After Iain Banks’ Transition and a delightful detour into music literature (with David Byrne’s ‘How Music Works’), 20JFG just started reading another book based on the premise of trans-dimensional movement of people and artefacts. No-one should be surprised to find that this topic is of interest for our coterie of fantasists, dippers into sonically augmented realities, also fans of video games which are after all but primitive versions of the Holodeck, which is also the name of the Texan record label that concerns us today, as it does what it says in its tin, viz. generating windows into other dimensions from which lumbering beasts crawl and creaking siege engines roll to devastate our reality, and, in the process, make us swoon lots.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves – or perhaps we are leaping across adjacent dimensions of drafting and thinking.
Where were we?
Oh, yes, infinite worlds packed tightly like slices of grapheme, across which a few relativistic corsairs leap with gusto. In the case that concerns today (Charles Stross’ ‘The Merchant Princes’ saga), this involves two differently developed version of Earth (one like ours, the other still feudal) through which a few ‘world-walkers’ move, carrying with them technologies from where they are commoditised to where they are scarce, as the Law of Comparative Advantage would predict (Paul Krugman is a fan by the way).
The outcome is: medieval knights packing automatic rifles over there; corporate boardrooms stuffed with bloodthirsty Earls over here. Caravans moving cocaine safely across wild forests, ready to be reinserted in the centres of consumption of post 9/11 America.
Let us add an additional exchange: a transference of mainstream music production and recording technologies to farmsteads and villages in the outer confines of civilisation, by which we mean places where the vaguest rudiments of an organised religion are yet to be formed, where the first steps away from oral culture are yet to be taken, places which are more accurately described as outposts of the wilderness amongst humanity rather than the other way around. Places whose vague streets are by night trodden by wolves, bears and bigger and badder things, places inhabited by clans who take their sustenance from the woods, and in exchange give away songs (as well as, every so often, a sacrifice of their own).
Troller live in that village, they import those tools that many in our world deploy to propagate shallowness and banality to instead create something of rumbling and musky deepness, like the shriek of a thousand small creatures dying, decaying and becoming part of the mulch from which new growth comes, a performance in a snowy summit populated by uncannily configured rocks, the performers shoe-gazing not to make a statement, but to preserve their sanity in the faceless face of the entities which their music summons. Like the throb and pang of sexual attraction within close quarters, not framed as romance between individuals, but as the necessary ritual that guarantees the survival of the group.
Pop music red in tooth and claw, this is what we receive across a colossal chasm. It is powerful stuff. Just like that, it snuffed the summer away from our sky.
And talking of things that arrive to us as if from a faraway land, but that with their familiarity make us wonder whether we haven’t travelled with them here (implying that they are our baggage, or we are theirs), also making us wonder whether they haven’t spirited us away to their Kingdom like fish impaled in golden-gilded hooks, to be devoured, processed, assimilated, what better moment than this one to bring into the discussion Anna Homler & Steve Moshier’s ‘Breadwoman’, that figure lumpy like an edible Tetsuo made of improvised loops and drones, chanting in an invented language ‘which is Bread to English’ lettuce’?
We can’t think of one, so here you go – in our lay-people’s eyes, the song below is evidence supporting the idea of a generative grammar for language (and relatedly, music), a pan-human template within which the constructs representing a warm dawn, the metronome of a cradle and the creak of its wicker all slot smooth, like humans sliding under thick blankets in a freezing winter night.
We discovered this through Matt Hendon of Where to Now fame. It was originally released in 1985 by High Performance Recordings, and was recently reissued in Forced Nostalgia.