Thanks for the excellent feature on Richard Skelton (The Wire 326). We first came across the work of this fascinating artist through a collective review of A Broken Consort’s Crow Autumn, Clouwbeck’s A Moraine and Heidika’s Tide Of Bells & The Sea (all Skelton aliases) within your pages (issue 292). Since then we have gone on to get each of his new releases and the arrival of a new disc is always accompanied by the pleasure of opening the ‘package’ – with Skelton, presentation is fundamental to the product, as Clive Bell’s article and the accompanying photographs show. The careful attention he gives to each one of his Sustain-Release items has to be seen and touched, as well as heard, to appreciate the sense he conveys in his work of a deep connectedness between artist and environment.
We would like to add an additional bit of information that, to us, is an important aspect of Skelton’s art, and which wasn’t referred to in Clive Bell’s article. Skelton often leaves pieces of recorded and written works in the countryside in which it was made, to decay and become one with its surroundings. This simple but evocative gesture seems to further underline the profound resonances between landscape and music that run through his work. Thanks again for bringing attention to this unique artist. Andy Wood & Al Reed Northumberland, UK
Down to the wire
A brief amplification re: Richard Skelton’s remark: “I’ve tried bowing barbed wire and you don’t get a lot out of it.” For tips on this can I recommend Jon Rose’s CD Great Fences Of Australia – it even comes with couple of inches of barbed wire embedded in the package, and it’s all played on the stuff. In fact Jon has been playing border fences usually, but not always, with Hollis Taylor – in Australia, on the Golan Heights, in Syria, Finland, Mexico – for several years now, and the variety of sounds that can be coaxed out of barbed wire is pretty breathtaking. There’s film footage and a lot of documentation at jonroseweb.com. Chris Cutler Thornton Heath, Surrey, UK
I’ve subscribed to The Wire for many years now and am grateful to you for introducing me to some wonderful and fascinating music. But like a nasty recurring virus, there seems, every so often, to be an irresistible compulsion among some of your writers to lambast the work of artists considered to be treading water or, horror of horrors, defiling the spirit of the Sacred Adventurers in Modern Music Brotherhood by achieving a bit of mainstream recognition. The latest example of this is Joseph Stannard’s critique of Bill Callahan’s new offering, Apocalypse (Soundcheck, The Wire 326).
It surprises me that scribes of the calibre of Stannard, who are intimately aware of the history of music journalism, can go on repeating the same old dumb diatribes that have eventually led to so many writers looking so stupid and uncritical down the years. Very few artists go on reproducing the shock of the new that greets them when they first burst onto the scene. Most announce their style and their form and then, over a period of years, go on to develop and refine that initial statement. It is, after all, what they feel to be a true expression of the core of their inner life, and as such, for most individuals, it won’t often tend to make drastic deviations, but rather unfold and mature over time.
Bill Callahan, Will Oldham and others were praised in your pages in the early days of their careers when their impact was fresh and new, and you yourselves are partly responsible for creating their “canonical status”. But they have since been sporadically sniped and sneered at. For what? For following their hearts and inclinations as artists who are trying to be true to their course? Writers understand, in their own way, don’t they, this creative process, and the frustrations and agonies it can bring? A good writer should, consequently, feel ashamed at not being able to perceive this process at work in a good musician. Bill Callahan is a good musician, a thoughtful and a complex musician. He is incapable of producing something without any merit whatsoever. He deserves the respect that permits him to drift sometimes, if that’s what he needs. Feel free to remind him that he’s drifting a little, but don’t write him off because of it.
Stannard talks of “genuinely inquisitive approaches to traditional songform” and cites examples. But genuinely inquisitive approaches don’t necessarily equate with good or even listenable, and they don’t at all have any more artistic validity than extant forms. As interesting as Richard Youngs can be, his voice has some jarring limitations and, in my opinion, it is Callahan’s lyrics that are the most challenging, literate and adventurous. Steve Moore West Yorkshire, UK
May I object to Joseph Stannard’s characterisation of internet forum ILX in his review of Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse as a haven for over-aged singer-songwriters and fans of confessional indie types. ILX is a broad and agreeably heterodox church, open even to Burzum fans, but we really hate that shit. Nilmar Da Silva London, UK
This is not necessarily a criticism, but I have never read such an over the top and overblown description of a gig as Kodwo Eshun’s review of Raime at XOYO (On Location, The Wire 326). I was there, and the dancefloor was not “populated by undead souls that have forgotten how to die”, nor was there much “succumbing to a fate promised by the piteous wraiths released to roam an unknown vale of tears forestalled” (I’ve re-read that sentence about 20 times and still have no idea what it means). Raime were good, but not that good. I do wonder exactly what drugs your reviewers are on sometimes. Of course, I wouldn’t have you any other way. Joseph Steele-Perkins London, UK
Arcades fire Having read Tony Herrington mentioning Walter Benjamin in his Unofficial Channels piece on the Yr Heart Out blog (The Wire 326), I thought I’d flag an album that’s much influenced by Benjamin’s Arcades project. It’s Flannery’s Mounted Head by ex-Microdisney/Fatima Mansions crooner/ demon and current resident of Whitechapel Cathal Coughlan. It’s a highly ambitious and rewarding listen. Ronan Quinn Dublin, Ireland
Green Gartside (Invisible Jukebox, The Wire 326) must be suffering from some kind of selective memory disorder. John Peel played loads of black music back in the 1970s. As a youth growing up in the rural hinterlands, his show was the first place I heard John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Fela Kuti, deep Southern soul, urban funk and roots reggae. Phil Goodland via email
In her piece on the Black Metal Theory Symposium II (On Site, The Wire 325), Anne Hilde Neset reports that Hager Weslati quotes a racist outburst from “Norwegian group Hellhammer”. The outburst was in fact by Mayhem drummer Hellhammer, who, as anyone who has seen Until The Light Takes Us can attest, is a truly loathsome human being. Nathan Duin Minneapolis, USA
Corrections Issue 326 In Critical Beats, we should have said that Theo Parrish’s “Just1Love Bug” was a mash-up using Lil’ Louis & The World’s “Nyce & Slo (The Luv Bug)”. In Soundcheck, the review of Dan Haywood’s New Hawks on Timbreland contained two misspellings.
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