'Twelve thoughts on the
language of others'
Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling, Andrew Poppy [Field Radio cd]
1. What a diverse vocabulary. Minimalist orchestration with a rock leaning; or perhaps vice versa. The composer as narrator as singer as The Wave, surging and swelling on the opening track into fairground barker ('Roll up, roll up') or philosophical market trader; or as the sleeve notes puts it, one of 'seven voices in search of a song'. The opener as song found, but self-aware: 'do great songs need to be sung?'. The song as dance, the song to be sold. The memory behind the song becomes the song behind the memory.
2. Enter Claudia Brucken as the breathy Angel of Only, the seductive voice casting spells of colour on track two. The music is MOR song sandwich, squelched around heartbreak and melody. 'Only goodbye'. She falls backwards into langour, into language, musical witchcraft casts a 'Dark Spell' and then is gone, ending before the beginning has started or the ending ended.
3. I really don't like more traditional classical singing, and sometimes there seems to be lot of it on this disc. These voices get in the way of staccato piano attack, of languid piano. All this talk of ghostly singers is disingenuous, these mannered voices all too physical, not haunted or haunting at all.
4. Persephone is here, too. The daughter of Zeus is back from the underworld for a recording session. She sings herself into being – 'per-se-pho-ne' – and then makes The Wave, played by the composer again, scream. Gives him hell.
5. Scream rhymes with dream. Just thought I'd mention it. Not trying to be surreal. The character on the cover looks like Bob from Twin Peaks. Maybe that's why I thought of screams and dreams? Would you like some coffee?
6. Rilke's ghost is fluent in German. I am not, although he mimes as he sings (that's what it says on the lyric sheet). My CD player does not have a viewing screen, but the pair of unseen voices sing into the air, which hums and vibrates as the sound travels to my ear.
7. There is some kind of collision here. Of dances and darkness, of memories and song; of the stories of those who create and curate them. Black snow, red dust, and ideas of copying and reproduction. Poppy has always been a fascinating lyricist [librettoist? Nah, these are songs] and this is no exception. These fragments of otherworldy texts reflect each other and themselves via broken mirrors and cracked songs, in the same way that this music draws on the widest definition of song possible. Linguistically innovative texts, and sonically challenging sound. Words in search of music, songs mapping out territory that they will never be able to defend against others. These are transient memories and moments momentarily captured by the camera flash of polaroid production and digital decoration. A snapshot of a work in transition as the 21st century rolls on.
8. 'Does listening to something make it music?' Yes, just as an artist saying it is art means we must treat it as such. Remember Eno talking about recording 3 minutes of street sound outside his studio onto DAT, then living with it on repeat for several days? How he came to know and enjoy the sequence and arrangement of sound ('Here comes the car door slam'). Several listens in and I can hear past the annoying voices to the piano and keyboards, start to hear the whole; expectation and familiarity breed content. 'Perhaps it's a bit early to talk about this now'?
9. Like Captain Beefheart (No, it sounds nothing like Beefheart), sometimes it sounds almost ordinary. Listen without paying attention and the rhythms are effortless, with rock solid beats and rhythms, vocals soaring above; layers shifting and drifting: I geddit, they're songs! Just songs… At the risk of causing upset (it's not meant that way) it sometimes reminds me of Laurie Anderson or Peter Gabriel, something seductively shiny, worked up with a surface sheen of production in the studio. Listen again and like Trout Mask Replica on the wrong day, it sounds disparate and haphazard, impossible to make sense of.
10. Sometimes, just as when I listen to Peter Gabriel's work, I want an electric guitar or dirty analogue synth to rip through the song, in fact the fabric of time itself, and take me to a parallel universe which isn't so composed, so careful, so bloody neat and tidy, so produced and arranged. A ridiculous world where Andrew Poppy is the singer and composer for Motorhead; or plays the keyboards for Yes; or works with Nile Rogers; or reforms and remixes Regular Music. Or records an album of new music for download once a week, music that does what it says on the lyric sheet: 'glitchy click click click'.
11. Sometimes I don't. Most of the time I'm really glad this music is in my world, unsettling and challenging me. Glad to be haunted by these 'unconfirmed ghosts' Poppy has birthed and nurtured, summoned into being.
12. Bouncing from floor to ceiling, tilting to left to right, 90 degree turns, U-turns, about turns… Amateur rap, the appropriation of media by other media, the transformation of one medium into another, and the way this affects the content. Association and rhyme, ready to do time. What should the composer do? 'Do the Flip'. Flip over, or flip from place to place, memory to memory. Flip chart: a kind of unhinged map, impossible to navigate by. What should you, the listener do? Press Play and then press Play again. Or press Repeat. Stand still and listen. Listen.
© Rupert Loydell 2013