there are some things in life you have to work at. gravity’s rainbow took me the best part of a decade to tame. something i’m not ashamed to admit. a week of unholy monkish concentration in france just to break the beasts back. but break it i did. still none the wiser to some of it’s meanderings (but then neither’s thomas pynchon and he wrote the fucker). more semi-recently david foster wallace’s infinite jest did the same thing. huge in every sense (though still dwarfed by pynchon’s sprawling uber-tome). with more endnotes than you can shake a fistful of bookmarks at.
the reason i bring this up is two-fold:
firstly, track seven is named after david foster wallace (that’s him sketched on the inside of the sleeve). it seems strange at first to highlight the linguistic, particularly in reference to a writer who was so very writerly, so utterly bound to words when yr music is/was generally wordless. but hell there’s more than one way to tell a tale.
secondly in a similar rambling (self)referential way, tongue tangled hair exists in its own world. one composed of seemingly disparate stories, where henry brown the slave who posted himself to freedom (that’s him on the cover) sits easily next to gaston bachelard and his philosophy of space and time and imagination.
does it all mean something? i can draw a line from wallace to bachelard using foucault. but does it all come together? seems like a collection of clues, aural and visual. a handful of musical polaroids documenting somethingorother. cover art that offers up a dreamland of pandas, bridges, warriors on seahorses, zeppelins, war children in gas masks, flying fish and dinosaurs. it’s all things falling or floating, all trees branching and smoke spiraling. like i said, it is its own world.
the albums oddly tactile (the title alone has an ee cummings sensuality). it has that massive multilayered epicness of the last two talk talk albums, but less hushed and reverential. part noise, part classical, part post-whatever.
it’s this desire to grab a multitude of kite strings and to try tie them together that strikes me. a vast collage of sound, of voice and percussion and guitar and piano and strings and electronic (re)structures. the miasma of textures, tones, drones and noise from all that was missing… is still there, just dissolved into this increasingly crisp orchestral mix. with the intricate folky murmurings from the gosia winter collaboration bleeding in and out. it’s a record that blooms and blossoms, that builds and layers. as much arvo part as it is christian fennesz.
but there’s hints of things breaking down, of loss and collapse (the first track is at the end of it). see the climactic descent into free noise on a dialogue. or the unexpected apocalyptic volume at the end of david foster wallace, which serves as a fitting metaphor for the fella’s suicide. perhaps perhaps perhaps.
like the astronaut/sky diver adorning the booklet inside there’s a real sense of space, of being alone, of floating or falling about the music. and a general melancholic vibe. but frankly this is a thing of bruised grace, of genuine beauty.
fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion – these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.