Radiant Black Future {2001​/​2005​/​2020}

by irr. app. (ext.)

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Radiant Black Future, Step Forward And Address The Present Amidst The Wreckage Of The Past {2001/2005/2020}

[eie dig044]

1. Die Unsterblichkeit Ist Nicht Jedermanns Sache

2. The Emperor Of Disgust

3. Auslöschen Der Unnötigen Lichter

4. Claires Bêtes Nouvelles

5. (interval)

6. Le Merde, C'est Inéluctable

7. Nascere E Crescere E Ardere D'Inconsapevolezza

8. A Silk Sow With Pursed Ears

9. The Blackbird's Final Words

[eie dig044]

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MURKY GREY PAST

‘Radiant Black Future’ was an important transitional record for me in several ways. By the time I had finished assembling this, the sixth full-length irr. album, my ability to record was at last fully under my own control, my resources had expanded significantly, my ideas were able to develop in some new directions, and my technical skills were (moderately) starting to improve. Also – just as significant as any of the other factors – the equipment I was using changed completely about halfway through putting together the basic material.

Prior to moving into the Felton Empire ‘Studio’ (slash bedroom slash dining room slash office slash mildew nursery) in the final days if 1996, opportunities to generate any audio material had been limited to whatever access I could schedule in the De Anza Community College electronic music studio, or whenever I was able to borrow R K Faulhaber’s home recording gear. My attendance at De Anza had come to an end in spring 1992, which eliminated that particular resource; it wasn’t really a serious loss, though, as I’d been severely chafing against the limitations of the sampling software & indifferent keyboards contained therein (as described in my notes for ‘Foreign Matter, Frequency Carrier’). A reasonable quantity of material had been produced in that studio, but most of it I considered unsatisfactory and unusable for irr. purposes. Starting in December 1992, I was fortunate to be allowed easy and frequent access to Richard’s 4-track set-up, being that we were sharing an apartment together in San Jose; but in mid-1994 he decided to move in with his girlfriend, and when that happened my ability to create new recordings was almost entirely precluded for a long while. Richard’s generosity never lagged, however: he continued to lend me his equipment whenever I asked for it, at one point even going so far as to give me a key to his apartment so I could go in and use everything whenever he was at work or somewhere else.

It was my own involuntarily itinerant lifestyle that became the main obstacle during the period that followed. After leaving the San Carlos Street apartment, it took years for me to find a stable living space; I ended up trapped in a routine of moving from one temporary air mattress/sleeping bag/spare sofa to another – even finding myself homeless for several weeks, illegally sleeping on the floor of the picture framing shop where I worked and desperately hoping I wouldn’t end up both jobless and living on the streets in one sudden swoop. Only one small respite took place during this creative limbo when, for a week during the summer of 1995 (or thereabouts), I was enlisted as an apartment-sitter by Richard and his girlfriend-now-turned-fiancée; I took full advantage of my equipment proximity every single day, and recorded an entirely new batch of material that would become the bulk of a never-released album called ‘Not Hidden, But Concealed’.

Close to another year would pass after that before my housing situation was settled enough for me to start compiling the assortment of recordings I‘d accumulated between 1991 and 1995 into a few self-contained, publically-digestible portions. The construction of the first three albums has already been outlined in the ‘Foreign Matter’ notes, but basically all I could do pre-Felton was to sort through the existing material and collate together the sections I felt would work as a coherent whole, and then embellish them with extracts from the growing stockpile of my environmental and shortwave recordings. Two ‘mock-up’ cassettes were made for reference; these early collections were about 75% accurate as to what eventually appeared as the albums ‘An Uncertain Animal’ and ‘Foreign Matter’, with a few tracks siphoned off to serve as the starting point for ‘Their Little Bones’.

To assemble my initial attempt at an album master – the one that would materialise as ‘An Uncertain Animal’ in 1997 – I actually went out and hired a professional studio, since I thought that using home equipment would not give adequate results. In fact, I did it twice. This turned out to be an unfortunate waste of time and money. On both occasions I used small, independent studios run by people that I knew, and who had experience with some form of avant-garde or experimental music; but, as it turned out, the nature of that album was just too peculiar for them to take seriously. The respective studio owners/engineers made little effort to conceal their attitude that I was just clumping together a bunch of meaningless noises, would respond with annoyance whenever I tried to address issues with the sound quality (it was all just a bunch of arbitrary sounds, after all), and spent most of the sessions chatting with people on the phone while I did my best to wrangle the equipment on my own. It was depressing to throw that money away twice in a row, but it did motivate me to learn how to do it myself at home, and that turned out to be for the best. This development points the way towards the significant change that occurred when I was piecing together ‘Radiant Black Future’.

The master for ‘Uncertain’ was ultimately put together using Richard Faulhaber’s brand-spanking-new DAT machine. The DAT format quickly revealed itself to be an obnoxiously unreliable and frequently uncooperative thing, and fortunately I only had to use it to create a master that one time; but in those early days it seemed to be incredibly hi-tech and futuristic. Richard was always a great source of equipment R&D, investigating new home-recording options and giving me a chance to try them out for myself without having to strain my anemic financial resources. In this way I was spared the extreme buyer’s remorse of ever investing in the DAT debacle. It was Richard’s next tech venture that had the most important impact, however: home computer editing & multi-track software.

For reasons that I can’t remember, I was strangely reluctant to make the move to working with audio on the computer. It doesn’t make any sense to me now, except to remind myself that the world was yet to be completely devoured by computers back in the mid-90s: the internet was a feeble little wiggling grub only a couple of years old, email hadn’t quite turned into a household fixture, and social media was barely even a thing – and that’s only if you include the insular world of Bulletin Board Systems (which a number of my friends back then were involved in, being that the area where I was living was ground zero for the tech explosion that was getting underway). Still, my dad worked in the computer field, so I grew up in a household that had a home computer as soon as home computers were a thing, beginning with an absurd, ungainly, suitcase-shaped contraption called the Osborne 1 (ever see one of those things?) and followed a few short years later by the ridiculous plastic beige block that was the original Apple Macintosh. But I had yet to own a computer myself, and for whatever reason I was initially unwilling to take that step.

Upon landing at the Felton Empire Studio in December 1996, at long last enjoying enough housing stability (and enough space) to start piecing together some audio equipment of my very own, my immediate strategy was to get a Tascam cassette 4-track and bog-standard dynamic cardioid microphone so I could continue the same approach I’d used when freeloading off of Richard’s resources. I resumed recording new material this way for the next couple of years: most of ‘The Civil Mechanism Is Dismantled By The Beasts Of The Field ‘ and the water bowl gong and drones from ‘The Last World Mushroom’ from ‘Their Little Bones’, the fundamentals for ‘Die Unsterblichkeit Ist Nicht Jedermanns Sache’ and the big drone section of ‘Nascere E Crescere E Ardere D'Inconsapevolezza’ from ‘Radiant Black Future’, some long-form atmospheric elements later applied to ‘Ozeanische Gefühle’, and a fair amount of unused ideas were created at this time. But the undeniable, obsolescence-bound trajectory of the cassette 4-track and my unwillingness to endure another slog through the poop-filled DAT quagmire inevitably nudged me closer to the decision to switch to a computer. Richard showing me some of the remarkable results he was achieving on his computer set-up provided the final shove that propelled me into the loveless embrace of the doomed digital domain that most of us inhabit today.

During those initial years in Felton was when I began in earnest to try to establish myself as an artist and get some albums released. Launching ‘An Uncertain Animal’ into the world in 1997 proved to be a demoralising ordeal every step of the way, from mastering to pressing to printing to distribution – and then most of the copies vanished into nowhere without any money or any interest being generated by them. ‘Foreign Matter’, the second planned album, was going to be released by the German-based Plate Lunch label in 1999, but that plan never came to pass. Frustrated by my lack of progress, I released the third irr. album ‘Their Little Bones’ myself that year as a CDR packaged in a handmade frame box, and finally got a reasonable amount of positive feedback despite its limited availability; ‘Little Bones’, incidentally, was the first album to be largely composited and partially composed on my new computer array, using CoolEdit editing software (supplied by Richard) and ‘Cubasis’: a less-expensive, limited-function version of the Cubase multitrack program. Also in 1999, ‘Inception And Silence Undivided’ made a clandestine appearance as a micro-edition of 10 copies. A brief and unsuccessful bid to get a fleshed-out version of the ‘Not Hidden, But Concealed’ material released by Crank Satori followed in 2000. One thing was becoming clear: if I did ever manage to develop some kind of audience for my work, it was only ever going to be very, very tiny one.

‘Radiant Black Future’ was my next whack at releasing something through an external label. It was the last album to be constructed in the manner of the first three albums, with most ingredients being pieced together from a pre-existing pool of material. Securely ensconced in the Felton Empire with the implements of digital chicanery at my fingertips, I was finally in a situation where I could create new recordings at will; but there were still some useful creations kicking about in the archives, and I wanted to find them a home before I moved off into the Brave New World offered by computer multi-tracking. As I mentioned before, some of the tracks had started as relatively recent recordings made on the 4-track, so these were transferred to the computer along with the last few sections of early 90s De Anza studio sampler-based concoctions that I felt were irr.-appropriate. Inevitably, an abundance of location, broadcast and experimental recordings from my self-generated library were also brought along to carpet the floors and caulk the fixtures and decorate the windows. A brand-new development, however, was that a majority of the sounds being used had been digitally processed and/or manipulated in some way. A few tracks that emerged, like ‘Unsterblichkeit’ and ‘The Emperor Of Disgust’, I felt were amongst the most successful ones I’d done to date. Others, like ‘Nascere’, were best-I-could-do-at-the-time repeats of earlier failures: in this particular case, a desire to create a really huge, immersive drone and not really achieving that in any meaningful way. In any case, when it was done I thought it was a pretty good album overall, and I didn’t develop the same post-completion misgivings about it that I had with ‘Foreign Matter’ or ‘Inception’.

I’d had an occasional correspondence with musician and BlueSanct label boss Michael Anderson since mid-1998, and late in the summer of 2000 an idea was brought up of having BlueSanct release the next irr. album, which was already taking form as ‘Radiant’. Actually, in an uncanny, nearly-exact repeat of the situation that had just played out with Plate Lunch the previous year (as described in the ‘Foreign Matter’ reissue notes), my involvement with BlueSanct started with a request for me to contribute a track and cover art for a split 7” that was going to be mailed out to label supporters as a free gift; I delivered my materials for this at the very start of 2000, and around September, with the 7” project still waiting to be manufactured, we began discussing the possibility for a full-length irr. CD release. As had happened with Plate Lunch, both of these projects noiselessly evaporated over the following year. I can’t recall if I was ever told what happened.

I did eventually, and half-heartedly, make a small number of home-printed CDR copies of ‘Radiant Black Future’ available for while in 2001/2002, packaged in a standard jewel case with the flimsy, poor quality printed inserts that I was limited to making back then, and using those problem-causing adhesive CDR labels that frequently introduced into the audio content the sound of a gigantic caterpillar chewing a particularly fibrous leaf. A revised version of the album was created in 2005 and released in an even smaller quantity, this time in a slimline jewel case with slightly better photo paper inserts and a directly-printed disc rather than an adhesive label. This 2020 reconstructed version follows the basic template of the 2005 version, but also freely deviates from it whenever structural improvements needed to be made. When alterations have been made, however, only the original sources have been used.

It’s been an interesting experience revisiting this album, and re-acquainting myself with the transitional blend of techniques that were used to make it. I’d forgotten quite a lot of the details over the years. It’s a bit strange to look back at this particular time period, right at the point of establishing the first creative workspace over which I had full control, and just as I was starting to release the results of that creativity into the world. It’s astonishing to think that, 20-ish years later, I’ve somehow been able to continue doing music that is so completely obscure and uncommercial. It’s also a bit unsettling to come to terms with the practical limits of that ‘career choice’ as age and health and financial security become more pressing concerns. I don’t think I really believed I’d be able to do this kind of thing for such a long time, but at the same time I assumed it would eventually lead somewhere that had some solid ground underneath it. Another transitional moment seems to be approaching.

TRACK NOTES

Die Unsterblichkeit Ist Nicht Jedermanns Sache:

As noted before, this was one of the last irr. tracks to begin its existence on the cassette 4-track. The beginning section (after the voice) is one of the earliest ‘studio’ recordings I made at the Felton Empire Studio: routing a microphone through a delay setting with a lot of regeneration and exploring the proximity interaction with an unusually chatty electrical outlet. The recitation at the beginning was an extract of something recorded by John Scharpen, which I’d found randomly attached to a cassette dub of some music he had given me; I don’t know what he was reading, but I liked the tone of it and thought it would make a good start for the piece. A squeaky Welsh train recorded on a squeaky Welsh train ride wanders in for added texture. What I had forgotten until I started this reconstruction was that some of the 4-track sources used were extracted from a pre-existing longer piece that I had labelled as ‘‘Patapheromone’, but that will be explained in the reissue notes for that release.

That strange electric bellowing that wanders in around the 2 minute mark is one of the few justifications I have for buying the ridiculous Roland GR-700 when I was 19. For those of you not familiar, the GR-700 was a mid-80s commercially-available guitar-controlled synthesizer, which took the notes played on an odd-shaped electric guitar and (if you were lucky) translated those pitches into a MIDI signal that would trigger sounds from a synthesizer footswitch bank. I was, and still am, a big Robert Fripp/King Crimson enthusiast, and an earlier version of this instrument figured into their 80s output so I leapt at the opportunity to buy one for myself. It proved to be a rather unreliable instrument, and the range of synthesizer sounds it could trigger were generally pretty awful; fortunately, I bought it right as that model had become obsolete and music stores were aggressively ‘remaindering’ the ones that were still lingering in their showrooms, so I got mine for less than $200. I’m not sure the three minutes on this recording (and the scattering of minutes on a few other recordings) was worth the $200 – but the ‘controller’ also served as my first electric guitar (albeit a particularly awkward and lopsided one) until I could afford to get a proper guitar in my late 20s. This GR700 is still occupying my closet. I have no idea if the synthesizer unit still works.

The ratcheting noises towards the end were generated in the same way as the electrical hum at the beginning, only an electric mosquito repeller instead of an electrical outlet was used as the audio source. This so-called ‘repeller’ was a plug-in device that generated a sound that was supposed to keep hungry mosquitos away, but was in fact 100% ineffective at doing anything of the kind. At least it provided me with an interesting source to use while I was relentlessly preyed upon by the little buggers.

The track name, which translates to “Immortality is Not Everybody’s Thing”, is a quote taken from Kurt Schwitters (who apparently took it from Goethe).

The Emperor Of Disgust:

I really enjoyed how easily this piece came together. I was making a lot of little improvised action recordings during this period – like the series of impromptu ‘non-performances’ I made between 1995 and 2001. I made a different series in 1999 that I designated as ‘lint recordings’, which simply involved setting up a portable recording device, making an arrangement of objects, and then doing a sort of ‘object free improvisation’. I used to dare myself to collect some of these odd bits and pieces into an album, but I always decided against it: I figured my output was incomprehensible enough as it was. Also, like a lot of experimental music, recordings of this kind were much more interesting to make than to listen to. On this occasion, I finally found a way to make use of a few excerpts by arranging them in the context of some poached audience laughter. For me, it creates the impression of a scene from one of Jan Švankmajer’s fabulous animated films.

The track name is taken from a fictional book title used in a sketch by Fry & Laurie.

Auslöschen Der Unnötigen Lichter:

The middle part of this track is built around one of the very last pieces I created using the sampling software in the De Anza College studio. I was happy with the results, but it was definitely not a finished work unto itself. Lots of random little location recordings I’d been accumulating are distributed throughout: an odd, raspy drone that came out of the telephone in a cheap London hotel when you pressed a button labelled ‘music’; a spectacularly drunk Scots woman encountered outside of a train station; a very complex, evolving drone being loudly emitted by a bank of air vents in the underground parking lot at the now-demolished Vallco shopping mall in Cupertino; and one of my earliest field recordings (I think it was #5 on the first cassette) made in 1995 while sitting next to an emphatically rattling window on the 26 bus travelling down Stevens Creek Boulevard. Several of these ingredients had been transferred over from the abandoned ‘‘Patapheromone’ project.

One of the sources that always gives me a chuckle when I hear it is the flute recording, although it is processed & layered for use in this piece. In January 2000, during one of our trips to see Current 93 perform in London, my friends John & Greg Scharpen dragged me along to see a show by a British folk singer they both liked at a pub called ‘The Queen’s Head’; this would have been fine with me, except that a ridiculously long & convoluted series of bus rides were necessary to get to the venue – and when we arrived, the ‘venue’ actually turned out to be a shed next to the pub, and the ‘show’ actually turned out to be part of a monthly talent showcase arranged by the locals for the locals. The people in attendance were completely baffled by the arrival of these three very scruffy-looking Americans, and the atmosphere was decidedly uncomfortable for everyone. One young woman, still in the early days of learning the flute and performing one of her pieces in public for the very first time, was particularly unsettled by having unexpected guests in the audience. I recorded her performance (which was rather good, I thought) and decided to feature a version of it on this track, thus immortalising her forever in the annals of rock & roll history.

The track name, which translates as “Extinguishing the Unnecessary Lights”, is taken from a painting by Yves Tanguy.

Claires Bêtes Nouvelles:

This was a tricky one to put together the first time around. I was perhaps too attached to the principal source material, which was an especially silly, unplanned ‘non-performance’-style action that I did in 1998 with the help of a friend’s daughter at her 4th birthday party. The recording quality wasn’t all that spectacular, and there wasn’t a lot I could do to improve that back in the late 90s. A recording of fitfully expiring fluorescent bulbs and random mandolin abuse were added to accentuate the childish chaos. I’ve made some fairly substantial adjustments this time in an effort to finally get it in the neighbourhood of where I’d originally wanted it to be.

‘Claires Bêtes Nouvelles’ is another track that uses an extract from the sampler material created in the De Anza studio: specifically, a section from a long piece called ‘The Unconscious Passenger’. In the original 2001 version of ‘Radiant’ (and, correspondingly, in the actual 1992 ‘Passenger’ track), the extract is much longer and includes layers of a looped guitar sample appropriated from an external source that shall remain unnamed; I was always concerned that the sample was too recognisable, so in the 2005 revision I replaced that section with a new recording where I played a the guitar patterns myself.

The 2001 and 2005 versions both ended with a long, quiet location recording of a homeless man muttering to himself in the lot behind my picture-framing job sometime in mid-1999. I’ve now added the even longer, full-length version of that recording, but have isolated it as its own track for those who would prefer to leave it out.

The track name, which translates as ”Bright New Beasts”, is a quote from the poem ‘Le Brasier’ by Guillaume Apollinaire.

Le Merde, C'est Inéluctable:

The structure of this track went through a few stages of development, the first one being a fairly straightforward recording of some abstract text pieces I had written. The writing itself I thought was reasonably good (some of the text was revised & expanded for use in the original booklet for the ‘Foreign Matter’ CD), but the spoken performances left something to be desired and the end result wasn’t all that interesting. I subsequently made several unsuccessful attempts at editing and layering the readings together in different ways. It wasn’t until I started modifying the recordings to such an extent that it became more of an abstract texture that I began to get somewhere. How the peculiar wah guitar ended up in there, I can’t remember.

The track name is a translation into French of a phrase that was poignantly used by Richard Faulhaber.

Nascere E Crescere E Ardere D'Inconsapevolezza:

Like ‘Cognitive Disorder #2’ and parts of ‘Cognitive Disorder #3’ on ‘Foreign Matter’, my intention with this track was to build up to a really spectacular, huge-sounding drone – and, the same as with those other tracks, I just couldn’t quite achieve that. This one didn’t turn into quite so much of a clumpy mess as the previous tracks, but it never really managed to lift off. A big reason for this was a problem that plagued all of my early recordings: in my struggle to keep the cassette hiss under control, I would end up skimming off most of the high end, leaving the end results sounding very murky and drab. In this revised version I’ve been able to repair that fault, and I think it finally manages to soar a little bit.

The introduction is a second excerpt taken from the ‘Stutzbearscats’ sessions that I refer to in the ‘Foreign Matter’ notes. ‘Stutzbearscats’ was a short-lived duo project I had with Michael De La Cuesta in 1993 or 1994 while we were both still members of Vacuum Tree Head. The rolling chimes and footsteps were mine, but I think the distant horn was Mike’s.

The track name, which translates as “(to be) Born and Grow and Burn with Unawareness”, was something I found in a book about the writings of Italian Futurist F. T. Marinetti, but I’ve since learned it is in fact a quote from the autobiographical poem ‘I Fiumi’ by Giuseppe Ungaretti.

A Silk Sow With Pursed Ears:

The original version of this track was used as the first section of a 3-part submission for the compilation CD accompanying Bananafish Magazine #13 (released in 1999 but recorded in 1998). I felt that section had some unexplored potential, and so for ‘Radiant’ I re-recorded it and expanded it into something more substantial.

During my downtime at a picture framing studio where I worked (for far, far too many years) I made a lot of different location recordings… air compressor drones, mechanical chopper noises, stool squeaks against the cement floor, creaky cabinet hinges. I got a lot of mileage from those recordings. Several of them were peppered into this pot to keep the pigs lively.

The Blackbird's Final Words:

This was sourced from a room recording I made of Richard Faulhaber playing back an experiment he’d done with an extract of human speech being repeatedly abstracted and stretched (vaguely inspired, I think, by Alvin Lucier’s ‘I Am Sitting In A Room’ technique). I liked the sound of it and asked to include it on the record as a tribute to his years of encouragement and support. The ‘Blackbird’ reference is to Richard’s excellent 1989 cassette ‘Black Birds Basking’. The shadow of an actual blackbird is lurks in the background.

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ORIGINAL ALBUM TEXT {2001}

We can start with a single human being. Remove it from its environment, pin it down, isolate it: here, in this vulgar material, the blueprint for something more can be uncovered.

We strip away its rationalisations, its excuses and lies – and what we are left with is a mammal, dominated by its hungers and an obsessive craving for freedom. As a mammal, it howls and protests without shame, chafing against its restraints without cease.

Next, we siphon away curiosity, anxiety and initiative. What remains is an insect: an existence steered only by instinct and mechanical responses, blissfully devoid of questions, voiceless and unambitious.

The opportunity for true, worthwhile development is now becoming available, so we act further: our insect is drained of social habits and hierarchies, purified in the uninterrupred glow of unconsciousness – and thereby emerges as a plant, a monument to life as self-fulfilling fact.

This far from recrimination, the possibilities expand in every direction. But let’s move farther still: extract all impetus, conflict, sentience, death. Here, we walk through an indefinable doorway into the domain of mineral bliss, sparkling with the metals from which are formed the wheels of eternity, paved by the stones that create the road to unqualified perfection. Let us now take that road, abandoning form and substance.

With this final stage accomplished, we are transformed into an idea that is infinite in its scope – and will always remain so, for it will never be debased through the act of materialisation. And from here we need go no further.

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ORIGINAL, FULL-LENGTH ‘MERDE’ SPOKEN TEXT SOURCE {1992}
(prior to being edited & modified into the ‘Foreign Matter’ text)

Part One

<Til reynslu>

Attempts could have been made to go about this in a scientific manner, but inevitably it becomes a difficult distinction to make. Language (even in this firm and agreeable condition) is, at best, a facile alternative to more obvious forms of prostitution, a quick way to divert suspicion elsewhere. When language is regarded in this light, written language becomes little more than a series of pointless stains left on reasoning, similar to the blackish smudges left by hard rubber soles on a linoleum floor. After the onslaught of the printed word – this singularly refined manifestation of human corruption – even the most durable logic is reduced to waste: a pile of wretched bones left in the figurative cellar, the flesh entirely stripped away by syntax, declension, acidic qualifications….

The next part doesn’t come quite as easily. Every moment subsequent to its conception has been plagued by incessant difficulties, not only suffering the ordeal of being expelled from the womb, but forced through a whole series of womb-like exigencies. Only the afterbirth remains breathing. It doesn’t fit on a timetable, and it is never convenient for things to arrive in this way. And now my animals have their legs sticking in the air.

<Koma til ríkis>

Sometimes it pays off to be inquisitive, so long as you can restrain your judgements towards whatever it is that you discover. A moment of uncertainty, the thrill of the flesh followed by the immediate and sincere rejection of the same… Despite an outwardly healthy appearance, there is a full-blown epidemic taking place on the inside; not so much a biological imbalance, however: perhaps something closer in nature to a broken weather system. The lopsided pattern recurs as once again we are so easily seduced into taking part in the deluge (always pathetically mistimed), and yet are perpetually surprised to find ourselves spread as thin as rainwater across our own treacherous front steps. Not a trickle or a leak from the catalytic sink, not a single drop: just beads of moisture clinging to every surface, like the sweat on the temple of someone waiting for a bullet. A bullet that never comes, of course. In any event, an occasional surge of blind panic works well to flush out a cluttered imagination.

The deceptively flawless surface of the exterior does not offer any useful clues, but: a scalpel, a pair of pliers, some careful manoeuvres (not too careful) and we can get ourselves a peek at what is concealed within this seemingly seamless enigma:

Shit.

It isn’t too much of a surprise. The distinctive perfume fills the senses as soon as the breach is made: mountains of shit, oceans of shit. The steaming core of this particular animal is revealed with a great, wet sucking noise. Gardens of shit, highways of shit, monuments and cathedrals and casseroles of shit. Its glorious abundance sets the sky alight with a dramatic brown glow. Peaceful melancholy settles into our bowels as we dream of being small children once again, dressed securely against the elements, and working with tireless diligence like oversized dung beetles as we roll immense fecal globes and stack them into crude tripartite figures: jolly, festive shitmen arranged in a flabby parade across the neighbourhood’s front lawns. Some even have the traditional carrot nose: an item that has somehow managed to survive the digestive frenzy that preceded this scatological wonderland. There is a compelling completeness to the scene, even beyond our idealised perspective of it. Everything is more or less in its final state: no more anticipation and no more guesswork. Complete.

<Fullkominn>

Part Two

Filled by a mouthful of dust and working against the stem of inclination, the reduction (and that which follows) of solid matter is kept to the forefront of our priorities, while insolubility is spurned and pointedly avoided. Catching the quickest and most virulent contagion available, we arrive at the remains of our predecessors, their fluted and tasty bones stretching out amongst long braids formed of salivary glands and stomach tissue. We follow these twisted lines across the proverbial ‘hinterland’ – not nearly as remote as it had seemed – only to discover that they extend far beyond what their function would require of them. Behind the sealed, waxy door presented to us, a strange, sudden birth is instigating itself – ‘sudden’ to us, that is, although its developments towards this point could have been detected long before now if we had been paying attention.

The first few moments of existence of this self-induced issue are spent prone and dispassionate, settling like sand dropped into a glass full of oil, but in actual demeanor very unlike this. The shape it finally decides to take is that of a ‘distinct possibility’, which will subsequently be discarded in favour of appearing as a ‘widely-accepted fact’ – a configuration much better suited to its temperament. The preliminaries over with, it begins to burrow its way into the accumulated sum of human knowledge, and, emerging on the other side, realises it has found none of the things it had expected. It discerns an innumerable mass of bodies parasitically fastened upon one another, endlessly passing the same stale blood around in an anemic circuit. The realisation is disorienting: the signifiers are revealed to be completely alien to what they were formulated to represent. The tangle of roots grows in every direction, both towards and away from what is necessary. Every aspect of it is unstable, most of all that which is ultimately being conveyed. Undesirable questions present themselves: how can an incomplete circle be used as a cornerstone? Or even as a functioning wheel? The underlying form is exposed and spread out across the floor. A sickly pallor suffuses features that had once given an impression of attractiveness. Bile rises like a herd of small, frightened animals racing blindly towards a cliff (always the default course of action in these situations), their tiny hearts beating wildly as they plunge over the edge – only to be found curled up at the foot of the bed the next morning, breathing quietly and lost in peaceful dreams.

It should be recognized that, if an excess of information is possible, it certainly has been reached now. The road to the inanimate world is a long and arduous one – but so exhausting has the burden of our constantly-expanding rationalisations become that the comfort and simplicity of a non-sentient existence has developed an irresistible appeal. The new contender takes refuge as a safety pin, enjoying a wide range of functions until finally being settled into position as a substitute button on an elderly woman’s dress. This is a fulfilling time for them both: going to formal occasions; riding public transport; pitching woo in the gazebo; feeling the prickly but affectionate fingers of oxidation gently tickling around the edges; encountering other substitute fasteners – always carefully concealed, but somehow one can just sense that they are there… But the euphoria can’t last forever. This is understood. Mechanical failure or the looming possibility of an actual button replacement will take place sooner or later. Rather than having to endure that devastating moment when the reverie will be terminated, our protagonist decides to move on once again, this time passing through doors so vast that they cannot be seen.

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credits

released July 3, 2020

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Component materials recorded between 1992-2001, initial album assembly in August 2001 at the Felton Empire Studio, Felton CA.

First revision completed in August 2005, also at the Felton Empire Studio.

Adjustments made in October 2015 at Rock Creek Tributary, Hillsboro OR.

This full reconstruction & second revision completed in June 2020 at Rock Creek Tributary.

Audio & visuals by M. S. Waldron, © 2001, 2005 & 2020
with contributions from:

John Scharpen (opening voice on ‘Unsterblichkeit’)
R. K. Faulhaber (closing voice on ‘Auslöschen’, sound sources for ‘The Blackbird’s Final Words’)
E. R. J. Burriesci (voice & balloon antics on ‘Claires Bêtes Nouvelles’)
Michael De La Cuesta (opening horn on ‘Nascere E Crescere E Ardere’
Gregory Scharpen (closing voice on ‘Unsterblichkeit’ and ‘Nascere E Crescere E Ardere’)

Background images used for the 2001 front & back cover are photographs of Heimir Bjorgulfsson’s installation ‘Zonder Titel 1999’ taken by Dan Armstrong.

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