It’s time for the annual end-of-year musings at Caught by the River, known as Shadows and Reflections. Since so many of our lives have been lived in thematic overlap this year, they’ve asked their contributors and friends to focus on the small, strange and specific as they look back over the last 12 months. Today it’s my turn to discuss a thwarted Algerian trip and the discovery of this beautiful country’s extraordinary musical heritage…
“As ‘Algeria’ had become my Mastermind subject this year, I devoted each spare hour to reading books on its history, the war of independence, or watching films, and reading its translated literature. When I wandered through Hathershelf woods in my hometown of Mytholmroyd each day, sheltering from pouring rain in wellington boots and fingerless gloves, my mind constantly wandered to that place I was supposed to be heading, rather than the one I was currently standing in, with its rotting leaves, knee-high bogs and vicious westerly winds that emptied their sodden contents above my head.”
In the first of their subscriber-exclusive Low Culture essays, I have opened up my battered copy of Julian Cope’s The Modern Antiquarian for The Quietus to argue how this classic guide to Britain’s neolithic remains has a strikingly modern relevance. An extract of ‘A Glimmer of Cope’ is available to read here.
Subscribers get perks including music, podcasts and bonus long read features penned by special guest writers such as Darran Anderson on the occulted history of kids TV show Knightmare; Megan Nolan on the unadulterated joy of loving Billy Joel; Joy White on grime as a contemporary Black British genre; Daniel Dylan Wray on John Cale and Oobah Butler on the anarchic artist Christian Jankowski. Plus, editors John and Luke are clambering into a clapped out old motor to drive round the UK to interview a wealth of guests such as legendary folk singer Shirley Collins, Repeater Books supremo Tariq Goddard and writer John Higgs about the culture that has shaped them for a brand new series of podcasts exclusively for subscribers – get the first episode as soon as you sign up today. Support on the last bastions of quality music journalism and sign up today!
I have written a feature on the extraordinary lives of Dennis and Lois, two unsung heroes of the trans-Atlantic alternative underground. A new documentary based on these legendary superfans of rock ‘n roll, and directed by Chris Cassidy, is out this week. Visit The Quietus to hear more about this New York couple and their shrine to 20th century pop culture.
One of my poems, Sacred Heart, makes an appearance on Smagghe & Cross’s new LP, 1819, via Offen Music later this month. It is taken from Cigarettes in Bed (Blackheath Books, 2008), and was recorded at Air Edel studio with Ivan and Rupert. The first installment, Cock of the North, featured on their previous album release, MA. This new spoken word track, From Sacred Heart, is available to purchase from 27/01 as a download or on vinyl through Offen Music, and Rough Trade etc.
You can listen to a preview on Juno. It sounds nothing like me at all; which is just perfect. It’s a dark, drone-like excursion into the mind’s swampy sewer. Beelzebub in Pigalle.
Here’s the official blurb…
“This second LP on Offen is an ajar window overlooking a phantasmagoric world; a remembrance of days that never were. The music is sparse, the past is forever: ghosts of industries are conjured through the English countryside, fading memories play static with an idea of romance, the sun breaks through the iron clouds. A record free of uncouth nostalgia but laced with ethereal melancholia…”
The good ship Rough Trade Books have published an exclusive new edition, Sweating Tears with Fat White Family. It’s a pamphlet that I have worked on alongside Lisa Cradduck (my long-term collaborator and partner-in-crime) and together we have created this beautifully sordid publication. This exclusive edition features demonic engravings by printmaker Lisa Cradduck, inspired by Berber folklore and the grotesque 16th century drolleries of Richard Breton.
“A revealing examination of the dysfunctional songwriting partnership at the heart of one of Britain’s most unpredictable and controversial contemporary rock ’n’ roll bands, Sweating Tears with Fat White Family features candid interviews by author Adelle Stripe with Fat White Family singer Lias Saoudi and guitarist Saul Adamczewski. From childhood traumas to adult squalor and critical success, it is a tale of bitterness, humour, excess, cruelty, and the vile affections that bind this exceptional pairing on their continued Orphean descent into the underworld.”
I have written the lead review on Fat White Family’s new LP for The Quietus. “There is no darkness like that of a bleak Yorkshire winter, days when the light barely rises and outside the streets are pounded with relentless horizontal rain. It is fitting that from this climate and post-industrial landscape emerges Serfs Up!, a shimmering spectacle of delight. Recorded at Champzone Studios in Attercliffe, Sheffield, Fat White Family’s third album should be regarded alongside their forebears – Cabaret Voltaire, Human League and Pulp – as a welcome addition to the musical canon of Steel City…”
I have reviewed the new edition of Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction for The Quietus: “Like a throbbing, yowling time capsule, this wildly completist package is almost enough to send you back to their ferocious, feral, filthy heyday…”
Described by Resident Advisor as a track that ‘snatches you out of the water’, Cock of the North appears on Smagghe & Cross’s new album MA (Offen Music). It’s a short prose piece about Tadcaster in the nineties. Certainly not a track for Blue Mondays but I think it’s turned out well considering the subject matter…
It was recorded at Air Edel in London last year with Ivan and Rupert. The original poem – Big Weekend – is taken from my 2012 poetry collection Dark Corners of the Land. I’ve had a few emails about it since the record was released, sadly the book is out of print and in the hands of collectors. The poem features in the PUSH anthology, which is still available from East London Press (for those who really want to read it).
Cock of the North can be listened to on soundcloud or youtube. Or you can download it, or order a copy on vinyl here, complete with an existential football scarf. Linear notes are by Andrew Weatherall, who writes that the album contains “brief flashes of gold [that] disturb the murky slit of memory…”
It has been a year in the pipeline so I’m delighted to finally share Bad Blood– a collaboration with filmmaker Martha Jurksaitis (Cherry Kino) and C.A.R. (Chloe Raunet).
The poem is taken from my collection Dark Corners of the Land, it was recorded by Chloe in her studio at home in Dalston, and was mixed in Paris. This is the first time I’ve done a spoken word track, it reminds me of Mogwai. Chloe recently appeared on Gesaffelstein’s LP, and she’s about to release a new single ‘Spitfire’. Check out her video HIJK. It’s quite special.
The analogue film was made on Super-8 by Martha, with footage shot in Finland. It was developed in the dark room at Patrick Studios. It’s quite Watcher in the Woods. Martha is the Queen of Wondermental Cinema, and lives in Shipley. You can see some of her films here. Enough to set your mind alight. The film has just made the official selection for the 10th Berlin International Directors Lounge [DLX], Feb 6-16th, 2014 at Naherholung Sternchen. More details can be found here.