downcast angel

The rave relics feed a hunger for escape. “I respect working hard but I dread a day job, asserts Burial.” “Or a job interview. I’ve got a truant heart, I just want to be gone. I’d be in the kitchens, the corridors at work, and I’d be staring at the panels on the roof, clocking all the maintenance doors, dreaming about getting into the airducts. A portal. As a kid I used to dream about being put in the bins, escaping from things, without my mum knowing she’d put me out in the bins. So I’m in a black plastic bag outside a building and hearing the rain against it, but feeling all right, and just wanting to sleep, and a truck would take me away.”

— https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/3131/spread/28 / Burial ITW, 2007, Mark Fisher, The Wire

« A fragment of Japan’s ‘Ghosts’ washed up 14 years later, on Tricky’s first single, ‘Aftermath’. Here it wasn’t sampled, but cited, by Tricky’s mentor, fellow Bristolian Mark Stewart. In the background of the track’s loping-shanty rhythms, you can hear Stewart speak-sing the lines ‘just when I thought I was winning, just when I thought I could not be stopped…‘ The use of the Japan reference and the presence of Stewart – a major figure in Bristol postpunk since his time with The Pop Group in the 1970s – were already powerful clues that Tricky’s positioning as a ‘trip-hop’ artist was reductive and misleading. Too often, the label trip-hop would be applied to what was in effect a black music with the ‘blackness’ muted or excised (hip-hop without rap).  »

« On the face of it, Tricky’s ra(s)p could be heard as the British answer to hip-hop, but, on a more subterranean level, what he was also taking up and renewing were strands in postpunk and art pop. Tricky counts postpunk acts like Blondie, The Banshees, The Cure (‘the last great pop band, I think’, he says) as his precursors. It’s not as simple as opposing this lineage to the soul, funk and dub references which were so obvious in Tricky’s earliest music. Postpunk and art pop had already drawn substantially upon funk and dub. ‘I grew up in a white ghetto,’ Tricky said when I interviewed him in 2008. ‘My Dad’s Jamaican, my grandmother is white. When I was growing up, till I was about 16, everything was normal. When I moved to an ethnic ghetto, I had friends there and my friends would say, “Why do you hang out with those skinhead guys, the white guys?” and my skinhead friends were like, “Why you hanging out with those black guys?” I couldn’t get it, I couldn’t understand it. I could always go to both worlds, I could go to a reggae club and then a white club and not even notice it because my family is all different colours, different shades. So at Christmas, you got a white person, black person, African looking person, Asian looking person…we didn’t notice it, my family are colour blind. But all of a sudden things started moving around, learning bad habits, people whispering to you, like, “Why you hanging around with those white guys?” These are kids I grew up with since five years old, the guys I grew up with saying “why you hanging out with those black guys?” Then I see The Specials on TV, these white and black guys getting together.»

« When Maxinquaye was released in 1995, Tricky was immediately anointed as the voice of a mute, depoliticised generation, the wounded prophet who absorbed and transmitted a decade’s psychic pollution. The extent of this adulation can be gauged by the origin of the name Nearly God: a German journalist had asked him ‘what’s it like to be God? Well, nearly God?’ Instead of taking up his assigned role as the imp of the perverse in 90s mainstream pop, though, Tricky sidled off into the sidelines, a half-forgotten figure. »

« On Maxinquaye,’ Ian Penman wrote in his landmark March 1995 essay for The Wire magazine, ‘Tricky sounds like ghosts from another solar system’. The spectrality of Tricky’s music, the way it refused to step up or represent, the way it slurred between lucidity and inarticulacy, made for a sharp contrast with the multicoloured brashness of what Penman called ‘the Face- cover/Talkin Loud/Jazzie B nexus of groovy One World vibery’. What’s so significant about the version of multiculturalism that Tricky and Goldie proffered was its refusal of earnestness and worthiness. Theirs was not a music that petitioned for inclusion in any kind of ordinariness. Instead, it revelled in its otherworld- liness, its science-fictional glamour. Like art pop’s first pioneer, Bowie, it was about identification with the alien, where the alien stood in for the technologically new and the cognitively strange – and ultimately for forms of social relations that were as yet only faintly imaginable. Bowie was by no means the first to make this identification: loving the alien was a gesture that self-mytholo-gizing black magi – Kodwo Eshun’s ‘sonic fictional’ canon of Lee Perry, George Clinton, Sun Ra – had made long before Bowie first did it. Identifying with the alien – not so much speaking for the alien as letting the alien speak through you – was what gave 20th century popular music much of its political charge. Identification with the alien meant the possibility of an escape from identity, into other subjectivities, other worlds.
There was also identification with the android. ‘Aftermath’ includes a sample of dialogue from Blade Runner: ‘I’ll tell you about my mother’, the anti-Oedipal taunt that the replicant Leon throws at his interrogator-tormentor before killing him. ‘Is it merely coincidence that the Sylvian quote and the Blade Runner lift converge in the same song?’, Penman asks. »

« Ghosts’…Replicants? Electricity has made us all angels. Technology (from psycho-analysis to surveillance) has made us all ghosts. The replicant (‘YOUR EYES RESEMBLE MINE…‘) is a speaking void. The scary thing about ‘Aftermath’ is that it suggests that nowadays WE ALL ARE. Speaking voids, made up only of scraps and citations… contaminated by other people’s memories…adrift… »

« When I met Tricky in 2008, he referred unbidden to the line from ‘Aftermath’ that Penman picks up on here. ’My first lyric ever on a song was ‘your eyes resemble mine, you’ll see as no others can’. I never had any kids then, so what am I talking about? Who am I talking about? [My daughter] Maisie wasn’t born. My mother used to write poetry but in her time she couldn’t have done anything with that, there wasn’t any opportunity. It’s almost like she killed herself to give me the opportunity, my lyrics, I can never understand why I write as a female; I think I’ve got my Mum’s talent, I’m her vehicle. So I need a woman to sing that. »

« When I first heard Burial a decade later, I would immediately reach for Tricky’s first album Maxinquaye as a point of comparison. It wasn’t only the use of vinyl crackle, so much a signature of both Maxinquaye and Burial, that suggested the affinity. It was also the prevailing mood, the way suffocating sadness and mumbling melancholy bled into lovelorn eroticism and dreamspeech. Both records feel like emotional states transformed into landscapes, but where Burial’s music conjures urban scenes under Blade Runner perma-drizzle, Maxinquaye feels as if it is taking place in a desert as delirial and Daliesque as the initiatory space that the characters pass through in Nic Roeg’s Walkabout: the land is scorched, cracked and barren, but there are occasional bursts of verdant lushness (on the queasily erotic ‘Abbaon Fat Tracks’, for instance, we could have strayed into the ruined pastoral of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden). »

« Your eyes resemble mine…’ From the very beginning, speaking in his dead mother’s voice, a semi-benign Norman Bates, Tricky was conscious of his (dis)possession by female spectres. With his predilection for cosmetics and cross-dressing, he looked like one of the last vestiges of the glam impulse in British pop: his gender ambivalence a welcome antidote to Britpop’s lumpen laddishness. It’s clear that gender indeterminacy is no pantomime mummery for him, but something that goes right to the core of his music. Saying that Tricky ‘writes from a female point of view’ fails to capture the uncanniness of what he does, since he also induces women to sing from what seems to be a male perspective. »

« I like putting women in a male role, to have the woman play the strength and the man be the weak. I was brought up, one of my uncles was in jail for 30 years and the other for 15 years. I didn’t see my dad, I was brought up by my grandmother and my auntie so I’ve seen my grandmother fight in the street. I’ve seen my auntie and my grandmother have fistfights, I’ve seen my grandmother grab my auntie’s arm and close it in the door and break her arm fighting over meat. So I see women as tough. They fed me, they clothed me, my grandmother taught me to steal, my auntie taught me to fight, she sent me to boxing when I was 15. If men go to war, you stand in one field, I stand in another, we shoot each other, but what’s the hardest is when you are at home and you gotta listen to kids cry and you gotta feed ‘em. That’s tough, I’ve seen no men around, I’ve seen my uncle go jail for seven years, then ten years, my other uncle; my Dad never rang. Women keep it together, keep the food on the table, defend us, defend the children, like if anyone fucked with us they would be down the school. I’ve never seen men do that for me, I’ve never seen men there for me like that. All I know is women. »

« Gender doesn’t dissolve here into some bland unisex mush; instead it resolves into an unstable space in which subjectivity is continually sliding from male to female voice. It is an art of splitting which is also an art of doubling. Through the women who sing for/as him, Tricky becomes less than one, a split subject that can never be restored to wholeness. Yet their voicing of his incompleteness also makes him more than one, a double in search of a lost other half it will never recover. Either way, what Tricky unsettles – both as a vocalist and as a writer/ producer who coaxes singing from an Other – is the idea of the voice as a rock solid guarantor of presence and identity. His own weakened, recessed voice, all those croaks, mumbles and murmurs, has always suggested a presence that was barely there, something supplementary rather than centred. But the main – usually female – voice on his songs also sounds absented and abstracted. What the voices of his female singers – flat, drained, destitute of ordinary affective cadences – most resemble is the sound of a medium, a voice being spoken by something else. »

[My gawd, i’m almost quoting the whole chapter (not nearly), stopping there…]

— Fisher, Mark. « Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. »