Where were we? Monday, we’ve been busy with an art show and such, there’s only so much we can do in terms of multi-tasking or listening to things again and again and again and again. “I thought you guys were into the weird and unique so figured this was a good fit, maybe next time” said the music business PR guy, no it wasn’t Jake this time, Jake says we’re all on the same side despite his hilarious hissyfits when we say no we’re not writing about some standard issue indie rock band from New York he’s pushing at us again and again, no, this was a different PR guy bugging us again and again about some standard issue synth duo doing the same thing as a million other slightly festish-club flavoured boy/girl synth duo Soft Cell fans who think they’re being far more dangerous and edgy than they actually are. Yes, we like the “weird and unique”, but hey, being weird and unique is not some pound shop Soft Cell down in a back room of a pub in Camden, weird and unique is PoiL or La Grand Sbam or Chromb or whatever Weasel Walter is doing today, or whatever Skingraft have coming up next, or whatever Deathbomb are planing to throw at us next, bening unique is Cardiacs or not the next in line of a million Soft Cell tribute bands or whoever this slightly angular set of Cure fans that Pitchfork are raving about that I’m having to listen to now, or the R.E.M wannabe that some other PR person who wasn’t called Jake insisted we’d love earlier today, here, have a slice of classic Aids Wolf while we see if there is anything “weird and unique” in the clutter of the inbox
Now this isn’t that weird, it is rather beautiful though; Simon Fisher Turner and Edmund de Waal have shared a video for the title track of their forthcoming collaboration, A Quiet Corner in Time, out on Mute on vinyl, CD and digitally on 27 March 2020. Apparently the collaboration came about when renowned ceramicist and author Edmund de Waal invited the Ivor Novello award winning composer Simon Fisher Turner to create a sound work for an installation at the Schindler House in LA. The video for ‘A Quiet Corner in Time’ uses film from the house, cut with footage provided by Simon Fisher Turner, and the soundscape for the architectural installation metamorphosised into the new album.
Watch ‘A Quiet Corner in Time’ here
Oh look, I really haven’t got the time or inclination today, and I am begin to question the validity of any of this or indeed the point in putting on art shows or writing about music or supporting curators and artists and record labels and the rest, Here;s the cut ‘n paste of the press release for the Simon Fisher Turner and Edmund de Waal thing you maybe just took the time to watch
“The resonances and echoes of past and present, and of the crossing of territorial, disciplinary and artistic boundaries are multiple and overlapping in this project. While Fisher Turner works in sound, and de Waal’s medium here is solid materials, there is an inverse in their thinking – much of Fisher Turner’s work intensifies the material and solid aspects of sound, while de Waal talks of how he hears objects: “When I see objects I hear them, in some kind of way,” he explains, “so the visual weight of an object gets transferred into an aural space. That leads to music, or rhythm, or poetry.”
The collaboration includes the Schindler House, family histories and the émigré experience; the strangeness of the everyday in an unfamiliar place, and of the everyday that is lost in the move. It brings together Fisher Turner’s composition, collaged and constructed from field recordings collected in Vienna and LA, alongside placed materials and architectural interventions: porcelain vessels and shards, furniture, and vitrines.
A Quiet Corner In Time is a meditative drama, poised between action and stasis, mischief and grace. Some sounds are drawn out, combed into finely textured drones, while others remain starkly literal. We hear the creaks of rattling doors slamming shut; echoing steps of people moving through long corridors; cups and chatter in Viennese tearooms. The trapped harmonics in a vocal loop fall in, but lift before landing, and the small melodic chiming of porcelain shards resist syncing with the sounds of horses hooves, made percussive like castanets. Wooden coat hangers collide in the cloakroom of the Secession Building and a stolen glimpse of Rossini from the Opera House foyer appears, as does Ryuichi Sakamoto’s recordings of Mr Raku’s fine coffee and tea ceramics. In the background the house’s scent of soil and foliage is represented in recordings of bamboo from the house’s garden, while crashes of unprepared piano punctuate the work. Porcelain objects click and rattle throughout, in rhythms that accelerate as they come to rest. “I wanted it to be beautiful,” says Fisher Turner, who has vivid memories of the intensity of scent and light in the house.
Many of these recordings were made during a two-day trip around sites significant to de Waal and Schindler, chosen by de Waal. Fisher Turner and de Waal travelled to places that Schindler had been, but also places that had deep significance for de Waal’s own family history, described in his prize-winning best selling memoir, The Hare With Amber Eyes (2010). Fisher Turner’s ‘guerilla’ recording style (which also exists as a bi-monthly project with Touch called Guerilla Audio) allowed for what de Waal calls “a creative taking back”, describing a feeling of recuperation, and of finding something that has been lost. The thrill of trespass as part of these anarchic recording sessions has added resonance for de Waal, particularly around the Kunsthistorisches Museum, where art looted from his family by the Nazis was kept. “You just have to look as though you’re there with purpose,” says Fisher Turner mischievously.
– one way or other – and the album release, A Quiet Corner In Time – represents the first time de Waal has collaborated so closely with a musician. In terms of Fisher Turner’s work, this piece draws his past into the present, referencing his early sound work for Derek Jarman’s films, which included Caravaggio (1986) through to Jarman’s final work Blue (1993). The collapse of past into present is also a core theme of de Waal’s work, and he has consistently broken new ground through critical engagement with the history and potential of ceramics, as well as with architecture, music, dance and poetry”.
And here, while we’re here, here’s an Erland Cooper video…
ERLAND COOPER has announced Hether Blether, the third and final album in a trilogy of releases shaped by the islands where he grew up – due for release digitally and on standard and limited edition CD and vinyl on 29 May 2020 via Phases. In addition, Erland has announced a UK tour for the autumn, preceded by a several dates including a performance with the London Contemporary Orchestra that will bring the Orkney Trilogy to the Barbican on 13 June. Listen to the first track to be shared from the album, ‘Longhope’ here
“Featuring new poetry by John Burnside, written after a trip to Orkney with Erland (documented on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Wild Music), as well as spoken word from the award winning musician Kathryn Joseph plus ambient tape and modular synth work from Hiroshi Ebina, the track draws us into Erland’s world with a slow moving portrait video directed by long time collaborator Alex Kozobolis.
Hailing from the archipelago of Orkney in Scotland, the contemporary composer and multi-instrumentalist has so far explored the birdlife (2018’s Solan Goose), the sea (2019’s Sule Skerry) and, on Hether Blether, he turns his attention to the land and its people. Named after a hidden island in folklore, said to rise green and fertile from time to time from the foam. Inspired, in essence, by Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown, filmmaker Margaret Tait and composer Peter Maxwell Davies before him, this final album is a celebration of the Islands’ memory held in timeless landscape, community, myth and mythology. The album looks to the past through the stories of the island and to the present and future through its people.
Hether Blether weaves elements of Solan Goose and Sule Skerry, bringing them together in a full circle around the cycles of the changing seasons. Throughout the triptych, Cooper explores a restorative path in the rhythm and poetry of the every day, deep within a land and community at the edge of the world. On Hether Blether, as on the albums before, song titles are taken from local dialect and nod to the places and stories of the island (‘Noup Head’, ‘Rousay’, ‘Longhope’) as well as the people themselves (‘Peedie Breeks’, which translates as ‘children’).
Hether Blether’s opening track, ‘Noup Head’, introduces the listener to the story of the title track’s hidden island via a young girl that went missing one day. Her family found her in a storm, on an island emerging from the fog. On the new island, she was grown-up, with children of her own. She gives her family a stake to enable them to return to see her, but it was lost in the sea, forever. “A cold sting on her skin/that takes her back/to something she forgot/ in childhood,” reads Kathryn Joseph, deep longing in her delivery of Burnside’s words.
The girl reappears, as memories do, as Hether Blether ebbs and flows. She’s there in Burnside’s poetry on the beautiful ‘Longhope’, in “the echo of a child/suspended in a web/of kelp and feathers… a long-lost sister, waiting for the tide/to guide her home”. She’s there in the swell of the Arco string quartet on ‘Rousay’, named after the island on which the girl was born. She’s also there in the album’s title track, where Erland sings his lyrics against the soft swell of his piano and Moog. “From time to time you rise out of the sea,” Erland sings, himself. “Never take your eyes off of me”.
Erland’s own voice is a point of strength and vulnerability on this final part of his trilogy: Solan Goose didn’t feature his vocals at all; Sule Skerry only featured them briefly. Here, they are given room to breathe, to invite us new paths of discovery and exploration. When they hymn “a sweet isle in my life” on ‘Hildaland’, we go along with them, finding the inhabitants that were said to retreat to a secret undersea kingdom every winter (just as Erland retreated from the real world through the soft waves of his music).
Hether Blether ends with Cooper singing a lyric borrowed from celebrated film composer Clint Mansell on a song with a title that sounds full of intent: ‘Where I Am Is Here’, a work all about time and memory, its repeated phrase “love now more than ever” feels like an urgent demand for our times. It’s a natural end-point for a project that began with one man needing to retreat from the chaos of everyday life, to return to where he came from, taking all of us with him, to the very roots of ourselves.
Its last line “time will show you how” also reminds us how the past and present have always connected in our lives, bringing our experiences full circle. It also reminds us how deeply we have dived, how we have fished in such rich, vivid water, in the few short years since we met the Solan Goose, ventured bravely to Sule Skerry, and headed further to Hether Blether.
But Cooper hasn’t left the Orkneys behind him just yet. “It’s still with me,” he says. “I’m only just coming to terms with where it’s taken me – from a place of necessary escape, to a very different world.”
25 Sep – Leeds, Leeds College of Music
26 Sep – Birmingham, St. Paul’s Church
27 Sep – Stroud, St. Laurence’s Church – Hidden Notes Festival
28 Sep – Edinburgh, Summerhall
29 Sep – Edinburgh, Summerhall
30 Sep – Bristol, St. George’s Bristol
1 Oct – Brighton, St. George’s Church
2 Oct – Canterbury, Gulbenkian Theatre