Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve got a crush on Frome.
Last Saturday, en route to Trowbridge for a 6 o’clock IBS sound-check I jumped the train at Frome on a whim, then hoofed it into town with the electric nose-horn, the eukele-o-lin and a couple bagfuls of sonic debris. I knew I’d made the right decision when I felt a delicious pang of guilt rise in my gullet and an impending sense of mystery and adventure descend on my cerebellum: it’s a fabulous feeling, one that has lead middle-aged men to start ill-starred love-affairs with younger women since time immemorial.
But this was more than just a temporary abandonment of responsibility or routine, it was driven by a wider, deeper need to occasionally unanchor myself from my own expectations. I’m lucky in that I’ve never lost the need to explore as I’ve grow older. Even tho I’m superficially constrained by time, money, local geography, family obligations, etc I’ve still managed to evolve a set of stratagems that turn these so-called obstacles into virtues; an inner-switch that can turn the unlikeliest of locations into a psychic Shangri-la.
And yes, my instincts were right: the light was fading and Frome was slowly coming alive in the twilight…but this was a different Frome, a parallel Frome to the one visible in the day; it has to be approached at exactly the right angle and the correct frame of mind, otherwise it won't give up its secrets and this hidden, other Frome will not be conjured into being. Yep, make no bones about it, this is a form of, er, magic we’re talking about, one practised using will-power, imagination and some emotional sleight-of-hand – an open secret possessed by hermetics, alchemists and surrealists down through the years…with a little practice and a lot of luck its possible to unlock the inner-light in the most banal objects or places. It’s fairly easy to do (tho it requires the right internal and external conditions – Frome, I quickly realised, is the perfect place to practice in), bu-u-u-ut it is almost impossible to describe…sadly, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to do it without the assistance of drugs or some sort of disease-induced fever-state…
I’ve lived in Yeovil long enough now that I’ve pretty much mastered the art of perceptually reconfiguring and re-imagining it in far more fitting or pleasant forms (the Kid Shirt blog is full of examples of this)….tho I confess it constantly reveals itself to me now in new and surprising ways, like an enormous jewel or a 4-dimensional construct whose facets you occasionally see different glimpses of (tho all are basically reflections of yourself
, y’dig – you are effectively just seeing aspects of yourself redrawn as a town (or part of a town or a building or whatever – this is why I don’t ‘believe’ in *ptui* Hauntology as such, because my gut-feeling is that the so-called 'hauntological' location or object or whatever is merely a memory echo emanating from the individual, not the object
….like a perceptual bat-squeak signal that smears that place with the viewer’s own psychic ‘spoor’ or synaptic essence. As you grow older, you become like an animal, marking your territory with your own memories. But I digress….)) Frome, tho, is a whole new ball-park to play in…
First step was to track down the Rave to the Grave vinyl record shop. This was difficult, as I was now pretty much overwhelmed by my own emotional response to what I’ll call Frome-2: the lights, smells, feelings were all pretty intense…as I navigated in towards the centre, I could feel the inner-buzz building (tho actually it’s more of an anti-buzz;
a feeling of inwardly ecstatic contentment, if that makes sense – what Maslow would’ve called a Peak Experience or Moment, except this can be extended and drawn out with experience (like tantric sex - no Sting jokes at the back, please!) or even sometimes invoked at will…I’ve mentioned Library Moments
on this blog before - these are a variant or flavour of this experience, or so I’ve come to realise)…and that alleyway that I photographed a few weeks ago
seems to be the initial main locus-point – I felt inexplicably drawn to it on my last visit…unsurprisingly, I discovered that it contained the record-shop I was looking for (and its CD/DVD counterpart), as well as an independent book-shop, an old-fashioned green-grocers (whose wares seemed to glow with an unnatural phosphorescence), a couple of great-looking cafes, etc…the record shop was fabulous, but I only got to the second floor – I was on a tight temporal budget; Real Time was calling, so I had to use my time wisely…in the heat of the moment I almost accidentally bought a Klaus Schultz
album that I already had, because it had a different cover to the one I was used to – for one crazy moment I wondered if this 'new' cover only actually existed here…An insane thought, I know, but a delicious one, nevertheless…imagine bringing it home to find it had reverted to the conventional version that you were familiar with.
In Frome-2 my interactions with people seemed unnaturally easy, conversation with total strangers was effortless – it’s a shame that you can’t maintain this state perpetually (I’m not an adept, okay) – possibly because I was dealing with other people's own ultra-egos
; remember that we are in Frome (but not in Frome
), therefore there’s no way that the people there could be anything else than their otherselves…remember: what we are seeing here is the world as we would like it to be, rather than how it is
….but to interact with it in this superheated, limbo-state, we also have to be how we would like ourselves to be…once that’s achieved, everything else falls into place. It's like Burroughs' "Discipline of DE."
In this weird twilight state, it would be absolutely impossible to not
find a way to Trowbridge. Indeed, there was a bus leaving for the Big T at exactly the right time required – in fact, a woman at the bus-stop even volunteered this information without me even asking. I had exactly the right amount of time to buy some fags as a bus hissed into view and I hopped on it. I sat watching small villages flash past in the dark with no idea where I was…glimpses of other people's lives through brightly lit kitchen windows - no landmarks, no watch, no sense of time passing; just a sense of movement and momentuum and an intense, slowly growing sense of otherness
. As we approached Trowbridge (I couldn’t see any street-signs or anything from where I was sitting), the woman sat behind me (a different woman to the one at the bus-stop) suddenly volunteered the following: “Don’t get out here, luv…it’s still the edge of town and a long walk to where you want to get. Get off at the next stop, the one by the town-hall – that’ll do you nicely…” I hadn’t said or done anything – it was as if she’d read my mind or somehow just knew my intentions.
In Trowbridge, the architecture was all wrong – it’s more like Yeovil, but I didn’t have the advantage of summoning up some neural kick-start nodes from the Alt.yeovil Mythos…I momentarily panic, thinking I’m going to lose The Moment, but I manage to surf its after-echo, despite (or maybe because of) the cheesey-looking mini-mall and the plethora of cruddy fast-food take-outs, and some interesting things start to happen:
I get off the bus in town and ask someone for directions. I’ve forgotten the name of the pub we’re playing in, but they tell me what it is anyway. Interestingly, the next thing I see is a cheap book shop (which reminds me of Doppelgangers recent post
), but all the books in the window are things like Iggy Pop’s autobiography or “The History of human Cannibalism,” so I know I’m still riding the vibe…the underground car-park round the back of Asda still looks fairly mysterious to my vibrating eyeballs, so my luck still seems to be holding. I follow the road down to a roundabout, thanking modern town-planners for their use of sodium lamps, which cast an eerie, off-yellow-light on everything (if it wasn’t for the passing rush-hour cars, I’d feel like I was in some weird Avengers Vs. The Space Phantom limbo-world variant of Trowbridge). These lead me to the venue and I walk in the door, exactly as the clock hits 6pm
This is my first time at Sonic Sanctuary
: the olde Pump-Room out the back of the pub is an incredible venue – intimate and otherworldly; you can almost feel the history seeping out from the walls like memetic mucus, all the people who have ever drank and sang here…I hope we added to this amazing psychic reservoir. The place is seeped in multi-coloured lights, giving the old musical instruments attached to the walls a strange 3D-comic look as they cast red and green shadows. There’s also a small minstrel’s gallery. The venue looks like it’s been renovated, but its not been yuppified or given a generic style makeover – the place is wonderfully stark, just stone and wood. Cloudboy and I feel immediately at home. Thanks to Charlie
from Sonic Sanctuary
for inviting us to play, and for being such a gracious host. The sound-guy and the other band-members were just so friendly and helpful – it really was a joy just to be there and hang out. Charlie plays in Thought Forms
and Silver Stairs of Ketchikan
, who you really should check out. I saw Thought Forms
play with Serfs last year some time and they were totally ace.
Great to have a drink and chat with Phil
, a top bloke – we’d made contact some months back when he’d invited me to write some reviews for the mag/website, but lack of time had thwarted me. I kinda guessed who he was when I overheard someone talking about Byron Coley…someone talking about Byron Coley in Trowbridge?
Well, that must be Phil, I decided, and I was right…
Thanks to the Ice Bird Spiral Irregulars – Paul and Mr. Ollivetti – who’ve appeared like day-glo dolphins in our slipstream during the short but fruitful Swineville Tour, offering moral and technical support, photographing, filming, documenting
…hail to thee, O IBS Psychik Commandos, for thou art rad.
Mic’s already written us up, so I won’t bother saying much, suffice to say this was a completely dif. gig for us, sonically and emotionally…stratagems that came off in Bristol didn’t seem to work as well here, whereas the iffier parts of that show seemed to take on a new vibrant half-life here…which is as it should be…so, in the end, I found myself abandoning any preconceived notions of what I should play or do, and plugged into The Moment, using some unfamiliar equipment to generate a series of random flanged noise in response to Cloudboy’s wayward squalls of rain-forest whale-guitar…Neon Dinosaur Brain
were excellent, I thought. Really nice guys and I soooo enjoyed their set – they soon had me bobbing and dancing, in an attempt to burn off all that excess post-show adrenaline. Hope I can describe ‘em in terms that are palatable to the band: they were kinda Progressive Hardcore, I guess…lots of twisty, wiiiii-iindy bits punctuated by shards of fractured noise and surfed by a howling vocalist who restless prowled the hall with an infinitely long mic-cable…there was a hesitant, Post-Rock component to their music, as well as some, I dunno, Doom/Sludge breakdns, and even occasional Kraut/Acid Rock sections: I'm hearing bits of Ash Ra Tempel and 71-era Dullish witchery in the sloooow wailing roil of "Salsashamanmarchdance." yeah, and Ernie the guitarist does a great line in slow sinewaves of modulated feedback. It was terrific stuff. Def. gonna check their forthcoming releases.
They were funny, bright, energetic, musically inventive guys who knew how to rock out and how to have a good time, and if there were any justice in this world they’d be famous and the fucking Arctic Monkeys wouldn’t. I remember thinking half way thru their set that gigs like this are where all the energy and the buzz is now…all these little halls and skittle-alleys where the alt. music-makers gather, irregardless of whether 10 or 100 people show up. Between tracks, NDB would chat to the audience, make jokes, breathlessly explain what they were doing or were about to do, before hurling themselves back into a swirling vortex of sound. At points it sounded like UFO circa 1970 filtered of the Blues by some arcane form of musical dialysis, or a Black metal version of Tortoise. I loved the fact that they weren't fucking afraid to solo.
I also loved the fact they couldn’t quite agree on song-titles – different band-members laughingly referred to a track by different names – or that tracks had a (Part1) or (Part2) suffix tagged on the end: I said to Cloudboy that IBS reeeeeally need to do a (Part2) titled track, so apologies to NDB for nicking that idea, but we’ve already done the song-cycle suite thing with sub-sections entitled (a), (b), (c), etc in a referential nod to Duul and Prog…so now we're looking at other archaic 70s-isms to mimic. Expect a double-live album any day soon.
I’d seen Team Brick
supporting Julian Cope in Exeter earlier this year, or, rather, I caught the last few minutes of his set…that time, he'd used some tuned bells along with either FX or a laptop, I can't quite remember which. Tonight's show was a masterclass in restrained fury: layers of FX-saturated quasi-gregorian psalmsong accreted on top of each other like a medieval exercise in frippertronics. I've got an O-Level in Latin, twat that I am, but this sounded more like Pigeon Greek, so it was prob. made up. Still, it had the right effect, bringing a twisted chapel-like ambience to the venue, but there was a queasy sense of unease floating just below the surface: like Sunn o)), Team B use the classic control-weaponry of the medieval Christian Church - the music and the imagery used to hypnotise and enslave the peasant classes - and recast it as a tool for de
-programming. In the flickering, dim lights of the n-teenth century pump-room, you coulda heard a pin drop...but it wasn't long before he strapped on an e-gtr and cut loose w/ short, 3-second bursts of angular No-Wave anti-chords interspersed with shouted threats and sinister observations.
It was fierce, fer sure, but also oddly mannered; so wonderfully English, like apologising to someone while yr killing them. Vocal fragments spun away, decaying on slivers of echo n reverb: it was hypnotic and fascinating, the musical equivalent of some overwraught, offbalance homegrown drama on ITV2. Team Brick has focus and control; he knows his kit and understands when to rein himself in, creating extra tension and torque in his music. I thought he was better than in Exeter, and when I spoke to him briefly after the show, he confirmed he'd had problems with gear and/or sound-man at that show and hadn't been happy with it.
All in all, a fabulous evening: these bands, along w/ Thought Forms
are forming the strangely soft centre of a new West Country Underground, proudly hoisting the Wessex Freak-Flag high up on a odd, twisty, snake-shaped pole.
I headed back to Frome w/ Doctor Harper, bivouacing at Heather's (who I hereby thank for her awesome hospitality). Safely back in Somerset, we sat outside under the weird stone-age stars of Frome, while I sipped from the largest tumbler of whisky known to man, hatching plans for the next day which involved a visit to Cradle Hill, near Warminster, sight of a massive 1960's UFO flap
, to soak up the vibes. The Doctor said he'd been over there recently and had seen odd anomalies in the sky, something about inexplicible balloon-shaped aircraft. Sadly, our tight schedule on sunday precluded a visit, but a visit in December has been sketched in.
Heather was married to an old school friend of ours who sadly died recently, and she kindly donated a bunch of old musical equipment to the Ice Bird Spiral sound-bank, incl. all manner of old reverbs, pedals, a synth module, an analogue multi-track, plus some old Teac cassette-decks so that I can finally start dubbing out some cassette-releases w/out paying some overpriced guy in Yeovil. I thank her for all her kindness from the bottom of my heart.
Finally, some vague thoughts directed at Doppelganger's fascinating recent post
wh/ kinda intersected with some of my own ideas and indirectly inspired this post (or, at least, made me start thinking a bit more about what I've been doing over the last few years...): I particularly like the bit about continually turning left in Russia - the idea of random exploration: the Situationist Drift, the Surrealist Dream-Walk/Reverie, the Occultist's Working...as you've prob. realised, this is something that's particularly close to my heart and I'm trying to engineer my own lo-fi, low-budget version or this...
Yes, the Swineville concept was an attempt to conjoin my own Myth-Space with Cloudboy's, to carry out some musi-magical act to bring the two spaces into conjunction and increase our turf, so to speak, with anyone who listened to the music adding the weight of their own imagination...it feels like the more people that listen to this piece, the more likely it is that something special will begin to happen, that we can reclaim the West Country for ourselves, mould it into something amazing that can flourish to one side of this awful, on-going generi-fication that's hoovering up the best bits of our memoryscape and grinding it into commerce-dust. Everything is starting to look the same
(towns, cars, films, pop stars...), so we decided to bring something else to the mix, to make things that looked like things that you wouldn't expect them to look like (but on a budget); Old School Surrealism still has the intellectual/political/artistic fire-power to confuse and abuse and derange the senses. It still feels as fresh as a daisy (to me); it's infused with the same iconoclastic energies as Punk, but with a heavy whiff of mystic Marxism. It's a riot; it's a dream. It's disturbing & transgressive, but it's also hilariously funny/cheesy/silly; but then it belts you in the underbelly with a sucker-punch. It ticks every box for me, so let's fucking 'ave some, eh?
Doppelganger says maybe me and CB don't see River Island or those cheapo book-shops in our vision of a Swine-ish W-Country...ah, but we do
. There's some text pieces used in unreleased/live/demo versions of "Swineville" that directly access stuff like Asda and the Edinborough Wool Mill or whatever it's called...we suck them into our
'magic' and brew them up, distort and transform 'em into something more to our
liking, something useful
to us...that's why, when I was still in the grip of a powerful mojo as I entered Trowbridge, the cheapo book-shop only showed me the Iggy Pop and the cannibal books..."All other fonts are rendered obsolete." (to quote our own track LOL!)
((We take what we need from the enemy and subsume it into our own vision, in the same way as the Corporate Mediascape slurped up the most commercial/least offensive bits of Punk, Acid House, etc, partially digested it and sold the sub-cultures we created back to us in a diluted form.) And those cheapo book-shops are great for, erm, cheapo books on Alchemy, Surrealism, Secret Societies, Mysticism, etc as well as cheap art materials, paper, etc. The downside is that they've laid waste to the independent book-shops, the art-shops, etc.)
But, hey, so proud that The Monkees
got to Swineville first: they've always been trailblazers far as I'm concerned..."Head
" does it for me on so many levels as it slowly unspools and auto-critiques itself...great songs too....been playing "Listen to The Band
" a lot this year; there's something so pure and righteous about that track, it seems to address the idea
of music on some instinctual, gut-level...it seems to be a celebration of music as an eternal, endlessly recurring, joyous
cyclical thing that passes on dn thru the generations forever.
And y'all just knoooow I'm down with that.