Many Poetic Returns: Parts One Through Three of Jack Hayter’s The Sisters of St. Anthony Single Series

Jack Hayter The Sisters of St Anthony

In this post-everything digital age of endless archives and curation, is it possible still to lose things? Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, and it is to him that lo-fi folk musician Jack Hayter turns for his subscription series of monthly singles The Sisters of St. Anthony. To look at him in a perhaps more positive manner, St. Anthony really becomes representative of memory. He aids you in remembering where those lost things are, he is meant to help you recover things. And these wistful, often visceral, emotions suit Hayter well. His vocals are a bit broken and worn, and since his first release on Audio Antihero, the wonky, wonderful Sucky Tart EP, he has been pushing the boundaries of folk sounds to continue telling acoustic tales of the sublime mundanity of life. Whilst his first solo album, Practical Wireless released on Absolutely Kosher Records in 2002, was a study in fragility and gentle melody (including a stunning cover of The Only Ones’ “Another Girl Another Planet”), this latest subscription series (or time release capsule of an album) picks up further cues from the ragged edges of Sucky Tart and the fusion of folk and electronic elements found in his work with Dollboy. And of course, Hayter’s knack for storytelling emphasizes the most human of inclinations: remembering in order to make sense of the world and your place in it, recovering in order to recover.

The first song in the series is “The Shackleton,” which is both about a Cold War airplane named after the ill-fated (and let’s face it, ill-pated) explorer Ernest Shackleton, and about the loss of Hayter’s girlfriend from adolescence. Hayter writes of the connection between the distinctive drone of the aircraft and his memories:

…their sound, more than anything, reminds me of being 15…out in the woods with Sally at 4 a.m., with the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction and the wrath of her parents.

It begins with sliding synth noises, but quickly moves into the softness of a nostalgic raconteur. Eventually the song melts into adolescent confessional as Hayter gives a beautiful, plaintive voice to the tragic yet funny machinations of teenagers’ inner dramas; his voice curls and keens like gales trapped in the husks of empty buildings over the lines, “Graham has dumped me/God, I’m so sad/Sure he’s alright for a laugh/Though he’s a bit of a twat.” The musical motif of this section returns as Sally makes a similar, yet poignantly different confession at fifty years old. Cold War tensions and paranoia add a layer of both “Heroes”-like romantic desperation and the bittersweet sadness of unfulfilled futures. (For more beautiful themes of haunting and the Cold War uncanny, track down Dollboy’s instrumental Ghost Stations.)

The second track, “Farewell Jezebel,” starts off with some spare acoustic guitar as Hayter introduces the titular character in a stance of illicit defiance. After the cheeky little line, “We’ve all been had/But no one ever had us quite like you,” the song kicks into a rambling, sunny tribute to a very human character. She may have vomited in her handbag, but she also lived beyond the pithy, “respectful” clichés of memorialization. Hayter’s brilliantly detailed, visually narrative lyrics demonstrate the limits of polite, socially accepted acts of remembrance; as he sings, “No one writes upon a gravestone anything of use.”

The final track of this first quarter of singles is “Sweet JD.” It begins with droplets of electronic sounds over sporadic glitchy percussion and other spasms of instrumentation. As Hayter intones “I’m always missing the beat,” the rhythms and sounds scatter about him like an overturned bag of marbles or a fistful of released balloons. Like an infinitely impossible cowlick, bleeps of synths spring up in unexpected places, yet they complement the soaring chorus of “Sweet John Donne loves you,” which references Donne’s poem of imminent loss, “Stay, O Sweet.” Halfway through the track, Hayter recites ghostly snippets of other Donne quotes about mortality and seizing life as the electronics spider over his voice, nearly choking it. By the time his voice comes back in for the final chorus, the music has risen into a jubilant hymn of love and affirmation of life in spite of all that threatens it.

These first three songs from the series are quite varied stylistically, but they all coax a meaningful presence out of absence, and build moving musical vignettes of retrospect and anticipated spectres. I look forward to the rest of the monthly installments. Is it still possible to lose things? Yes, but Jack Hayter reminds you that loss and forgetfulness can be valuable, too. Thoughts may escape you, but the dearth is necessary as some of the most important thoughts often come back to you as poetry.

Subscribe to the single series at the Audio Antihero Bandcamp page.

I Stole the Cutty Sark – Jack Hayter

Au Lion D’Or – Jack Hayter

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Myxomatosis #6 – ReMyxomatosis

Some favourite remixes, past and present.  Does what it says on the tin, basically.  Enjoy!

Download Myxomatosis #6

Azealia Banks – 212 (Derrick Carter Remix)

Boys Noize – Let’s Buy Happiness (Proxy Remix)

DFA 1979 – Romantic Rights (Marczech Makuziak Remix)

Feist – 1234 (Van She Remix)

Gossip – Standing In The Way Of Control (Le Tigre Remix)

IAMX – Spit It Out (Designer Drugs Remix)

Janelle Monáe – Tightrope (Wondamix)

Le Tigre – Deceptacon (DFA Remix)

Manic Street Preachers – This Joke Sport Severed (Patrick Wolf’s Love Letter To Richey Remix)

Metronomy – The Look (Camo & Krooked Remix)

Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend (Feed Me Remix)

Santigold – You’ll Find A Way (Switch and Sinden Remix)

Simian Mobile Disco – Hustler (Joakim Remix)

Siouxsie – Into a Swan (Weatherall Remix)

Thom Yorke – Black Swan (Cristian Vogel Spare Parts Remix)

 

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A Broken Kind of Paradise: Chromatics’ Kill For Love Reviewed

This, Chromatics’ fourth album, opens with a cool, detached cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” and with this song it’s immediately apparent that Kill For Love is an entirely different prospect from their last album, 2007’s Night Drive.  That record featured a cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love”, albeit filtered through Chromatics’ distinctive disco- and dream pop-influenced new wave aesthetic, but with Bush’s eccentric pop sensibility retained.  Chromatics’ choice of source material is indeed indicative of the ambition and tone of the albums to which they belong, and as signalled by “Hey Hey, My My”, Kill For Love explores the downtempo, textured, melancholy, and reflective end of their work.  Chromatics, who hail from Portland, are comprised of singer Ruth Radelet, guitarist Adam Miller, drummer Nat Walker, and multi-instrumentalist, producer, and glam rock throwback Johnny Jewel, who obviously wears his influences on his, er…moniker.  Radelet’s disconnected delivery is framed perfectly from the start: her voice bears an honest and world weary weight, yet her detachment emphasizes the isolation of the lyrics and the chilly instrumentation of the music enveloping it.  It is she who makes “Hey Hey, My My” such a success (surprising though it is at first) and sets the tone for the remainder of the next 90 minutes.  Jewel has acknowledged that the band considered releasing Kill For Love as a double album proper, and it’s true that the 16 tracks chosen for inclusion here lead to a sprawling and attention span-challenging single listen of a record, but Kill For Love is truly at its best like this, as a cohesive package, offering musical as well as emotional highs and lows befitting its dramatic and ambitious proportions.

The title track, “Kill For Love” closes the statement of intent that “Hey Hey, My My” opened with the lyrics “Everyone’s got a secret to hide/Everyone is slipping backwards/I can’t remember if I like what I said/I can’t remember it went straight to my head/But I killed for love.”  Shimmering synths and swirling, multitracked guitars offer an emotional counterpart to these thoughts, the music seemingly shifting between past and present in its reverence for the synthy eighties and simultaneous concern for remembering hazy past deeds.  “The Page” is as addictive as any dark, gothy retro synthpop, fusing the literary imagery of ink, writing, and books with the alienation of a dark and dripping cityscape.  The combination of melody, words, and atmosphere culminate intoxicatingly, illustrating perfectly the sadness of nostalgia, comforting and wistfully beautiful in its familiarity.  “Lady” opens with a shuffling synth pulse and is soon filled out with a stuttering counterbeat.  Radelet softly intones gender-defamiliarizing lines like “If I could only call you my lady/Baby I could be your man” while dynamic contrasts and increasing numbers of steadily pulsing percussion, electronics, and a good measure of analogue-reminiscent fuzz round out the mid-tempo groove of this song.

That slightly scratchy quality is carried over into the next track, “These Streets Will Never Look the Same”, but here an alienating processed vocal is featured, making the dystopian lyrics even more sinister.  The words “Spent my life inside this room/And disappeared some more each day/I get so lonely all the time/I try to find my way back home” offer a glimpse into an electronic, highly controlled environment in which nostalgia isn’t an answer but a curse.  The repetitive refrain of “The screen stayed flashing in my mind” and several lengthy seconds of disconnected feedback close the song on an outright menacing note.  “Broken Mirrors” is an example of the textural subtleties Chromatics achieve on their instrumental numbers, in this case the slow burn of layered synths and sheer swatches of guitar creating a gratifyingly long buildup that does sound remarkably like wandering through the city on a sodden, depressed night.

“The Eleventh Hour” is a slight reprieve from the more percussive, beat-driven tracks featured on Kill For Love, offering an austere string-like introduction and melting away into silence before introducing a dark, barely audible pulse that flickers and then fades.  Finally, “The Eleventh Hour” counts down into next song “Running From the Sun”, itself offering the juxtaposition of two piano chords and that processed vocal again.  The bareness of the verses is augmented with drums for the refrain and then makes way for a giddily retro electronic break.  It succeeds in giving this moody, textural piece some welcome humour as well as stylistic reference points.  The simplistic opening figure of “Birds of Paradise” is carried through the song, taking turns with Radelet’s vocal line.  She sings “In the setting sun we flew away/To a broken kind of paradise” while alternating piano and buzzing synthesizers accompany her into that unlikely mixture of reality and utopia.  “A Matter of Time” is not nearly so optimistic, with the words “Cry yourself to sleep again/The past is your only friend tonight/Your life is only a dream tonight/We all cry alone” further cementing the theme of painful reality taking over from dreamlike past.  “At Your Door” offers more harshness: “It’s like we’re all frozen now/Just like ice in a glass.”  This time, though, human companionship does offer some comfort in the form of hope, even though it’s not a solution for the ennui and isolation facing us: “You know love never turns out the way we all plan/But the door is still open so give me your hand.”

A voicemail message is at the literal and metaphorical centre of “There’s a Light Out on the Horizon” and it’s an absolutely haunting reminder of the space and circumstances that separate people, despite the constant connections we make.  It seems to be suggesting that no matter how many people are split up and for whatever reasons, we will continually forge human connections of infinite variety to try and make meaning out of our lives.  At the same time, meaningful connections and relationships are made from endless coincidences and chance encounters.  “The River” closes Kill For Love on an appropriate note: the anonymity, missed encounters, and loneliness of the city are given their full and final due.  As maudlin as these words are, there’s some hope in the final couplet of “The river’s thirst is so unkind/But I’m still here waiting for you.”  An immensely satisfying treatise on the connections between isolation, media, urban landscapes, nostalgia, and lost connections, Kill For Love depicts Chromatics at perhaps the height of their career and most certainly their most powerful and evocative work yet.

“It’s me.  Just wondering if you got my text.  Anyway.  I’m gonna go to bed pretty soon.  I hope you’re okay out there…wherever you are.  Goodnight.  I love you.”

 

Chromatics – The Page

Chromatics – These Streets Will Never Look the Same

Chromatics – Birds of Paradise

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Myxomatosis #5 – Independence Days

Late, late, for an important date…I know, this mix is late.

As a belated tribute to Record Store Day a couple of weeks ago, I want to feature some independence for this mix. Instead of independent record shops, which are hugely important to the indie music fan ecosystem, I will be putting a spotlight on some fantastic independent record labels. During the 70s and 80s there was a boom in independent labels, birthing such legends as Rough Trade, Postcard, Stiff, Sub Pop, Cherry Red, Dischord, Sarah, Mute, Heavenly, Slumberland, and 4AD. Alex Ogg documents the British side of this story in Independence Days: The Story of UK Independent Record Labels (not the most fluidly written book, but a useful resource nonetheless). The freedom and immediacy of DIY allowed for releases that likely would not have been available otherwise. A lack of resources and knowledge can often be the catalyst for intense creativity. Providing an alternative to major label acts was an exhilarating development fraught with the conflict between idealistic art and realistic finances. Sometimes it meant “selling out” more than cashing in. As one Audio Antihero tagline proclaims, independent labels are often “Specialists in Commercial Suicide,” but the key word is “specialists.” Like independent record shops, these small, specific labels, founded by fans and musicians, are carefully created and curated, serving the consummate music lovers who can’t find what they need in the mainstream and who long for a bit of serendipity in their musical experiences.

At this time of global hyper-acceleration, independent bands and their labels can be particularly ephemeral, and ultimately, I suppose quite collectible. They can pop up online for a couple of years only to disappear in a cloud of cache. These days, a music blog can often lead to a sideline in the DIY record industry (17 Seconds and Song, by Toad spring to mind). New business models abound. Swedish indie label Labrador functions as a labour of love whose owners hold day jobs, and The Indelicates-founded Corporate Records is the ultimate DIY model, where the non-profit label is really a facilitator rather than a company. In this age of digital distribution, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp, independent labels have become more available than ever, but have also often become even more innovative about how they present the physical versions of their music. Many twee labels have opted for the cute, crafty, and diminutive aesthetic, selling 3” compact discs or wrapping their discs in soft fabrics and glitter glue. From plush toy ghosts sold by Sways Records in Salford, to werewolf brooches and wooly socks from Antique Beat in London, music has found a home in an ever-expanding universe of tangible contexts. In the case of Fika Recordings, the label plays off its name, the Swedish word for “coffee break,” and includes a tea bag and cake recipe with each purchase. Gerry Loves Records, a Scottish label which releases vinyl and cassettes, pays such close attention to aesthetic detail I’m often afraid to open the handmade record sleeves. These are not so much cynical marketing ploys (with these kinds of negligible profit margins, would you really bother hand-stitching toys and knitting socks if not for other, more creative, purposes?), but instead, as accents to the worlds these labels create. These small, fan-led aesthetics become unique, self-contained ways of being that co-habit with the styles of music being released. Web designers, graphic artists, writers, club promoters, crafters, flash game designers, and filmmakers can all join forces with musicians (or be musicians themselves) to create cultural enclaves where music is just one of their many dimensions. The Indelicates are an outstanding case study. They strike me as highly talented people who cannot stop being creative; whether designing necklaces, making fudge, or writing picture books, they act on ventures as the ideas occur to them: adventure capitalism, perhaps.

Incidentally, Gerry Loves Records also demonstrates another aspect of independent labels that I enjoy so much: the personal interaction. I received a hand-written thank-you letter from Andy Lobban, who co-runs the tiny Edinburgh-based label and who also happens to have been born in my hometown Winnipeg. This genial kind of gesture has become common practice among indie labels; whether a handwritten postcard from Matthew Young at Song, By Toad Records, or a personal message scrawled by Keith TOTP across the outside of the padded envelope, they are gracious acts that make you smile.

Independent labels featured in this mix:

Audio Antihero
Bleeding Gold Records
But is it Art?
Cloudberry Records
Corporate Records
Fika
Filthy Little Angels
Fortuna Pop
Gerry Loves Records
Hello Thor Records
Labrador Records
Odd Box Records
Riot Factory
Stroboscopic Records
Song, By Toad Records

If you like what you hear, support these labels, and reach out to those as-yet-undiscovered, strange, little cul-de-sacs of cyberspace to keep discovering the intriguing stuff. Welcome to the impractical, wonderful domain of split-singles, vinyl EPs, fanzines, and cassette-only releases.

Download Myxomatosis #5 here.

The Same Rules Always Apply – Captain Polaroid
Dinosaur – Sarandon
Pearshaped – Milky Wimpshake
Agnostic Nightmare – Slottet
I Hate Your Band – Keith TOTP
The End of the Affair – Friday Bridge
UR Road – Sameblod
Emitter – Miaoux Miaoux
Wojtek the Bear – Fighting Kites
Like a Bird Pulling Up at a Worm – We Show Up on Radar
Intercity Baby – The Kensingtons
Optimism is Disappointing – Hehfu
Walking on Eggshells – King Post Kitsch
This World – stanleylucasrevolution
What You Don’t Have – Meursault
12 000 Sentinels – Benjamin Shaw
French Magazines – Rock Stone
Towerblock – Trapped in Kansas
Why Do Today What You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow? – Pelle Carlberg
Nothing Much to Say – The Librarians
Feral Fanzine Frenzy – Falling & Laughing

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Stillborn Renaissance Man: Ramblings on the Return of Lawrence and Felt: The Book

Felt Book

This year’s Record Store Day at Into the Music turned out to be a rather notable one. Though I harboured some absurd hope that I may find a copy of the RSD 7” release of Go-Kart Mozart’s “New World in the Morning,” I soon discovered that the best I was going to do in the middle of the RSD melee was a vinyl copy of McLusky’s McLusky Do Dallas and a 7” copy of “Kick Out the Jams” on vinyl the colour of raspberry cheesecake. However, in a twist of fate perhaps even more absurd than my wish for “New World in the Morning,” the find that made me weak in the knees was a used vinyl copy of The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories. So weak, in fact, I managed to miss the second Felt album in the bin, which Laura duly purchased. These are the first signs of Lawrence that I’ve ever seen in this record shop in the ten years I’ve been a customer. It was a happy and strange coincidence considering the resurgence of interest in Lawrence in the past couple of years. It used to be difficult just to track down copies of Felt CDs – at least where I live. Nine years ago, Cherry Red Records decided to reissue the Felt albums on CD; they were a rather Spartan affair without nostalgic liner notes and without much beyond the cardboard sleeve designed by Paul Kelly. I began to collect them several years back. Then last year, Californian duo Girls released a limited edition heart-shaped piece of vinyl entitled “Lawrence,” an aptly woozy instrumental tribute to the reclusive frontman of Felt, Denim, and Go-Kart Mozart. Then came Kelly’s documentary film, Lawrence of Belgravia, which originally screened at the British Film Institute last year and is currently making its way across select UK cinemas. Having heard Lawrence talk about it on radio shows and having read numerous articles about it, I’m desperate to see the film; however, I suppose I have to wait just as I seemingly have to wait to purchase even a digital version of “New World in the Morning” (the odd limitations of copyright and distribution in the international iTunes system). Lawrence began giving more interviews on radio and online, and even hosted his own Domino Radio show. Even Tim Burgess expressed his love for Lawrence—something I found a bit odd until I noticed Burgess’s Lawrence-inflected intonation on part of the chorus in The Charlatans’ “North Country Boy” when it came on the radio a couple of weeks ago. Another more recent development concerning Lawrence, perhaps to build on the recent interest, was the limited edition of 1000 books of Felt photographs, quite simply entitled Felt: The Book.

This book, published by Fabrice Couillerot, Lora Findlay, and Paul Kelly with First Third Books, and signed by Lawrence, is a fitting tribute to the band, somehow exclusive and luxurious whilst plain, clean, and unassuming. The greyish covers complement the many black-and-white images inside; the simple word “felt,” in elegant, light sans-serif, is engraved in the front cover, a shadow melting into the general greyness, a half-impression, an indentation begging to be discovered. In fact, the few colour photographs that do appear in the book seem exceptionally lurid and startling, as though they’re encroaching on the soft, monochromatic world of Felt’s vintage timelessness. Bob Stanley writes the foreword, and is suitably enthusiastic in the way music fanatics often are, assigning life-changing properties to purchasing Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death. He highlights Felt’s gauziness, mystery, and lack of commercial success, the latter being the most common narrative when discussing Lawrence generally. It is a narrative that Lawrence perpetuates himself – the first photo in the collection, which is of three-year-old Lawrence looking on in distress as his older sister holds the toy she’s taken from him, is accompanied by his text: “A portentous snap – so prescient. The prize has been swiped and he stands alone – miserable.” Stanley ends his foreword with his first meeting of Lawrence in 1989, a meeting he is glad took place at the end of the Felt run because it preserved the romantic enigma of the band for him yet allowed him access to the Denim years. The Saint Etienne, Kevin Pearce, Heavenly, and Lawrence connection forms one big, blurry, beautiful mess. Paul Kelly, who used to play with Saint Etienne, directed Finisterre, a fascinating psychogeographic journey through London. It featured a Saint Etienne soundtrack, which, in turn, owed a debt to the likes of Felt’s Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death. And of course, Finisterre also featured voiceovers from Lawrence. And a script largely written by Kevin Pearce. Theirs is a world of fanzines, cult successes, indie mythology, fervent fandom, modish style, and beauty in urban mundanity. It is a world that was brilliantly rendered in the series of stills in Finisterre, and also in the stills of Felt: The Book.

Whether Lawrence intended it to be or not, the book is a document of his own narcissism and Type A personality. Of course the book is also indicative of the singular vision and divorcement from reality he writes of in his introductory paragraph in the book. Perhaps they are the same thing. They are attributes that made Felt both extraordinary and impossible. Lawrence openly writes about his frustration with his band members, and what he perceived to be a lack of seriousness and passion for the band. At the same time, he chooses band members according to how lustrous their hair is; he chooses guitars according to which one would look the best. He admits to his own paranoia about photographs of himself, asking to keep all negatives, so they wouldn’t end up in the wrong hands. To accompany a series of photographs of the band in his bedroom, Lawrence writes: “From day one I was reluctant to take photographs outdoors because I refused to be at the mercy of the elements. I think that was a particularly wise decision from one so young.” He outlines the importance of the band’s cohesive look, ostensibly one he created himself: the checked shirts to invoke Richard Lloyd on the cover of Marquee Moon and John McKay on the sleeve for Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “The Staircase (Mystery)”; thin Doc Marten soles; 50s-style peg trousers, a look which would later be pillaged by the pretentious S.C.U.M. (alarmingly, lead singer, Thomas Cohen, even seems to have stolen Lawrence’s “Primitive Painters” hat and the moody glare from beneath a dark fringe); and old leather jackets, which had to be different from the types of jackets worn by The Ramones.

In a striking two-page spread following Lawrence’s anecdote about touring Europe with his disinterested bandmates, Lawrence’s head appears in the bottom corner in front of Edvard Munch’s “The Worker on His Way Home”; he is dwarfed by the large nightmarish painting of hollow-eyed workers, who look like they are either dissolving or emanating from within flames. With his eyes downcast, Lawrence takes on a martyr-like pose in front of a strong indictment of industrial labour. He comes to embody both the cultivated apartness of many of the images and the text he provides for a different set of photographs: “Any activity that demanded effort was, in the end, left to me. Even acts of vanity.” A photo of Lawrence’s reflection in an ornate mirror, entitled “Me and my mirror in my room,” speaks to the essence of Lawrence on so many levels, it may as well be a tower block. The text beside the photo makes me more uncomfortable than most of the other pieces about his control issues. Lawrence recounts his time with a girlfriend named Vikki, who he convinced to steal a mirror from a hotel room: “Vikki was a great kid – I could get her to do anything.”

Another fascinating dimension of the book is found in the opening pages of each year/section organizing the groups of images from 1980 to 1989. Each year begins with a page of short lists of cultural texts, ranging from film titles to book titles, from album titles to live performances, from documentaries to music press articles. The implication is that these were important influences on Lawrence’s art and thought during these specific years. Just as meticulously curated as his photo archives, which he had kept organized and labelled and could present to Couillerot when the idea for this book came about, these lists present a highly specific construction of reality to accompany the carefully chosen representation by the photographs. Lawrence’s interests are perhaps both expected and unexpected. The post-punk indie favourites, like Joy Division, Sudden Sway, Echo and the Bunnymen, Win, Fire Engines, The Teardrop Explodes, and Orange Juice, in his lists seem natural as inspirations for his own DIY aesthetic. The Pop Art/Andy Warhol/Factory references and Beat Poets also seem to fit with the romance of the loner, the extreme control over one’s own microcosm and image, and the absorption with self-destructive fame. I can also understand Lawrence’s affinity for documents of deliberate isolation from society, including the two Edies of the Grey Gardens documentary and Marjorie Wallace’s coverage of “The Silent Twins,” June and Jennifer Gibbons (the latter also interestingly taken up by Nicky Wire in the lyrics of “Tsunami,” the Manic Street Preachers being yet another node on the Heavenly, Kevin Pearce, Saint Etienne network). Then there are films like Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now, which probe the darkness and corruption of humanity in the context of the Vietnam War, and obscure road movies like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins. Additionally, Lawrence includes films that deal with ostensibly real street narratives about young people, including Pixote and Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo. I suppose, in a sense, all of these texts are about being outside of society, whether through escape, rejection, revenge, or gritty voyeurism. These little lists without explanation are what you would imagine to be on Lawrence’s Facebook profile page if he were to have one.

Why the seemingly recent flurry of interest in Lawrence? Can it all be due to Lawrence of Belgravia? Or is the time finally right for an artist like him? The Internet nurtures the niche and the cult, and Lawrence has pretty much always been a cult. His mystique and power comes from being a timeless artist perpetually out of his time, and now time has become eternally present. Now everyone has become a solipsist in her/his private, yet public, corner of cyberspace. We can all follow our singular visions and realities, and cultivate and display very particular versions of ourselves, just as Lawrence always has. Lawrence also makes sense within the paradox of extreme intangibility and tangibility in the digital world; this duality of the current digital age both allows for increased disposability, mobility, and immediacy, but encourages an extreme sort of fetishism for the physical, material, and artisan, in ever more limited editions, in response to the immaterial of the digital. Lawrence thrives in the climate of exclusivity, limited editions, and limited engagements. He is a walking exhibit of archive fever, an aspect of culture that has only intensified in recent decades with the possibility of infinite archives and memory trumping history. Not only does Lawrence have an apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of indie culture, but he also owns a well-curated, enviable record collection. After playing Nightingales’ “Idiot Strength” during his Domino Radio stint, Lawrence makes the off-hand comment of “I haven’t heard that record in twenty years because my records have been in storage”; a world of subtext from the man who was living in London hostels for years due to lack of funds, but who managed to retain his extensive, eclectic vinyl collection. He embodies a false sense of mobility and minimalist living, a tension that could be definitive of these latter days of capitalism. Lawrence, the consummate contradiction, highlighting the contradictions inherent in society itself. Alan McGee once wrote that Lawrence “wanted to be renowned in the underground like Andy Warhol, but simultaneously felt he should be writing hits for Cliff Richards,” an artist in a liminal position of high and low, cult and superstardom. In a world where global superstars and major record labels are on their way to becoming obsolete, Lawrence seems to be vindicated, and he fits quite perfectly.

Lawrence the Man Who Was Not With It

In Felt: The Book, Lawrence states, “I’m quite averse to renaissance men and dilettantes.” In quite ornery, contradictory fashion, he has experienced a rebirth of sorts, and in simultaneous projects. By relinquishing control and allowing himself to become the object rather than the subject in the last few years, Lawrence’s unbeaten path has finally converged with the more travelled networks across the wireless globe. The last photograph in the book is one by Donna Ranieri; it is of Lawrence holding Herbert Gold’s The Man Who Was Not With It, an image which, incidentally, was also used as cover art for Veronica Lake’s 7” named after the Gold book. As with many of the Felt photographs, the image works on several levels. There’s a certain mercy in Lawrence’s self-belief; other eccentric, but brilliant artists have been destroyed by self-doubt, cutting their work, and often their lives, short. Instead, Lawrence has bided his time, remaining stubbornly true to his own artistic instincts. His thought processes may be baffling, and sometimes maddening, but they are beguiling, too. And, in the process, he may just have become with it.

After seven years, the next, highly-anticipated Go-Kart Mozart album On the Hot Dogs Street will be released this June. I’ve already ordered my LP copy. Order yours here. On Gideon Coe’s radio show last week, Lawrence also talked about the release of a mini-album of electronic music, so keep a watch for that as well. Copies of Felt: The Book are still available – order here.

Declaration – Felt

Until the Fools Get Wise – Felt

Sunlight Strings – Felt

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