Monday, April 16, 2012

Boat Gigs 2: The Sinking of the Titanic And Other Shizz

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1
Listening/Reading: 'British Birds Sounds on CD' / The really excellent Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan: I feel a natural affinity with the Baltimore patois what with being a The Wire aficionado, you feel?
Hair Day: Have plaited bits of my fringe
What I can see from my window no. 24: new flats being built in Battersea, getting in the way of the Wembley arch, goddamit

Last week Metamorphic had an excellent time recording their 2nd album at Eastcote Studios, who have put the likes of Adele, The Gossip and Mumford and Sons on wax. Unlike Mumford's comfy nine weeks there recording and mixing, we crashed through nine tunes in two days, more in inspired bash-it-out-The-Beatles-doing-'Twist-and Shout'-style, y'know. Having played together for about three years now, we're definitely finding our team form; Laura's writing this time encompasses dark dreamscapes, looping, Hendrix/Coleman mash-ups, Radiohead, a P Diddy riff, sea soundscapes and much more - can't wait to hear the first mixes!
I had a birthday weekend filled with nice things including hanging out in Beirut street food places, lovely tea shops and buying dresses, as is my wont; plus a trip to the small but elegant Mondrian/Nicholson exhibition at the Courtauld, and a visit to the Turner Contemporary in Margate. I wasn't so impressed by Hamish Fulton's incredibly derivative text/walking art, which seemed like bad Richard Long, but the building is great and a slightly brutalist gem squatting nearly on the beach itself, and is clearly drawing hipsters into the area. The old town was peppered with all manner of vintage and cutesy stores and eateries, though perhaps its Margate's stalwarts which are the biggest draw: the phenomenal pub The Lifeboat, all spit and sawdust, genial landlord, brick-sized slabs of local cheeses, barrels of warm ales and 17 ciders. We lunched at the certifiably whimsical Mad Hatters' Tea Rooms, hosted by an ex-male model from Portobello Road who sashays around in an askew hat serving celery soup and homemade scones, in a room not unlike the lounge of an insanely patriotic eccentric: festooned with cuckoo clocks, Christmas decorations (including two trees) and royal memorabilia. QUITE bonkers. Looking forward to heading back there for some serious sea-swimming and beachifying once the sun's out!

Back in London town, I've been drumming my fingers with increasingly deranged impatience at the failure of Brockwell Lido to be open yet (faulty cracks, low water pressure in Herne Hill etc) in order for me to showcase my all-vintage swimwear look of 1950s red one-piece (from Margate, of course!) and ridiculous retro flowered cap. I've made do a couple of times with the slightly down-at-heel Oasis in Covent Garden, which at least is outside, if is heated (PAH! Wimp-loids); you can swim there surrounded by grimy offices and flats, and the feeling of an outdoor swim slap-bang in the centre of the capital is pretty special. This picture makes it look much more like a Spanish resort than it actually is!
Speaking of swimming (ouch), the best thing to happen around the Titanic's centenary events was quite obviously a live version of Gavin Bryars' epic The Sinking of the Titanic, which we jammily got comps for through Gav's daughter Orlanda, who was playing amidst the whole Bryars clan in his Ensemble. Spotted Jamie Woon there and also Tinker Tailer actor Toby Jones, perhaps atoning for his sins in Julian Fellowes' 'Titanic', or 'Drownton' as it has been rather excellently nicknamed. Whilst the work (which has been re-scored for various live performances over the years as research has unveiled new historical details) perhaps sagged in the middle slightly, the overall effect was one of immersive, cascading bliss. The string quartet kept revisiting the achingly-slow Episcopal hymn 'Autumn', with its luminous harmony and shades of 'Amazing Grace', as swells of percussion, strings, foghorny euphonium, bass clarinet, guitar and various looming waves of electronic samples (creaking, dripping, echoing strings, archive verbal accounts) reared and fell around it. The mirror-image visuals of bright-cheeked young men and women, boat-wake, icebergs, and the ship itself meant everything was drawn continually inwards towards its fate. The experience was like I imagine drowning to be: euphoric, accepting of the inevitable, ringing with sorrow as you watch the ceiling of water rise, darkening, far away from you.

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