Because, as some observant wags have already pointed out by email, I can’t see Warren Ellis do a thing without having to copy it. But also because I used to write about music all the time, until I didn’t, because my PhD ate my life and a drive failure ate my all-digital music collection (and reminded me, not for the first time, that data which doesn’t exist on multiple pieces of hardware might as well not exist at all)… and because now I’ve finally got to a point where Spotify fits into my patterns of living and working, and where the algorithm has been sufficiently well-trained that it spits up new stuff that I enjoy listening to.
To be clear, I don’t like having to rely on Spotify, which has a very shitty business model as far as paying the artists is concerned… but the prospect of even starting to reconstruct a music collection that once ran to thousands of albums is as emotionally ugly as it is financially untenable, at least at present. And there’s no denying that the ability try out music of all types and genres from almost any era has broadened my listening very quickly, too. It’s been fun for me to go back to the early strata of Western popular music, to which most folk my age were introduced by their parents. My parents were not very culturally engaged; the example I always use is that, with the exception of the safer singles which might have been played on Radio 2 or terrestrial telly in the late 80s, I’d hardly heard the Beatles or the Stones before I left home in 1993, let alone Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac or the Kinks. So I like that I can go on a bebob binge or a deep dive into the Delta blues, as well as listening to the stuff I loved in my adolescence.
Uncle Warren’s influence manifests in my increased consumption of weird, dark ambient stuff. I’d realised some time ago that postrock—the only genre where I can legitimately think of myself as a player as well as a listener—is good work music because of its lack of distracting vocals. But sometimes even melody is too much for certain sorts of writing and thinking; then you just want soundscapes, kosmiche hypnosis, post-Eno tone-paintings, droning tonal daubings. Of course, a lot of the stuff Ellis listens to is Bandcamp only, but the Cryochamber label is well represented on Spotify, and I’ve been binging on that a fair bit. (Though I note that the unified aesthetic of the label, both sonically and graphically, makes me wonder if it’s not just one or a couple of musicians in a box-room, cranking out album after almost-exactly-one-hour-long album under a dozen different monikers… but hey, if it is, who cares? It’s quality stuff. More power to them.)
This one, though, is a Venn diagram smooshing of [musician whose work I’ve loved for almost as long as I’ve been paying attention to music] with [suitable for getting your head down and working with your thinkmeat]. I actually met Clint Mansell during my period of incarceration in the British public school system, not long after I’d discovered the chaotic collage-work of Pop Will Eat Itself*; we had a brief conversation on Stourbridge high street regarding the merits of different cash machines in the area. (The Midland Bank one was the only one that dispensed fivers.) His first soundtrack, for Requiem for a Dream, is almost as harrowing as the movie itself. The one for Moon, however, occupies a nice spot somewhere between the quieter and more thoughtful bits of late-period Nine Inch Nails, and more typical moods-for-movies material.
I’ve still never seen the film itself, mind.
[ * There’s a very viable argument to be made that this encounter with Mansell made an aesthetic impression upon me that has never faded. Between him, promo photos of Daisy Chainsaw and Fields of the Nephilim clipped from Melody Maker circa 1991, and Craig Charles’s long stint performing the role of Dave Lister in Red Dwarf, the mood board for my enduring look is pretty much complete. ]