What occurred to me on another day of endless blue sky with the dust dancing in the warm rays, is, that after a long rainy winter, for a lot of people the lockdown is the first time that their freedom has been threatened. House arrest? Not quite but, no pub, no socializing, no football, no restaurant, no nightlife, no interaction with friends. Today Dare was stopped by the police as roadblocks have been set up. A policeman politely asked him where he was going. “To the shop” he answered. That’s not very threatening, it’s hardly a police state, simple question, simple answer, be on your way. But as they described in the paper today, driving you car somewhere to run or walk is not essential travel, the beach is not an essential destination. And from tomorrow there will be fines. Can you imagine?
The sea today was metallic and one colour from shore to horizon, no shades or hues, one undulating metallic mass. I left the studio wearing a coat, halfway down to the recycling I was carrying it. Next to the recycling is the skate park. It is cordoned off with police tape. We stood and stared at the sea for a while, it was so beautiful, the waves were lapping against the shore in quick succession, the tide at its peak. Each retreating wave washed backwards across the stones loudly as they rubbed together with the force of the water. Further up the beach, the waves were still hitting the sea wall with gigantic forward thrusts, the spray flying up into the air, small foaming droplets of diamonds. We walked across the road into the pasta and toilet paper free supermarket (how are these things still being bought en masse). We talked to Toni on the checkout, we see her a lot. She broke her front tooth, but can’t go to the dentist to get it fixed. My belt buckle broke so now my trousers have become those trendy hanging below your ass style. Any shop that could fix it or sell me a belt buckle or even a belt is closed. Life’s little luxuries once on our doorsteps, suddenly beyond our grasp.
But look, when’s the last time you got to spend so much time at home? For office workers at least, no commute, no sitting under fluorescent lighting. Why do offices have fluorescent lighting instead of warm lamps? Why wouldn’t a company want its employees to be working in the most comfortable of circumstances. Have everyone enjoy coming to work. Jimi Hendrix posters are very few and far between in insurance offices. It’s generic art at the accountants or the horrible gratuitous modern vomit and pizza scapes behind hotel receptions. Who decides these things, or worse who goes along with it? A sense of aesthetics makes a difference to performance, like Rudolf Steiner schools (the founder of Waldorf) or Montessori (founder, Maria Montessori). Put the kids in a circle instead of rows, have the walls painted mellow colours and what on earth is the point of making kids get up so early, go in later, finish when the parents finish work so you don’t have to worry about paying someone to pick them up. Work the first three hours from home so you can get them there, be in work by midday.
This epidemic shows us all how the world has to change. Pollution is decreasing so people are not choking to death, filling their lungs with carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Nature recovers (I know, I’ve said this before). And what was all that about austerity? How come the government had to put the country through years of austerity but suddenly now they can pay everyone 80% of their wages for staying at home? Why can’t they pay the fishermen 100% of their wages for three years so the sea can restock instead of fishing the oceans dry? The more money we get, the more money we spend, so give us more money so we can plough it back into useless toys and knick knacks and keep the economy running.
Music today has been rather interesting. I was listening to Matador. Their origins are in Berlin. It started with Einstürzende Neubauten, then Mania D, then Malaria! and then Matador, who incidentally there is very little about on the net (no Wikipedia page in English or German). Their second album Sun from 1989 is something like Electronic, Industrial, Gothic Pop Punk with programmed drums and Metal guitars. They were a three-piece with friends, but the core was Gudrun Gut, Beate Bartel and Manon P. Duursma. Gudrun Gut has made a whole lot of interesting records since: experimental, avant-garde records. After listening to Matador I listened to her 2018 album Moment and then from 2017 Instrumentals For Sirens by Gut and Bartel. I found Gut’s Wildlife CD online cheap so I ordered it. Bartel went on to form Liasons Dangereuse. If you want to hear some weird Electronic remix German avant-garde contemporary Electronic music, listen to Gut’s Vogelmixe – Heimatlieder Aus Deutschland.
How do you follow that, well with either more like it or the complete opposite. I decided on D.A.F. – Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft. Gold Und Liebe (1981), their second album for Virgin was part of a trilogy produced by Conny Plank (always at the front of anything innovative in Germany). It was their fourth album overall. They are a kind of Techno Fall. Simple sequencers and drums played by Robert Görl and sung by Gabi Delgado. They are a teutonic and influential Elektro duo that were a huge influence on Techno and Electronic music into the future. As I am writing this I just found out that Gabi Delgado died last week (22nd March), aged 61. I guess the bad news didn’t make Rolling Stone.
I also have a Robert Görl solo album (1984), so I decided to give that spin. He actually sings rather than stating things. It was recorded at Jacob’s Studio in Surrey (I just got a mail from Andy who used to own it). I recorded an album there with All About Eve and incidentally this album has a track on it called Charlie Cat, sung by Annie Lennox (she also sings on Darling Don’t Leave Me). I have two Gabi Delgado 12 inch singles, but my turntable doesn’t play 45, I have to swap it over to my other turntable one day and only play 12 inch singles and those new double albums you get where it’s two or three songs on each side that are 45RPM. I guess the idea is better sound quality but really, two or three songs a side? I’d rather have five songs a side, it interrupts the flow of the album otherwise. It’s okay after 20 minutes, but not after 11. Whilst we are on the subject, does anybody think that CDs were too long? There was the space so they filled it up. Despite them being the same length, a double album is psychologically sound, a CD as long as a double album is brain-numbing.
Suddenly I had a desire for Nina Hagen and thought that NunSexMonkRock (1982) might do the job, it did. At the time Rolling Stone called it “the most unlistenable album ever made”. Ha ha, nice work lads. Chris Spedding plays guitar (he gets around), Allan Schwarzberg plays the drums. You’d need a long time to discuss his session works’ vast scope but to think he played on Tie A Yellow Ribbon AND on this might tell you a lot about him.
In German Electronic music there’s a lot to choose from and it goes way back into the past. In the nineties, Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma formed Mouse On Mars and in 1999 they released their 6th album Niun Niggung. Hailed at the time by all the right magazines (I guess Rolling Stone hadn’t noticed it). I always think of it as the album Thom Yorke and crew must have been listening to between the release of OK Computer and Kid A. I’m sure earlier albums like their debut Vulvaland (1994), Iaora Tahiti (1995) and 1997’s Autoditacker also came into the picture. Thom must have been thinking what if we did this with vocals?
And as the night draws to a close and I’ve been hanging around post seventies Germany, I was craving Nico. In 1986 Nico released Camera Obscura. It was credited to Nico + The Faction with James Young on keyboards and Graham Dids on percussion and as with earlier albums it was produced by John Cale. It has that brash crashing sound of percussion that comes as much from the keyboards as it does from a drum. A support for her dark wailing voice (or is it the other way ‘round). One wonders what would have happened next if she hadn’t died two years later in a cycling accident in Ibiza. She was just 49 years old. I saw her live twice in the eighties, both times in Stockholm. They were memorable concerts with her sat like a 1000 year old gatekeeper behind her harmonium or standing stoney faced like a scrawny wicked witch. This album, quite different to its predecessors, is as evocative as anything she did before just with a modern touch. Only she could record My Funny Valentine on an album that sounded like this and make it work.
The song of the day is The Moon Drips from the last album The Afterlife. I feel like I could have written the lyric whilst riding in a horse-driven carriage in the farthest most misty part of Eastern Germany in 1896 (would that be Prussia or Bohemia?) before I was transported by a strange supernatural beam to the desolate border of Texas and Mexico in the same year.
The Moon Drips
In the night
The moon drips inside
And the light fails in my eyes
I reach you, I taste you
To the cold thrill of your face
And the scars’ tips that you trace
The dawn hides you, the mist binds you
Bleak lands and sombre sands
Black ice that weaves and dies
(Willson-Piper / Mason)
Noctorum – The Afterlife (2019)