When this album was recorded and first came out I was very
much taken by the synchronicity of numbers: the fortieth album, in my
fiftieth year and so on. I suppose it was inevitable that it should be
so - especially since at the outset of things (or at least the point at
which the idea occurred that I *might* be doing this for a considerable
length of time) I had thought that an aim of making fifty albums over a
career might be a decent target. At the distance of a few years, this
seems something of an albatross to hang around the CD's neck, implying
a degree of consciousness and significance about its making which is
some way at odds with the actual content.
In truth, I made this record much like all the others, being dragged
along, up, down and into each song by the songs themselves. Disparate a
collection as it may be, it seems to me now that these pieces add up to
a coherently consistent whole.
The personnel on the album are the members of the pH quartet, but here
their contributions are much more as individuals than was the case on
"X my heart"; this is not in any sense a "band" disc. Since I'd taken
it as my aim to make a set of songs which covered the majority of the
bases which comprise my style (if such a thing exists) it was
inevitable that the unifying factors would be song and voice rather
It would be fair to say that the songs fall into three categories:
constructed, found and discovered.
Construction is the most normal way of writing a song, of course: a
melody, chord sequence or lyrical idea makes itself known and is then
worked upon until it becomes a song entire. "Unrehearsed", "Nightman"
and "Fallen (the City of Night)" fall into this category.
"Unrehearsed" is the song which comes closest to the "epic" and band
styles here. (Perhaps it's odd, therefore, that this is the one I've
played most from this album live, in solo and duo formats.) There's an
inexorable shape to this one and the pHQ imprint is fairly clear. Maybe
I should have cut the riff section down a bit, but it was great fun to
play and there were also some constructional shapes which demanded it
last that long! Very sympathetic playing from all concerned. As is
often the case, the admonishment given to a second person singular
could equally be taken as being addressed to myself.
"Nightman" is a straight acoustic guitar tune. I can still remember the
specific moment which inspired it, when I woke at the dead of night and
sat outside, thinking that I was thinking things through, but knowing
that I'd recall little or nothing the next morning. At least I recalled
enough to document the sensation of the moment...which, I believe, is
not something that's not just to do with me personally.
"Fallen" has an odd resonance, post 9/11. But it's not just with
dramatic events that cities change under our feet and before our
oblivious eyes. I was, of course, writing about London, after (another)
fogwalk through streets which I once knew well but which are now alien
to me. We carry the cities of our pasts in memory; the actual cities
are something else, especially at night. (And the fogwalking reference
is not accidental.) And night itself is a different city. Well, I won't
go into the densities of the lyrics here, beyond the obvious night
fallen, city fallen, pay attention at the back element. But I'm not a
teacher, am I? Just a trickturner between word and music....A propos of
which...a neat (I think!) bit of Krebs Technik to get out of the the
choruses and into the end, which took an age to sit exactly right. A
good riff used incredibly sparingly for once!
It may seem strange to say that "Since the Kids", to all intents and
purposes a deliberated piano tune, is "found" but it is indeed the
case. The song came from a lengthy improvisation on piano - about
twenty minutes' worth if I recall correctly. I then took this into the
studio and proceeded to edit it mercilessly until getting the full
form. Only then did I go about finding the lyrics. Incidentally, my
intention in these was to be absolutely positive, yet realistic, about
the parenting process.
"Stupid" (yet sweet at the same time) was found just by messing around
to rhythm tracks. Eventually the shape imposed itself. An odd collision
of instinctive guitar with my first forays into soft synth world. The
wild voice, of course, was just that, an undisciplined wail.
"Always is next" sprung itself into being found from the bass pulse.
All the guitars and tune eventually coalesced around that, although it
took a long time to get this one under control, infused with some retro
spirit of Nadir as it is. The Son of Sam-ish imagery took me completely
by surprise (yes, discovering what a song is about can be like that...)
but was entirely apposite.
And in the "discovered" corner we have "The Light Continent". This was
entirely improvised as far as music is concerned. I began playing one
morning in a completely open - if somewhat anxiously reflective and
sombre - frame of mind. Just "I'm making music", in a free sense. (As
it turned out, while I was doing this, sombre and changing stuff was
indeed happening elsewhere, but that's entirely another story which I
choose to retain as private....) I played my parts...my
performance...in one continuous pass, adjusting the various sound
sources I was using as I went. Again, a process of editing brought the
piece into (admittedly long) shape. By this time the vocal line, theme
and lyrics were well under way. (From the outset I'd had something of a
feeling for the dispassionate white emptiness of the Sout Pole....)
David and Stuart's contributions were made under strict rules: they
were allowed only two passes each. The first was without having heard
the music at all; the only reference points I gave them were "It's 14
minutes long and it's Antarctic". I remain really happy with this piece.
Also discovered are the three fragments which appear on the disc as
link passages. Their presence is essential in order to glue the whole
thing together. It's often the case that while recording one listens to
small sections or loops of fundamentally backing music which are
fascinating nuggets in themselves, but will never really get to be
centre stage. For three such moments this was the chance for individual
On the cover - apart from Paul Ridout's "artist's own" collection of
objects which embed or signify time - the tachograph disc was ripped
out of the machine at high speed by Stuart on one of the many band
Euro-jaunts, to general hilarity, and the watch was my father's. It
stopped on my wrist within a day of my taking over the wearing of it.
There's a lot of Stuff on this disc and it goes to some extreme places
but overall it has, for me, a reflective quality which simultaneously
acknowledges and regrets the passage of time and of how small we are in
the great stream. But always is next (soon come), so we'd better get on
This record was made in 1998, but it seems longer ago to me. So much,
and much of the unexpected, has happened since then; but essentially
the songs here say "accept what's happening right now and go with it
(even if it's already past, even if you know it will be past)".
So...whenever it was made, it is done. Believe me, I don't pretend to
have anything but through-view, as opposed to overview.
In the course of these recordings I believe I learned enough to sustain
me over (at least) the next ten years of work...while I wasn't paying
too much attention to learning.
These notes have been made without any reference to the newsletter of
the time, so may well be at odds with some opinions expressed therein.
So what and see below. The stuff is the stuff.