Monday, 29 September 2008

Sifting The Soul From The Chaos...

You may recall seeing a rather excited post from me here a couple of weeks ago. It was written - and posted - on a Saturday morning, hours before a friend of mine was due to come over for the afternoon. An afternoon we had planned to spend recording, building, racketeering, deconstructing, constructing, re-constructing, creating, making. Great things.

Well, sadly - and as a few of you now know - that's not quite what the universe had in store for us that afternoon.

We got off to a furious n' glorious start. Everything we did, every idea we had, seemed inspired. And maybe it was. We were fuelled and inspired. We burned bright that afternoon.

But you know what they say about the candle that burns twice as bright...

...due to (sadly avoidable and unnecessarily) unforeseen circumstances, the afternoon ground to a heartbreaking halt after only a few hours.

I was absolutely gutted. And angry. And worried. And truly exhausted. I had tried to keep up, but I couldn't.

In fact, I was (and am still) so upset by how the afternoon was stolen from us, that it wasn't until earlier this evening that I was able to bring myself to have a brief, awe-struck, melancholic listen to what we recorded that afternoon. It's an almighty mess. A cacophony of lunacy. A bag of blagged ideas. But there are some gorgeous moments, lines and riffs too. It'll take more than a few upsetting hours to trawl through the wreckage, but I will. And soon. But slowly, for these things are riddled with memories and moments.

And memories and moments are where the beautiful poisons lie...

Looking at the recordings, I'm reminded of the day I walked into a studio; the morning after a mad italian punk band had spent the night in there. (I think they'd won a competition, you know the scenario; best demo wins 12hr recording session, blah, blah blah...). The place was a riot of wreckage and riffs. I remember my heart going out to the engineer who had had to hold the whole session together, and then make something of it. He looked utterly traumatized.

I identify with him a little now, as I look at the wreckage on my screen.



Sifting the soul from the chaos...

I had lunch with that friend today. He was cripplingly apologetic. I smiled and gently asked him not to waste his energy apologising and worrying. We are friends. And every soul on this crazy ride has his/her own path n' challenge. Their own mission, their own beast to slay. End of conversation.

We agreed that we got off to a storming start. We were on fire. But things happened, and - poor chap - his demons took over. We might try again. We might not. Not everything needs to be set in stone.

I want to pull a few versions of the track, a track, something - whatever it was that happened that afternoon - together. For him. For me. To show him that as horrific as it all got, nothing is ever, totally in vain.

There is always beauty in the horror. Just as there is always horror in beauty...

When i have found, cleaned, washed, loved and cared for it - if there's anything left - I will share it with you.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

an unfinished passion

The main entrance to La Sagrada Familia, on the Passion facade, to the west.

There are three 'grand' facades, the other two being the Nativity to the east and the Glory - still to be completed - to the south.

I found the sculpture on the Passion facade particularly striking, being geometrically brutal, uncompromising and yet still very beautiful and intensely moving. Possibly because of the stripped back philosophy behind it's design.

Looking at it now, i'm reminded of the contrast between the sparse, angular portraiture (particularly on this, the west side) compared to the softer, flowing, organic - and at times, or maybe at first - confusingly overpopulated other facades of the cathedral.

Thinking on it now, i wonder; does size 'matter' in art? I don't think so. But it can remind you of things that do matter. Of the import of the subject matter...

Think of the countless classic works of art you've known of your whole life; works always described and touted as 'colossal' or 'huge', yet when you meet them, many of them are small, quiet, but still intensely beautiful and revolutionary creations.

I'm rambling. forgive me...

Of course, works on the cathedral are still ongoing. Many workmen, artists, architects and visionaries pass through, spending their careers here. One such man was Josep Maria Subirachs, who is/was responsible for the Passion facade.

There has been much debate (suitably passionate) about his contribution to the cathedral, not least because he made no comprises to allow his style sit more comfortably with Gaudi's design of the rest of the building.

Friday, 26 September 2008

"the view from your balcony"

Let us forget any sadness
Together tonight
Pour me some wine
Turn off the light

And look at the view from your balcony
London through your eyes
No one but you to keep me company
Twenty floors up a high-rise

In a romance of the old school
If you lived in this tower block
You'd be a victim of the system
A subject for punk rock

But look at the view from your balcony
The sunset is searing the sky
And how proudly you are pointing out to me
London through your eyes

How like a prince in a castle
Viewing dominions below
Telling me now in a whisper
Something I needed to know

And look at the view from your balcony
London through your eyes
No one but you to keep me company
Twenty floors up a high-rise

(photo taken with my beloved old family friend - the bessamatic voigtlander - on the steps of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. these lyrics came to mind as i raised beautiful bessie to my lucky eye.

by the way, title links to the tune, if you're curious.)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

"a dialogue between the public and the works of art they contemplate"

"The main job of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) as a museum, apart from preservation, documentation and research, is to generate knowledge... After all, dissemination is another of a museum's chief purposes.

Furthermore, if one of the priorities of a country is also to explain and disseminate its art and compare it, whenever possible, with international art, the role of the MNAC as laid down in the 1990 Museum Law is central. This framework, too, gives a meaning to this guide, whose object is to establish a dialogue between the public and the works of art they contemplate, in an unbroken tour of almost 1,000 years of art in Catalonia, beginning with the presentation of a small, tenth-century altar and ending with the series of sculptures by Julio Gonzalez from the 1940s, or, in the case of photography, with the work of contemporary photographers. Nevertheless, the goal of the Museum has set itself of reaching as large a public as possible means that this tour must find a balance between the demands of the general public and the needs of connoisseurs and art scholars. This twofold demand, which is reflected in this guide, has been and is, for the Museum, a challenge and a stimulus. For this reason, it is a great satisfaction, both to me and to the Museum's team of specialists and professionals who have made it possible, that this guide should become an essential reference for anyone interested in the Catalan art of the last 1,000 years."

(extract from the wonderful introduction to the MNAC guide book, written by Eduard Carbonell i Esteller, Director of the MNAC to 2005.)

photo by bessie

Monday, 22 September 2008

if i only could...

c'mon, baby
c'mon, c'mon, darling
let me steal this moment from you now...

c'mon, angel
c'mon, c'mon, darling
let's exchange the experience...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

"My Client Is Not In A Hurry"

The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.

"George Orwell berated the 1930s anarchists for 'showing bad taste by not blowing it up.' They did, however, manage to set fire to Gaudi's intricate plans and models for the building, which was his final project before his death. Ongoing work is a matter of some conjecture and controversy, with the finishing date expected to be somewhere within the region of 25-30 years. It was hoped the masterpiece would be completed in 2026 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death, although this now seems unlikely. This is, however, somewhat of an improvement on the prognosis in the 1900s, when construction was expected to last several hundred years; advanced computer technology is now being used to shape each intricately designed block of stone offsite to speed up the process...

Gaudi, who is said to have once joked 'My client is not in a hurry', is buried beneath the nave; he dedicated more than 40 years to the project, the last 14 exclusively."

(from the 2008 edition of Time Out's Barcelona guidebook.)

At the risk of stating the obvious, the cathedral is absolutely dripping with symbolism and imagery. (e.g. the cathedral sports 18 towers; 12 for the apostles, 4 for the evangelists, one for Mary and one for Jesus.)

Gaudi intended it to be "the last great sanctuary of Christendom".

It is a truly glorious, inspirational place; made all the more exciting because of the ongoing construction. An esoteric, organic labyrinth of religious imagery, cement bags and soft-drink machines... it could take an entire lifetime to explore fully. And probably longer to fully understand & appreciate.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

" the ghost with me..."

Well, I'm back from a very, very fleeting visit to Barcelona. I've not kicked off my shoes, or unpacked - or even opened - my bag. But, i had to plug the old digital camera in and see how some of my favourite shots came out.

This is the one shot I'm posting for now (more to come on flickr & maybe here).

This hand belongs to the lady who stole my heart away, only days ago. I turned a corner and there she was. Still. In her eternal sleep. Aside from all others. Removed. Elsewhere.

Bathed, glowing in the Barcelona September sun...

(For now, I'll not tell you her name or where we met. All will be revealed in due time...)

Oh, and did i mention that she's a little older than me? Always a good thing...

Now, i know she's not going anywhere, for several reasons. (Probably top of the list is that she's made of bronze.)

But i need to see her again.

Now, please.

Actually, i'll not bother unpacking that bag afterall. When is the next flight back?

(ps: i couldn't resist using that quote as a title here. possibly a different subject, but i suspect the lady in question is the same. funnily enough, it's from one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands. i'd love to think that they/he were equally moved by her; enough to write said song.)

Saturday, 13 September 2008


Today, something quite exciting is happening. I'm taking part in my first collaboration for (counting...) at least eleven years...

A fellow songwriting friend is coming over at 1pm this afternoon. We've long spent coffee and lunch breaks talking about our ongoing writing & recording; excitedly discussing our weekend's work, consoling each other when we've hit creative brick walls; offering technical & creative solutions; challenging the other's (mis)conceptions about what could and should be done within a particular track, lyrically, orchestrally, technically, etc... We've swapped CDs on a Monday morning, desperate to hear something fresh, something new, something other than the track we've spent the weekend alone with; but falling back in love with our own work all over again, when we see the look on someone else's face when they hear it...for the first time...

Anyway, after months of talking about it, we're finally writing & recording something new together. We've talked about it for so long, but always in loose words, as a nebulous idea. would we start with one of 'his' tracks? One of mine? Something new? But then, would we both feel pressure?

It's not 'just' sitting down to create with someone else. It's not just someone else seeing you as you 'really' are; in your truest habitat; it's allowing someone all access, all trust, all influence in that place; while you are going through the process. Together.

Talk about terrifying and exciting.

We finally decided to do this, i think, partly because we both seem to have fallen into a period of creating and playing with loops. We've both been listening to lots more cinematic music than usual. (And anyway, i've long been a sucker for strings n' beats, as anyone who knows me knows.) We've both recently 'discovered' bands like Sigur Ros. And we both want to push our personal envelopes and rid ourselves of our personal comfort zones.

We both crave escape from our self imposed Little Empires...

So. The deal was that during the week just passed, we'd both start. I'd start creating loops and ideas within a 70bpm, Em framework. Nick has been working in a 140bpm, Dm set up. In about 2hrs, he'll knock on my door, with a CD of his loops in his pocket. We'll sit down, import them into my existing project and start piecing it all together...

Then, we'll fire up all the toys. The Alesis SR-16 drum machine; the Jen SX1000 synthtone, an ancient, wooden-framed 70's beast (which i'm convinced was the only machine used to soundtrack every episode of Dr Who - ever), and many more... Also joining the party, will be various guitars, basses, percussion instruments and probably some abstract vocal noises.

Oh, and an electric razor. (trust me - better than an e-bow on an electric guitar!)

And then, maybe, after hours of tinkering, laughter and noise; we might potter out of the proverbial shed with something quite interesting...

Whatever happens, I'm going to have a seriously fun afternoon. I hope you do, too!

Friday, 5 September 2008


i sink
because i want to fall
into the arms of love

i cry
because i want to crawl
and hide 'til i'm strong enough

i cough
because i can't swallow
the lump in my throat too large

i resolve
to hold out until tomorrow
because nothing this cruel can last