suckers as the cheats ruthlessly exploit them…Paradoxically, the presence of the suckers actually endangered the grudgers early on in the story because they were responsible for the temporary popularity of the cheats.

about that ululating counterpart:
No Fado live from last year’s winning country accompanied by a discordant and recognisably Bailey-esque acoustic guitar line; the transsexual was Portuguese

(do I need to insist that you now interrupt this reading to go and listen to Charlie Haden and Paul Motian’s recording of “For A Free Portugal”?)

but then:
Look. Now is our chance!
The whole sea’s boiling. Get the nets.
Come, boy!
They listen to money
These Borough gossips,
Only to money.

however
BUZZERS

This is not a rabbit skinned with a body of silver

It is a horse, they are horses, not senators, not like Caligula, not even like Orwell’s Boxer, they wander the Steppes, their riders long slaughtered, and a wine glass bends in sympathy (as Gary Burton can sometimes do with his vibraphone) against guitar of skykissing vacancy, that’s nearly all that happens here, except for that Fuckhead sample of ka-ta, ka-ta, but low Bartokian strings through “my second stomach” and then a long central meditation on lengthening faces and the strings as sweet and longing as love could ever be
but
Polish the fork and stick the fork in him
He’s done boys
He’s done
Boys

Handke’s performance at [Milosevic’s] funeral was most certainly not pretty. Pronouncing himself happy to support a leader who had “defended his people,” he eulogised a tyrant on trial for genocide and war crimes. He flourished the Serb flag and, pressing forward to touch the coffin, threw a red rose upon it by way of tribute.

A reel for Red Rosa

But does such behaviour mean that his work should be banned?

The wineglass ticks a heartbeat. Counting down to the end.

PSORIATIC

Known in medieval times, according to the sleevenotes, as “the silver people.”
“My disease is to some extent psychosomatic. If you suddenly find yourself covered in lesions or scales or what have you, your normal tendency is to believe that there is something in you that is responsible. Especially if you are a Protestant…The temptation is to believe that the ills and poisons of the mind or the personality have somehow erupted straight out on to the skin. ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ you shout, ringing the bell, warning us to keep off, or keep clear.”

A toneless electric ‘cello, like the ghost of Arthur Russell, sweeps from channel to channel, the amplification of the Angelus, the scratching so intense to the ear accustomed to its deafening immensity of scale. And something, nearly so something, nearly rock, and when he approaches rock he uses Ja-Da, a music hall song from 1919 – as with Jolson and Jones, the parents’ non-him lives are coveted? – and it locks its groove but just as surely he jettisons it, wandering between fields of discarded skin (“Here come the blankets!”) and there is humour, he laughs at his bloody state:

We saw ‘Blankety Blank’…Les Dawson told the losing contestant ‘”You didn’t win but don’t think it hasn’t been fun. It hasn’t.” And at the end he said to camera “To all you people out there I would like to say thank you for sleeping thro’ the progamme.” The format of the programme, the replies of the contestants & the prizes are openly derided & since L.D. is in charge it is all right: his comedy redeems the banality & puts flesh on a scarecrow.

While he wordplays with bye the bye and by the by, citing “anthrax Jesus,” and then, instead of what is printed in the lyric sheet he sings “Stuff the Chancellor” and chokes back a chuckle. But it’s bye and bye and the scratching scrape of ‘cello becomes an amplified heartbeat. It will never stop until it is due, or is made, to stop.

THE ESCAPE

A guitar sliding up the speeds: is that all folk? A solemn tattoo, the car in front follows the long way around, prey moves, predator moves, the final act of the war is being played out and I wish I was in Dixie
the shredding of larks

creeping strings
Kellipot; the shells which, if opened, contain specks of jewel and sunlight, some of which are burned beyond repair, others of which are redeemable.
And JUMP you and me against the world against a crazy Irish jig Revolutionary Ensemble hurrah World about to end Dance with butterflies as we drown in Rumsfeld’s boiling indifference how happy to approach World’s End and it’s the end of something…
…the end of pretending? of hiding?
The dust blows back, the curtain pulled aside and there he is with a very familiar old six-string acoustic, intoning more calmly than anyone has ever intoned:
A lifeline of knuckles – waddles into the afternoon.”
And that voice now comes close as everything else lowers its breath, except for the distant John Barry string synthesiser curlicues, as he walks into your head and from inside your head, looking directly at you, and you can’t close your eyes, you’ll still see him

Look into its eyes

what

It will look into your eyes

open the shell


what’s in the box





no one ever dared to ask what was in that box


please don’t make it that






not

that









no



WWWWWWWWWWHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATZZ
ZZZZZZZZZZZZUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP
DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
CCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKSZ
ZZZZKZZRRSZKSCREAMSGOOOOOOOD SNATCHED YOU BY THE THROATNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDON’T
MAKE ME LOOK AT ITTTTTTTTTTT SEIZE BY THE HEAD NO CHOICE BUT TO LOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKK THE CHILD THE CHILD WHAT’S LEFT OF AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA PRIMUS INTER PARES AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA SCREAM FUCK NOT THE HEAD NOT THE HEAAAAAADDDDD NOT THE FUCKIN HEAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDAAD
DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD NOT HIM NOT HER NOT LOVE THAT’S NOT THE HOPELESS DEM BONES DEM BONES
Even you can see that the thing you’re protecting most is the very same thing that’s making you sad THE SOUL LIVES SHE’S IN ME HE’S IN ME I HAVE TO LIVE BUT NOT AS A PRISONER TO FEAR NOT TO FACE

NO!

No.



A final sustained chord of low strings. That abyss again.
But a tiny, sweet sliver of electronica.
It’s all right.
You made it to the other side.
Standing on that cliff edge for four years.
You had to make the leap.
Of course you landed. You were always going to land.
You are breathless. But you walk, knowing that it had to be faced and stared down and surpassed.

You are not alone as you walk into the front room.

He sits there, a middle-aged man who is neither thin nor fat but looks surprisingly youthful for his years. It’s only when I approach him that I see the scars these four years have wreaked on him. He is naturally rather nervous but happy to see me. Around him books and records tower precariously from every available space. Other people who have been there thought of it as a mausoleum. But to him it’s all alive again.

He can never forget what life was like without your love. Perhaps that’s why he is inordinately fond of the ground upon which you walk.

I approach.

He asks:
So, what do you think?
It’s a heroic failure. Not the record; your assessment and assimilation of it.
I did my best with the resources available. The trick I pushed was not to turn the piece into a precis of the lyric sheet. The trick he pulled was to make a record which demands to be heard before you read what anyone has written about it. I did my best to avoid reading all of the other reviews in close-up detail, and all of his interviews; I wanted to see if this music would still work from the direction in which I approached it. I have absolutely no doubt that what he intended has little or nothing to do with what I’ve read in it.
The ultimate futility of “objectivity” in music writing.
It’s arrogant, I know. The poor artist knocks himself out trying to build a picture of the world as he sees it, and all anyone else can do is interpret it in accordance with their perception of the world. But how else could I, or anyone else, write, if not with true emotion and passion, rather than the sort which gets falsely eulogised in the stupider or more stubborn schools of writing?
This is all very well, but I don’t see that you’ve shed any light on the record at all. Many people will laughingly dismiss it as an excuse to extend your tedious autobiography and throw in a lot of arbitrary quotes in an attempt to hide the fact that you’ve said next to nothing about…
Sigh. The quotes aren’t arbitrary at all; they were carefully chosen, and not just in the spirit of “Cossacks Are.” But in that particular spirit I prefer not to attribute them in this context; it would slow down the emotional flow. I wanted to try to illustrate that, although much of the record is minutely concerned with bodily decay, its eventual effect is cathartic rather than depressing.
Even though it drove you into depression?
I deserved it. One last shredding of diseased larks before the new life can begin in earnest.
Do you feel better for having done it?
I can’t keep on having nightmares for the second half of my life, or having my life dictated by my fear of having them. It’s been hard. But I had to forgive myself, give myself a fair chance at life again. I want a quiet and happy life, filled with beaches and laughs and music and art and the love of the best woman in the world. And it’s there. I can touch it now. I can touch her. And she touches me. And that’s what matters.

I think that a world without The Drift is a world where one can never be happy, because you’re always hiding from the responsibility of facing up to fears and feelings which, if untreated, would ultimately destroy you. But I want an Aerial world, too, one where the grief of that first record leads to the joy immortalised on the second.

I think that The Drift is one of the most remarkable records there has ever been, and the obvious reasons for that I shall leave to others to enunciate; it has shaken me in ways unexpected, even for the artist, and to me it represents a vital and necessary staring down and erosion of…demons. The pictures in the CD booklet – significantly, taken by Iain Sinclair’s sometime Boswell, Marc Atkins – are treated as such to make us think that he is no longer of this world, that he is a remnant. I have found within its textural environment an entirely unanticipated source of personal catharsis, I discern an empathy between word and melody which is breathtakingly bold and right, and every other record released this year should be rightly humble before it.

And you know what? He even gives the record a happy ending. Of sorts.

A LOVER LOVES

A lay melody derived from Dowland. A solitary guitar. A lover mourns: “Corneas misted…A hand that is cold in another colder…”

But someone else won’t let him rest in peace, keeps pestering him throughout his lament: “Psst! Psst!”

The guitar flattens out into fifths and sevenths:
This is a waltz for a dodo
A samba for Bambi…
Bolero for Beuys…

Things either extinct or never having existed.

Colour high
PSST! PSST PSST!

Motionless for seconds at a time
PSSTPSSTPSSSSTTT!

And everything within reach

Who’s been trying to interrupt my grieving all this time?

The whisperer turns round at the end.

Was something else happening?

But the whisperer turns around at the end and says:
“scared?”

Not threateningly. In a friendly, concerned manner. A slight smile. But not a sarcastic one. Anything but. A smile of connection, of symbiosis, of a parallel free-falling soul.

And then the whisperer turns around to me, and it is neither me, nor him; it is you and I realise what you are saying is: “don’t be scared of the future, don’t be scared to leave her, come to me, come with me,” and it is very likely nowhere near what the artist meant, but that is what it means to me, and when I say I love you I have never meant anything more deeply or lastingly.

He was…the poet not of his own sufferings…but of the passions of those around him. The mournful voices of the victims of the Terror…made their way into the Odes. Then the trumpet blasts of the Napoleonic victories resounded in other odes. …Later on, he felt obliged to let the tragic cry of militant democracy pass through him…And what is La Légende des siècles…if not the echo of the great turmoil through human history? …It often seems as though he had collected the sighs of all families in his domestic verse, the breath of all lovers in his love poems…

Notes on the text
All citations in bold type are quotations from the lyrics to The Drift. Not every lyric quotation appears under the entry for the song from which it derives.
All citations in italics are quotations taken from a wide variety of relevant sources; as indicated above, in this context I prefer to let them stand in isolation without attribution, but a list can be obtained on request by emailing me at marcellocarlin@hotmail.com.
All citations in italics and bold type mean that my heart will go on.

Further listening
Barbara Bonney, Fairest Isle (sympathetic and emotionally pained readings of songs by Dowland, Purcell et al)
Benjamin Britten (LPO/Davis), Peter Grimes
Kate Bush, Aerial
Alexander Goehr, The Death Of Moses
Charlie Haden, Closeness
Steve Lacy, Weal And Woe
Massive Attack, 100th Window
Portishead, Portishead (the grievously underrated second album)
Stephen Sondheim, Into The Woods (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Iannis Xenakis, Persepolis

Eternal thanks and love
L.F.


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