Music Matters
Back in the nineties I created a lot of essays all loosely joined by A being about music B memoir related and C pertaining to how place affects creating music and how one listens. A mixed memoir called "Music Matters". Much of it I would heartily disown now , but not all - and who am I to judge now that the work is done, anyway? So I am resolved to dripping out the essays over the next few months, often without comment, sometimes with.
Geoffrey Armes
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Geoffrey Armes - 2020-06-07 01:19:28+02:00


In the spring I was up on the King's Road, to meet with Sam Alder at EG records, who was in my life as a kind of avuncular figure, proffering advice and guidance. He believed that I had talent worth nurturing, I of course believed that he should have signed me yesterday, and was resentful that he hadn’t. I had abandoned major-seven jazz-chord inflected styling and was instead exploring the world of ‘art’ material. This meant recording with a battery of borrowed percussion, my bass and guitar, and a tiny Casio keyboard. The ‘studio’ such as it was, consisted of two Revox half-track recorders on which I would ‘ping-pong’ material backwards and forwards, through a small stage mixer. I had found myself increasingly interested in non-vocal music, and the recordings reflected that, confining themselves primarily to groove and texture. Sam suggested that I needed to work on a ‘concept’ or ‘rationale’ for an album’s worth of material. The thing to remember, he said, was that you could put ‘anything over a funky beat’. He talked of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp and how they were ‘really serious’ about music, as a ‘spiritual path’ even, certainly as a vehicle for work on the self, as well as an earner of ‘daily bread’. In fact, to allude to a statement of the philosopher John Godolphin Bennett, the origin of the phrase ‘daily bread’ in The Lords Prayer was rooted in the idea of ‘spiritual sustenance’; and had nothing to do with the provision of food. He advised that if one was truly ‘natural’ for ‘this kind of music’ then it wasn’t worth compromising; it was an inner state of being that shouldn’t be messed with. Confusingly though, he then talked of reality in the music business, giving the example of Jon Hassell as someone who when forced to ‘compromise’, by accepting Brian Eno as equal partner and collaborator, had found this a bitter but beneficial pill to swallow. He suggested that my sound should go to New York, to the ‘Downtown Loft scene’. Sam was in the habit of taking the Concorde at regular intervals to New York for business meetings at that point, unfortunately I, who had never even flown, found the idea of that city distant and untenable. I left his office buoyant though,and strode off down the Kings Road, visions of future successes rolling through my eyes. Just before I left, he gave me an album.

Jon Hassell: Dream Theory in Malaya (1981), Possible Musics (1980): The white noise loaded breath was obtuse, but strangely attractive. Perspective fiddled with and distorted. This wasn’t the first time that I had heard ‘experimental’ music. In the years preceding Punk, John Peel would often play such sounds (Faust, Amon Dül 3, The Third Ear Band, The Soft Machine), but this had a single minded focus I hadn’t come across before. A very particular vision of sound, and of course the Northern Indian song inflected trumpet is otherworldly; wherever that is allowed to run free, good things follow. I was surprised at the lack of a funky beat.

The combination of baby-like moans and shakes placed directly in the ear, balanced with far off sounds with names like ‘Burundi cloud’ and ‘Distant Drum’, makes for disconcerting and hallucinatory experience.

caressed sound caressing the ear the voice human and utterly alien, caressed alien and utterly human voice circular and vibrating shimmers underlay all that water

Possible Worlds(1980): ‘Chemistry’: harmonics bounce and pop, watery drums lurch, slow unfolding layers, a bass ‘solo’... ‘Delta Rain Dream’ floods full band-width energetic trance inducing curling sound, over walls, and bending around this a dark breathy trumpet voice. Immersion. ‘Ba-Benzele’: a herald calls the coming good? That first call, then the answer from beyond the city walls, then the second, then the second response, until finally the rain is called and the people can raise parched tongues to the sky. As I listen to those thunder sounds, the temperature tangibly drops. ‘Rising Thermal 14’ 16’’ N; 32’ 28’’ E’: In the Sudan, birds are borne high, they survey the land below, waiting to swoop low again. The pilgrim, alone, stops to watch. ‘Charm (over Burundi Cloud)’: In the Sudan, in the middle of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, East of the White Nile, the full moon, light lacerating the stone hard pathways of the heights that rise above the camp. Hooded followers of the faith sit and pour tea, talking in soft voices. Ululating song pours from the throat of a man who sits cradling an oud. Above the heights, a mirage: a celestial city, busy with flyovers and trestle bridges, cars hurtling, businesses open and restaurants doing a brisk trade. Parallel fourths are winding and wending across hills, as in a recording studio the musicians sit and imbibe everything, playing both the desert and the town onto the tape....

Possible Worlds