31 July 2015

Laura Cannell - Beneath Swooping Talons

Well, I don't know anything about musical theory. Not really. I know some of the words associated with musical theory, enough to know what i like, what to look out for, but I don't pretend to understand the meaning of those words, or even how they make a difference. Music for me is a distraction and an emotional entanglement; it might develop some fascinating psychological / philosophical theme but it's rarely a theme in itself. It's much better felt than understood and this is how I approach this little bit of magical (un)realism; the sawbones and drones and the Tudor piping might be a sonic portal, she might have an eye on the sky or the ground or the flesh and bones of nature but, for me, this is the music of dinosaurs dancing.

I'd better explain.

An awful lot of my listening takes place in two ways: the commute to work; and playing with my four-year old kid. Yeah, I occasionally get out to gigs or take strolls alone in the woods (yeah, right) but, mostly, if I'm listening at home it's not alone at night, it's in the early morning and it's soundtracking some terrible multi-car pile up, some awful lego cybercrime, a recreation of the bovine spongiform crisis or, as in this case, a re-enactment of the (entirely imagined) plotline of Jurassic World. You know, the bits where the dinosaurs get a bit crazy because the owner of Jurassic World has the wrong shoes on and start to dance like it's the festival of St Vitus and then everything goes dark and the baby triceratops gets its face eaten off and the spinosaurus goes on a rampage because a food van has wandered into the prehistoric jungle...

Laura Cannell should soundtrack the next Jurassic film, no question. Her music is a beautifully judged Rorschach, a Projective Test and you can imagine it working with anything. It glues itself around the scene without enveloping it, it blends in with the environment despite not being at all ambient (I think Abis Bliss mentions visceral in her review in The Wire and there is viscera here but it doesn't slap its entrails across your face... it's red and wet but it doesn't try to impose itself on you, doesn't try to be all-encompassing. It's stately and heartfelt but it doesn't seem to need to keep reminding you).

There's probably theory yelling out at some people, Laura has been playing with some heavyweight beacons (plus eternal lightweights like Hacker Farm and Ekoplekz and Kemper Norton) and clearly has a plan for her music but the fantastic thing about this release is that she wears her excellence incredibly lightly and this lets all kinds of people in. You put images in front of her music and there's going to be movement between the parties. Her music gives as much as it takes. There may well be meticulous reconstructions of Hildegard Von Bingen here but here Hilde is on a lovely bender and she may have lost all her friends when she forgot to meet them at the Cider Bus and she may have taken all the wrong spiritual supplements but she's having a wonderful time anyway. Of course she is.

And it's very... dancey.

The woodwinds especially. She's playing two at a time here, a la Roland Rahsaan Kirk (ok, I'm cribbing this from the press release) and the effect is very... moving. Dinosaurs jig and they can jig in time to this. There's a mutability to this which separates it from stuff that sounds superficially similar - the drones are spiritual in the sense of bliss and twirling, the recorders are playing a slow jaunt; couples are circling, dinosaurs are yelling out in abstracted vowel sounds, the sunlight is pouring in through the windows, the volcanoes are bubbling. Over there, someone has fallen into the lava, not far away an adventurer is trying to buy a hotdog from a fast-moving food truck, pursued by s whole herd of stegosauruses...

This is timeless stuff and we're playing it again tomorrow, no matter what we end up doing. You can trust in this music.

Buy it here.

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