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Thursday, October 11, 2007

CASSETTE CULTURE #14: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TAKES TIME





I'm listening to this on a train. Benjamin Franklin picks/plucks/ploughs ever further onwards into some abstract nylon-stringed wilderness that neither Man, God nor Derek Bailey was ever meant to know.

1) Fred Frith-ish random hand-spans take me to Sherborne.

2) A melody slowly builds itself from unlikely chords & overtones, aaaannnnnnnnd: we arrive in Templecombe.

3) Big synthchords wash over the sun-smeared Wiltshire landscape that's rolling by outside. Sounds like the xtended intro to some lost 80s FM classic by Foreigner or Styx: Grandly poignant in a DX7 kinda way, until it judders and crackles and spizz/spazzes around inside itself like a malfunctioning CD-player for a few seconds (much later on I realise the batteries are getting flat on my cassette Walkman). The washes of synthesiser noise sound dark and overdriven, filtering themselves into strange shrieks as we pull into Gillingham.

4) Hiss and buzzing ampnoise echoes past on its tiptoes as we pull out of the station. The conductor's voice comes over the train's P.A. mixing itself into the slow roiling gtr ambience.

5) A brittle, slightly distorted organ misbehaves itself as the tea-trolley arrives. Outside, a buzzard hovers over a herd of unimpressed cows. Concrete huts, a car-park full of white Transit vans. Benjamin's keyboard plays an endless swirling semi-medieval fanfare. A drum-machine kicks in on the outskirts of Tisbury.

6) The track picks up speed as the train slows. Someone's putting their washing out. Sunshine rolls down a hill in time to the music. Some sort of frenetic sonic procession is taking place on the tape; a spastic carnival that seems to belong to some other era. Straw has been left, piled up, in a field. Sunlight touches the edges of the trees.

7) Another procession! This time coming from the opposite direction. Will there be a collision or a punch-up? Ironically, we've stopped, waiting for a signal change or another train to pass. Outside, a row of small cottages made from grey, quarried stone. Different curtains, different coloured doors. So many glimpses of other people's lives; like tiny snapshots, the images pile up in their dozens, hundreds, thousands. So many people, so many moments. I'm suddenly aware of time passing, of time and space overlapping and criss-crossing each other...a billion possible futures. I literally feel Time oozing out my pores. All those people, all those moments cascading away from me like droplets of water. An entire ocean's worth.



8) The tape rumbles, like an aircraft passing overhead. The sound unfurls and unveils itself as a guitar.

9) The audience claps and cheers as we finally arrive at our destination. Benjamin, take a bow!