Readers may have noticed a couple 2018 releases in these pages of late. It’s nice to be able to write about current albums, and doing so somehow gives a more contemporary feel than is really justified, but it is not always an easy task. Several times over recent years I have dropped new releases from the list because either I didn’t know them well enough to write about or, somewhat disappointingly, I didn’t like them enough to want to craft a review. It reminds me of a leaving do (featuring your correspondent in the exit-stage-right role). The job had become toxic. My manager was delighted I was leaving, and somewhat chagrined at the generosity embodied in the gift voucher staff had contributed to (for an excellent book and record shop, in case you were wondering). So disconcerted was this awful person that there was a comical moment when she handed the gift over (after a few vague and insincere words) but was unable to actually let go of the envelope. We stood there, rather like those two characters on the cover of Wish You Were Here, until we both let go at once and the thing fluttered to the floor.
The quote I shared in my response was chosen from the beginning of Lord Of The Rings and seemed, to me at least, apposite.
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
I must confess that I remember with some pleasure the look of confusion on Gaye’s face.
Some releases can be tricky.
This year, the trickiest by far is Brian Eno’s Music For Installations, a 6 CD (or, if you were rich and/or foolish enough, a 9 LP) set of ambient works collated from Eno’s art shows (and other places) plus some new material.
For months, now, I’ve been straining to get my head around the five-and-a-half hours of drifting electronic tones that comprise this gently epic box. The task I have set myself is to sit down with one disc per night and start writing as it starts playing. That’s it. Kind of like a Writer-at-his-Keyboard Installation.
If you have Music For Installations yourself, try putting on the relevant disc and writing a stream-of-consciousness reply…
DAY ONE / DISC ONE
Music From Installations
The opening disc has four tracks and clocks in at 75 minutes. “Kazakhstan” has a filmic feel; I’m imagining an endless dessert with occasional outcrops of orange rock. Kind of like the Mars landscape as portrayed in the Matt Damon film The Martian, which we watched the other night. Good film; engrossing. I suppose I should be reading the Installations booklet so that I have some context for these pieces. Why Kazakhstan? Why not Mars? Though the music isn’t very red. More sandy. Like the new desktop picture on my iMac. It’s very clever… a photo of a sand dune. That’s not the clever bit though, the clever bit is that during the day (and night) the shadows on the dune shift in time with the arc of the actual sun in your time zone. It is entrancing, and if it had this music to accompany it, the effect would be almost magical. I wonder if someone has taken a lengthy series of screen shots and made an animation of this process. Probably.
Looking at the track lengths, they are all roughly traditional album-side duration, meaning that the vinyl version of Music From Installations is a neat double album. But I don’t want to talk about the vinyl. Makes me too upset. Oh, OK then. I ordered it from a German on-line store which should remain nameless but in fact was Grooves Inc. Cost a bomb. Didn’t hear anything for ages and eventually followed up. Oh sorry, they said, our stock control program made a mistake; we don’t have that in stock. We’ll issue you a refund. Which they did, eventually, but the dollar had dropped in the intervening time and that, coupled with the international currency conversion fees banks charge, meant that I was noticeably out-of-pocket. I complained and got a patronising response. Grooves Inc is no longer on my list of music suppliers. Bastards. I need to tune back into the music to soothe that irritation away. Actually more like rage. Fucking bastards. Deep breath… let go of the envelope… exhale.
“Kazakhstan” has given way to “The Ritan Bells”, long shimmering notes that hang in the air. Some of them get quite shrill and metallic, the kind of sounds a science fiction film has just when something nasty is about to happen. But not here. It always settles back into a glazed ambience disturbed only by tiny variations of tone, texture or tintinnabulation…
Next: DAY TWO / DISC TWO
Then: DAY THREE / DISC THREE