Get You Back Home
EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING
1. Chris Hills Dementia: OTL Reports #2
Soulboy Williams won't let me browse in peace. Everytime I draw out an album to contemplate, he'll barge over and start giving me chapter and verse. Sometimes Out To Lunch needs an infusion of antique vinyl, access to a pocket of culture so far unmunched by the rampant revivalists. Surf Rock on the Contour label, Gary Glitter 7" singles, Bootsy Collins cut-outs, Hammond organs on Groove Merchant, Olly W. Wilson's prizewinning entry at the Dartmouth College First International Music Competition in 1968 - everything cheap and discarded and affordable in the 80s has been discovered and exposed by the sodding DJs. And then turned over to Sony Corporation for reissue. But there must be something they'd missed. It was all down to time ... If you hadn't got a day-job you could always forage up some unburned fossil-fuel from yesteryear. A tiger's leap into the burning bush of the past.
I drew out an album with the abraded, blue-black surface of a late 60s/early 70s job. Across the top it read: EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING. Esemplasticity in the bargain basement! Far out. On the cover, a guy with a moustache, anorak with zip and knitted collar, hands in side-pockets. He stared back at me through the decades. A striped shirt? No, the stripes were because his image was spectral, a product of a double exposure: through him I could see the horizontal lines of pavement and window-sills on a slummy street. Broken windows in the first storey. A boarded-up shop with a sign that read `Ann'. Old-fashioned twiddly script. Just to the left of his head, suspended in the air were the words
His slouchy malevolence spoke to me. Turned the record over - gatefold sleeve, heavy cardboard, like they stopped issuing after the Great Disco Crash of 1979. On the back, a guy in a floppy peaked hat, hunched and heavy-looking, also spectral. A ghost hovering in front the tenements. A woman with a child on her knee were sitting on the steps opposite. Trash cans. The record inside had made a ring on the photograph - the guy looked like he was floating in the lens of some paranoid's Nikon. I opened up the gatefold - inside, a slew of photographs of ghetto life. In the sole one in colour, the two musicians were posing by the riser of L. McDuffie's Moving & Storage truck. Call 493-8443-1660.
Soulboy came over. I was staring at the cover, breathing in the musty cardboard, entranced. It was in the œ2 rack. I could afford it.
`Everything Is Everything was the name of a band led by multi-instrumentalist Chris Hills,' he told me, `their eponymous debut appeared in 1969 on the Vanguard Apostolic label and featured tenor saxophonist Jim Pepper, the Kaw Indian who wrote the tune "Witchi Tia To" and played with Don Cherry and Oregon. The music was James Brown-style street funk and included a great version of Coltrane's "Naima". Chris Hills later formed the Players Association, the band responsible for those late-70s disco classics, "Goin' to the Disco" and "Turn the Music Up!"'
`Wait!' I said. `Everything Is Everything ... what a concept! Listen to this!' I read from the gatefold.
These eleven songs speak of human experience greatly magnified by the ghetto. If you live there, we're sure you know what we're talkin' 'bout. So if you're walkin' down the street and one of your friends comes up to you and says `What's Happenin'' you tell 'em `Everything Is Everything' 'cause that's the name of our group.
`Wow!' Lunch was aflame, a mass-consuming funk-burger thrill-grilled with enthusiasm. `Dialectical philosophy on the street, you'd better believe it, brother!'
`Diana Ross issued an album of the same name,' said Soulboy, `but that was disposable bourgie trash.'
`Of course ... Everything is everything and that is a revolutionary demand ... I formulated that one during the Beauville Revelation of 1983.' Lunch had an unlikely note of wonder in his voice. He turned on Soulboy earnestly.
`This isn't just a coincidence. Chris Hills realised the same thing! He was formulating the proletarian experience of the ghetto, refusing the bourgeois concept of commercial music as upward mobility. Everything is everything!'
`And so finely detailed!' Soulboy was taking the piss. Truly, drug so-called culture is the most efficient means of blocking the dialectical vision, its reduction to adolescent irrelevance. Out To Lunch was not to be deterred.
`I'm not bullshitting. Everything is everything, or Totality, man! Why didn't you come to the seminar at lunchtime? You'd have heard me argue the toss about Totality there.'
`Toss is too right,' said Soulboy coarsely.
`Totality has been given such a frenzied brush-off by the PoMo crew. They claim to be resisting oppressive "dogma", but they don't stop to consider why Marx needed it: to break the seal - the marque d'authenticit‚ - bourgeois commonsense stamps on the world. By seeing everything in relation to everything else, things move: mere existence is no longer its justification to the enquiring mind! Science has bequeathed us the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, detached from the general context; of observing them not in their motion, but in their state of rest; not as essentially variable elements, but as constant ones; not in their life, but in their death. And when this way of looking at things was transferred by Bacon and Locke from natural science to philosophy, it begot the narrow metaphysical mode of thought peculiar to the last centuries. To the metaphysician, things and their mental images, ideas, are isolated, to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, fixed, rigid objects of investigation given once for all. The deadbrain positivist thinks in absolutely unmediated antitheses.'
Lunch was off on one. Soulboy gazed longingly at the racks of budget rap albums, but pretended to pay attention. Lunchomeat Sandwichface was getting excited: his glasses gleamed with fervour. Though he could barely follow his argument, Soulboy could sense OTL's nervous energy, something crackling and unhinged, a weird mixture of high-voltage ozone and the smell of roasting pork. High pink on chrome, orgone energies, fast and bulbous eructations over the racks of spurned vinyl. He realised they were playing the soundtrack to Naked Lunch, Ornette's bizarre version of `Misterioso'. When were the Psychiatric Monks going to come and take this Lunch away? His tongue could tickle the arse off Wendy Fishbait!
`Totality proposes seeing things in their connectedness: it is a prerequisite for dialectical thought. Whereas Bacon and Locke looked at things strewn and frozen in time (one thing after another) and space (one thing apart from another), dialectics considers time and space in their relation. Motion is no longer a contradiction to matter, but its essence. Einstein's Relativity was empirical proof of Hegel's critique of Kant: the doctrine of space and time as primordial mental antinomies was blown apart. "Metaphysical" or commonsense reasoning places things across the grid of time and space as simply "there". Totality, interconnection and time are all required for dialectics. It is the interconnectedness of everything that allows us to grasp the singular poignancy of the love-letter. It allows us to understand the centrality of chance and rubbish to Modern Art. The philosophy of "what is is" cannot interpret coincidence, the chance encounter of the combine harvester and the concubine's French letter. It cannot interpret the sexual impulse. Without a vision of capitalism as a Totality, Marx could not have discovered the fact of surplus value and the exploitation of labour.'
The words came faster and faster, fusing with Denardo's drums into a commonsense-defying mantra.
`Themselves accused of day-dreaming and utopianism, Marxists politicos are prone to dismiss the role of the imagination! Like gay skins sporting the bovver boots of the enemy, some think they can stomp through the claims of poetics with the best of them. However, dialectics is a winklepicker as much as a platform. The idea of the connectedness of things was what the romantics wished to save from the encroachments of bourgeois commonsense: they were preserving a revolutionary tradition, the key to a critique of class society. Poetry ...' OTL waved the album about in order to illustrate his concept of poetic manifestation, `is the worn-down nub of revolutionary endeavour glued to the wallet of the bourgeoisie.'
`I can't stand it anymore!' said Soulboy, `let's go for a bloody drink.'
The magic word. `The Buck?'
`Or Scruffy O'Toole's ... or whatever they're calling that pub on the corner this week ...'
`You're on. Actually, I can't stand it when I've got a rant on, either.' Clutching their finds, Lunch and Soulboy made their way up the stairs, pausing to pay on the way. Soulboy retrieved the canvas briefcase they'd made him leave behind the counter. Upstairs, the soundtrack was Oasis. Both turned pale and made quickly for the exit.
As they attempted to cross Camden High Street, they noted a preacher at work on the other side. `Gets more and more like New York every day,' said Soulboy in disgust. As they waited for a break in the traffic, they watched his performance . No-one else was paying any attention: it was as if his words - spoken in harsh syllables that carried over the passing vehicles - were meant just for them.
If the inspired Philanthropist of Galilee were to revisit earth, and be among the Feasters as at Cana, he would not now change water into wine. He would convert the produce into the things producing, the occasion into the things occasioned! Then, with our fleshly eye should we behold what even now Imagination ought to paint to us; instead of conserves, tears and blood, and for music, groanings and the loud peals of the lash!
Soulboy was about to scoff. `Hang on, ' OTL said, `man's got a point!' Soulboy sniggered. He evidently thought Lunch had flipped. Still, respect for the cadences of black speech gave him pause. The guy's race was indeterminate, hairy and bearded and swathed in cloths as he was, but verbally, he was doing an excellent pastiche of the great Reverend C.L. Franklin. `The guy's attempting to conceive the interconnectedness of real things in the world!' OTL whispered.
There is observable among the Many a false and bastard sensibility that prompts them to remove those evils and those evils alone, which by hideous spectacle or clamarous outcry are present to their senses, and disturb their selfish enjoyments. Other miseries, though equally certain and far more horrible, they not only do not endeavour to remedy - they support, they fatten on them. Provided the dunghill be not before their parlour window, they are well content to know that it exists, and that it is the hot-bed of their pestilent luxuries. To this grievous failing we must attribute the frequency of wars, and the continuance of Third-World starvation. The merchant finds no argument against it in his ledger: the citizen at the crowded feast is not nauseated by the stench and filth of Culcutta or Mexico City - the fine lady's nerves are not shattered by the shrieks! She sips a beverage sweetened with human blood, even while she is weeping over the death of Lady Di!
Synoptic transparency of social relations invokes nausea. A gut-convulsing truth shatters the crystalline geometry of Newtonian reason. It was like listening to Peter Linebaugh on capital punishment: one's blood ran cold.
My tirades have been described as pornographic. I've been harrassed by the police because of my language. Yet up the road, Waterstone's is selling copies of Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal! My words are intended to reveal capital punishment as the obscene, barbaric and disgusting anachronism that it is. As always the lunch is naked. If civilised countries want to return to Druid Hanging Rites in the Sacred Grove or to drink blood with the Aztecs and feed their Gods with blood of human sacrifice, let them see what they actually eat and drink. Let them see what is on the end of that long newspaper spoon!
A break finally came in the traffic, and the pair crossed, swinging bags full of decrepit vinyl. Soulboy didn't give the preacher a second look. `Nice rhythms, shame about the misplaced apocalypse' he sneered as they pushed past him into the pub. Out To Lunch felt a twinge. Was he actually closer to this rampant madman than to the Wakefield-born computer whizzkid and expert on soul music? Maybe they'd find out over a few pints.
The pub was pleasingly empty. The tourists are too busy charging up and down Camden High Street looking for bargain leather jackets, Doc Marten boots in silly colours and appalling Doors posters to get down to any serious drinking. The pair seated themselves in the fo'c'sle of the wooden interior. Bay-windows gave them a panorama of the milling Camden Market shoppers. Lunch surrendered myself to his absurd argument, aware that this was going to try Soulboy's patience. The latter was itching to get out their purchases, cite catalogue numbers, enumerate how many Marvin Gayes could dance on the point of a needle. OTL was aware he was repressing Soulboy's cornucopia of cultural connections, but pressed on with his argument: OTL was the bolt-hole for the issuance of a new view of history, and somebody had to sit still for it. As he held forth, Lunch felt strangely detached, as if what was being said was sourced from a world of objective events.
`You weren't interested in the words of the preacher man, were you, Soulboy?'
`I told you, I dug his rap, but not his thrust. Standing on the street corner, shouting at strangers? Guy should get himself a contract, sell his soul - then he'd enter the modern world, kick up a fuss worth looking at.'
`I read you, Soulboy,' OTL replied, falling into his ersatz-soulman lingo, `but you've got to admit - anyone acquainted with the history of philosophy during the two or three last centuries recognises a kind of tacit compact among the learned - they never pass beyond a certain limit. The voice in the street is the voice that speaks without heed, escapes the trammels of power. That guy said things undreamed of in your Gerri Hershey and Ricky Vincent. Though maybe they hint at it. Everything on the One, man!'
`Yeah yeah - but get out and get yourself a deal. That kind of purism's as dead as the dodo. You'll be telling me about the virtues of church next!'
`But that's my point. The church is a power structure just like the record industry - it feeds on the blood of its saints and martyrs, it contains their revolutionary message. Each plastic disc is a holy-communion wafer that brokers the Absolute to those exploited by capitalism.'
`Contains, contains, contains - that word's one of your wretched pivots, Lunch. The record industry contains your blessed revolution in the sense of holding it in, but it also contains it in the sense of preserving it, communicating it, transmitting it. I'd never have read Malcom X if it weren't for the namechecks on Public Enemy records!'
As they'd entered the pub, OTL had reached in the pocket of his mac for some change. He'd had to scoop past the can of still-intact Special Brew to get out the coins. As he withdrew his hand, he noticed Stewpot's Post-It note. Some girl's name, no phone number, useless. As a secret act of aggression against Soulboy's hardfaced commercialism, OTL stuck the thing on the back of his jacket. Let him walk around advertising Stewpot's girlfriend for the day.
`Bollocks, Soulboy, you were reading Malcolm before Chuck D and Flavour Flav were in nappies! Sorry - diapers.'
`Shh!' he said. He'd been eyeing up some loud and drunken Riot Grrls at the bar. He wanted his age kept out of it. `It's the principle I mean.' OTL wasn't going to be distracted by the reader-friendly blandishments of sexual tittle-tattle - even though one of the women was the spitten image of Patricia Hawking, the student who'd run off with Semen Froth. Her cutaway t-shirt showed pale, slim shoulders. Out To Lunch launched into yet another tirade.
`Official knowledge is useless. The true depth of science, and the penetration to the inmost centre, has been abandoned to the illiterate and the simple. That's what your obsession with Soul Music really signifies. It's the romantic quest for the Voice of the People put through the wringer of mass production - those plastic discs, those commonplace haloes they etch the music on. Because their names have never been inrolled in the guilds of the learned, they've been persecuted by the academic lackeys as interlopers. The voice of the street impacts their rights and privileges. They get branded as fanatics and phantasists. For me, these mystics prevent my mind from being imprisoned within the outline of a single dogmatic system. They keep alive the heart in the head; tell me that the products of the mere reflective faculty - ideas without action, theory sundered from practice - partake of death. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, they are "as the rattling twigs and sprays in winter into which a sap was yet to be propelled; if they were too often a moving cloud of smoke to me by day, yet they were always a pillar of fire through the night!"'
`Coleridge! The man ended up a Tory, a Burke-ite!'
`There are material reasons why true philosophy should arrive from below, formulated by shoe-makers rather than priests and professors. In Biographia Literaria, Coleridge's statement "On the Imagination, or Esemplastic Power" never arrives. People who cannot see past the institutions of art to the agents of social change are the heirs of Coleridge's Tory mysticism: they commodify imagination, then berate the mass for smelling a rat. They crave spaces bequeathed by the sugar trade - omitting to mention the Lyle who stands behind the Tate - and claim they are public servants. Coleridge could not guess that the "mystical" and "pantheist" imagination he traced from the "polar and dynamic philosophy of Giordano Bruno" and the "general ideas" of Jakob B"hme through to the German romantic philosophers would find its culmination in the materialism of Karl Marx - and a scientific understanding of social movements that threatened what he called "that loyalty which is linked to the very heart of the nation by the system of credit and the interdependence of property".
`When Samuel Taylor Coleridge played with dialectical philosophy he was playing with fire. As the bourgeoisie warm their soft and guilty fingers before the dying coals of romanticism, it is well to recall the fiery source of the unspeakable mystery they call "art": the revolutionary concept of Totality as commensurable to the partial. Just as medieval heretics claimed a personal relationship to God unmediated by the Church, so today revolutionaries claim that political acts in the here-and-now can have a relationship to the cause of universal human liberation. Only a "bad" infinity whizzes by the particular with no possibility of engagement. Dialectical materialism became the bearer of the Coleridgean esemplasm!'
2. Improvising Musicians: the Gleesome Threesome
`Lunch!' OTL was interrupted, not by Soulboy, but by a guy in a strange multi-coloured jacket carrying a huge black case. Alan Wilkinson, sax supremo. In tow were the drummer Paul Hession and bassist and composer Simon H. Fell (the `H' appeared when he played the high-faluting `composer' card).
`Hey Soulboy', OTL said, dropping the esemplastic Marxism schtick in an instant, `meet Hession/Wilkinson/Fell - the punkjazz super-trio. This is John "Soulboy" Williams - from Wakefield.' Three pints were placed on our table. The musicians stowed their gear and started looking around for chairs.
`Bollocks to your "punk-jazz"!' said Hession, as malevolently as he could (which wasn't very). To Soulboy, he said in a lighter tone, `He thinks we're punk-jazz, but that's because he's a pervert journalist. We're as much tantric-acid buddhists or Morris dancers as we are either punk or jazz ...'
`Some of our stuff relates quite closely to contemporary classical music as well,' said Fell grandly, arriving at the table after placing his bass in the bay window. `There's a certain amount of string technique there, and percussion technique . . .'
Wilkinson burst out laughing. `"A certain amount of string technique"! He's so modest, you know. I suppose that's how you describe that string group of yours, the one with Rhodri on harp and Mark on that horrible green cello. What's its name?'
`Ish? As in Trish?'
`Ist. As in fist!' said Fell aggressively.
`Yeah. That scam you put together for a gig at the British Music Information Society - demonstrating "extended string technique" to all those startled straight composers. They really dug the way you started playing on the leathern holster thing you keep your bows in ...'
`Holster, quiver - what's the diff?'
Out To Lunch had whipped out one of his notebooks. He was writing feverishly. Wilkinson's lingo was too much! He was suffering an attack of verbal improvisation. `Sex pistols quivered at dawn; a drop of improvised pre-come tension glistened pearly-in-the-shell as the lady-leather pouch breathed intimations of Diff‚rance and Scented Muffs!' he wrote. Ideas of the British Musical establishment aghast at Fell's scrummy scrapes and interstitial scrunches - the indigant twitches of Lady Snotty's bare elbows as her husband sighed with vexation - compounded his excitement. Busts of William Walton and Benjamin Britten insulted by a harpist who spent his time squeaking his fingers on the sounding-board. A cleaver in the face of classical composition. Far out!
`It's a lot like painting as well,' said Hession, bringing the conversation back to the trio's music, `it's a fluid canvas: one minute it can be like a complete total abstraction and the next minute it can be like The Haywain!'
Wilkinson and Fell broke into peals of laughter. `The Haywain!!'
Hession defended himself. `It might be an ironic nudge in the direction of The Haywain, but nevertheless ... we're different every time we meet ... it might be Victory At The Barricades ...'
`But isn't Free Improvisation really a dogma like any other?' said Soulboy, sounding intelliegent.
`The option of stability or chaos,', Fell answered, `you should have the choice between them. But if you actually say stability is wrong, you are denying yourself part of the range of options. I find ad hoc improvisation much more challenging - sometimes very rewarding, quite often much less rewarding - but it's very important to do it.'
`Oh yeah,' said Wilkinson, finishing his pint and picking up Fell's, `ad hoc is good.' By `Ad hoc' they meant musicians meeting up for one-off, improvised musical encounters. It was the form of music Out To Lunch had become addicted to after Punk had degenerated into the rock hackery of Killing Joke and Spear Of Destiny - album releases, promotional tours, dependable performances - what a fucking bore. Ad hoc was infinitely preferable to hack rock.
`You can't say that improvisation with a regular group is any less valuable. If it works - at the end of the day, if you can decide that you're enjoying it and the people listening to it are enjoying it, then what the hell does it matter?'
`I mean, our trio might not be playing together again this year ...' said Hession.
`What - are you leaving?' Wilkinson looked at him incredulously. `He's taken up the guitar. He'll probably present us with an ultimatum.' He swapped his Ilford tones for Hession's Leeds accent. `I'm not playing bloody drums any more, I'm a guitar player now, like it or lump it.'
`I was saving that for the gig, actually.'
`It's not about genre, it's about intensity,' said Wilkinson. `When me and Hession were in Leeds, we'd quite often come to London to see things at the Camden Jazz Festival or whatever, and we'd build ourselves up to see our black American heroes and we'd really want them to deliver - and that essentially is what we're still conscious of. When we perform we want to deliver because so often we were completely pissed off. We'd see about three numbers and go, "fuck me - this is a pile of bollocks!", and you'd have come all the way from Leeds to see this. We'd just get completely rat-arsed for the rest of the night. It's true, though, isn't it Paul, the amount of times that happened?'
Hession stood up with a strange expression on his bearded face. The others looked alarmed. Then he sneezed explosively, and sat down. His Yorkshire roots condemned him to perennial bronchitis. He picked up his beer again and sighed. OTL decided to let the musicians in on the trials of writing jazz criticism. `When I wrote that I was disappointed with Henry Threadgill at Leeds Trades Club, Derek Saw of Hornweb said to me, Oh all this stuff about how the musician must sweat blood for you ...'
Wilkinson took this up. `I suppose in some ways I do want musicians to sweat blood, I like that intensity. When I went to see Jackie McLean - it was just bop, but he's got such a big sound and he's really pushing it and they play so fast and they're just swinging and I was going, Fuck me, this is absolutely amazing!'
`I like David Murray - he always plays at the top of his form,' said Soulboy. Although his thing was Soul, he kept tabs on American jazz.
`The first time I saw Murray, in Manchester, when he was with Johnny Dyani and Steve McCall - I thought at that time he was the best sax player that I'd seen, or something. There was something truly majestic about that.'
`We all respond to physical energy,' said Fell.
`The atoms are merely vibrations,' OTL chipped in.
`But there are different things,' said Wilkinson. `I go to see people like John Poocher and I can really enjoy an evening watching his music - like John Rustle and that, little things scratching away, little fidgetty things going on and on. Some of the other people I take, it irritates them. It's completely different, there isn't an intensity there.'
`But don't you think there's an intensity of purity of expression?' asked Fell. `That's why I consider Webern to be intense - anything that's very distilled, anything very pure - if you like, an impervious block which just stands there and says, This is it, like it or lump it.' Wilkinson's account of Hession's `lumping it' had invaded the discourse. Out To Lunch contemplated another ode, squinted at his notebook. `If you're on the right wavelength and you approach it in the right way, that can be just as exciting in an overpowering mental way as a physical excitement. When sparse music - or that kind of improvisation - works for me, it's because it's true to that purity. It's when people do a half-assed sort of thing, neither one thing or the other that I find it loses intensity.'
`It does interest me,' said Wilkinson, `but it doesn't make me explode. I suppose at times I do like to explode. It doesn't have to be someone going completely mad, just the sight of Archie Shepp's head expanding and sweat pouring out of his head when he's going foom! foom! at the bottom of the horn. That makes me burn with excitement!'
`What did you think of Shepp at the Jazz Cafe?' I asked.
`It didn't excite me that much that time, tell the truth. I have a lot of admiration for the way Poocher plays, but there's something about Peter Br"tzmann - his sound is just so hard it still makes my spine shiver, there's something really brutal about his sound that John's sound never really gets to. It never quite has that quality. It's not a criticism of players, it's just for me personally, that kind of hardness is what I go for. It's probably listening to heavy rock guitar playing and wanting it to sound as dirty as it possibly could when I was young.'
`Alan is talking about dirt.' Hession's eyes lit up like Ro-Jaws spotting an untapped sewer. `I think that's interesting - like, imperfection, rough edges, something that's not too polished, not too precise is something that attracts me in everything - in humans.'
Out To Lunch suddenly had an image of Dr Fishbait bending over a table, naked, her buttocks in the air. He was staring at her arsehole. He was on his knees. He was being told to lick her arse. What? He shook his head. Get back to music, sod Hession's love of dirt ...
`Marilyn Crispell said in a Cadence interview "I try and keep an energy going right through a piece, I can't bear this thing of a little bit of this and a little bit of that which too much free jazz is." I agree with that - I don't like music that paints pictures, that represents highs and lows but never pushes at the form. The excitement is when the form is being questioned.'
`In terms of painting,' said Hession grandiloquently, `our music is like laying the canvas on the floor and throwing buckets of paint on it and laying into it with a sweeping brush!'
Alan was indignant. `What do you mean? Speak for youself, mush.'
`Sometimes it's like a white canvas,' said Fell. `A Rauschenberg!'
`You're really getting into this punk bit, Paul!' said Wilkinson, `our music is very subtle, we've been working on our art for years ...'
`We're using our ears all the time and adding subtle or not-so-subtle shades to each other's tonal manoeuvres - what is this pouring buckets of paint on the floor and pushing it around with sweeping brushes?'
Fell broke in. `We do all that, but the important point is that we're not too afraid to go too far. I think that's what holds a lot of people back and makes their music more fragmented. When you're on stage, something that seems to have been going on forever has only just begun. At that point a lot of people think, We'd better do something else, better keep this picture varied. What makes our music interesting to me is that we'll go beyond that. We'll have an incredible climax, and then maybe go on and push it even further, instead of stopping and saying, Wow that was really good and slowing down. Basically we say, Sod good taste, let's go for more - whatever it is. Not necessarily always loud and fast. Sometimes that, sometimes like that strange clapping thing that happened at Bogey's, when the audience clapped in time and we played around it - or against it. It worked so well because it went on long enough - if that had just lasted a minute or two it'd have been trivial. It wouldn't have made a statement.'
`Wow!' OTL was electrified by Fell's words. `That constitutes a dialectical case for coherence via transgression; by breaking taboos of taste, art can achieve a gestural integrity lacking in the fidgets of artistic self regard: Totality through Cleavage. Fell - you've said it! That's Materialist Esthetix!!'
`Okay, so buy me a pint!'
`I love it when something like that happens.' said Wilkinson, though it wasn't clear to me whether he was referring to Fell's request for a pint - or the clapping `piece' at Bogey's. `Essentially you're still after something you haven't done before. That's why when you're playing and you think, Bloody hell I've been here before, and you're moving with the music but you also want to do it justice.'
`The clapping reminded me of the people shouting "shit!" at Rip Rig & Panic, back when Neneh Cherry was in the band,' OTL said, suddenly more Serenus Zeitblom than Out To Lunch, `you didn't know whether they were fans or enemies - or whether they were planted by the band.'
`The bloke that started the clapping actually got more money than us that night.' Hession's sense of humour.
`Materialist Esthetix proposes Cleavage as the axial tyre-iron to hack criminal damage in the caving shamefaces of liberalism!' Out To Lunch was in manifesto-mode, anxious to defend his critical turf against the cynicism of these marauding musicians. `Since the hatching of an unofficial musical avantgarde in the mid-60s - the music extrapolated from a jazz-trio format by Derek Bailey, Gavin Bryars and Tony Oxley - ideology has been at pains to isolate and innoculate this threat to hierarchy, order and good sense. You create a free space in the administered urban nightmare for non-instrumental instrumentation, for music as an end in itself, and it is besieged with art-wankers and cack-handed losers. The avantgarde can more easily dispense with an audience than it can do without demarcation, criticism, ostracism and exclusion. Free Improvisation maintains its integrity by insisting on atonality, tense silence and uncompromisingly honed musicianship. As Louise Maubourgne put it - in terms somewhat surprising for a Buddhist - "musicians who play Free Improvisation without being able to play should have their fingers chopped off"!'
The musicians cheered this expression of digital severity and raised their pints in salutation. Soulboy Williams began preparing a list of musicians up for the chop. OTL made him add Simon Harcore Techno. This was the Cleavage proposed by Materialist Esthetix! To borrow the words of the street preacher - his spiel still faintly audible from the High Street - our merry crew came to bring, not a piss-poor performance, but a sword.
3. Introducing Steif Bohner
Steif Bohner ran the back of his hand over his forehead. This desk-job was meant to be sedentary, replete with post-human cyber potential, but deadlines loomed and the sheer amount of programming ahead brought him out in a cold sweat. He felt he should bark out, `permission to wipe off!' like the convicts in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. Except his boss would probably peer round the door of her office, curl a lock of hair behind an ear, and snap back `no!'. Fugitive from a chain gang? He was bloody coffled in it, condemned to years of hard labour with no reprieve in sight.
On to Chapter Five
Get You Back Home