STANLEY DONWOOD



www.slowlydownward.com


I've got a record player in my studio, so these are all vinyl records.  One side of an LP is about the right time that a painting needs until it's time to stop for a minute or two and have a proper look at it.  And turn the record over.


 
Kristen Hersh – Your Ghost

This is on a record called Hips and Makers which I stole a long time ago, because it has a very beautiful cover with artwork by Shinro Ohtake, art-directed by Vaughan Oliver.  It was later that I listened to the music, which is heartbreaking.  I thought it was one of the saddest things I had heard, and it made me very worried about many things.  Your Ghost is a horrible, haunting lament for someone and sounds like grief translated into music. To me, in any case. I don't really know.

 

Malcom Middleton – We're All Going To Die

 

This is much more cheerful, a rocking tune that's a good idea to play if you've been listening to too much Kristen Hersh and you're feeling very blue.  Malcolm Middleton was once, with another bloke, in a colossally miserable band called Arab Strap whose music I like a lot. He got David Shrigley to do the cover of the album that this track is from (it's called 'A Brighter Beat'), and it's a very good cover, featuring a sleeping balloon on a pillow.

 
Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top  

Aidan Moffat was the other bloke in Arab Strap, and while Mr Middleton seems to have cheered up a bit, Mr Moffat has not.  The Copper Top is about going to a pub next to a cemetary after a funeral and is about as much fun as that sounds.  However, it's a supremely beautiful song that almost makes me want to go to a funeral just so I can go to a pub next to the cemetary afterwards.  The cover of the record, called 'Everything's Getting Older, has extremely unflattering 'future portraits' drawn in pencil of Wells and Moffat by Frank Quitely.

 

Jega – Geometry

 

I don't know anything at all about Dylan J Nathan, who released this track on an album also called 'Geometry' on Planet Mu Records back in 2000.  But it's a completely splintering piece of music, like dancing in glass or dressing in sandpaper before rolling down a hill.  It's necessary to play this sort of thing very loud.  Fortunately there isn't anyone to complain about noise where my studio is.  Well, there is, but they don't know who to complain to because they don't know where I am.  Not exactly.  The cover of the record is by the musician, I'll bet on it.

 

Labradford – Lake Speed

Since this came out, on an eponymously-titled album, various ways of describing this sort of music have made themselves apparent. Slow-core? Drone-rock? Post-rock? I've no idea who comes up with these terms.  Lake Speed is perfect music for staring out of the window at the rain as it falls between the watcher and the blank brick wall opposite.  The cover for this record has a rectangle cut out of its white sleeve to reveal an out-of-focus blurred photograph of some girders.

 
Murcof – Lully's "Turquerie" As Interpreted By An Advanced Script  

This is a truly astonishing piece of music, and if it was possible to imagine what would happen if time travel was possible then this might be one possible result.  The traveller would find herself in a flat land in mist and a lowering bank of cloud, and there would be no roads and marshes on all sides.  In the distance, this music is barely audible.  The worry would be that it wasn't only time that one had travelled through.  The sleeve for this record, entitled 'The Versailles Sessions' has a pleasingly minimal cover designed by Jonathon Leijonhufvud, with photography by Guillame Cottet.

 
PJ Harvey – White Chalk  

I'm not sure what PJ Harvey intended this record to mean, but I don't care at all because it means a great deal to me, and I wouldn't tell anyone what that was.  All of the tracks on this album are of a piece really, but this one (which is also the title of the record) catches in my throat like a broken cocktail stick swigged from a stolen vodka martini.  Another great record cover, this time with photography by Maria Mochnacz.

 
Michael Nyman – Car Crash  

This is from the soundtrack to a film called 'A Zed and Two Noughts' by Peter Greenaway that came out in 1985.  I found this record in someone's office in a box that was waiting to be thrown away, which would have been a crime as this is a stunning musical exercise; exciting and doom-laden and thrilling and perverted.  I've since seen the film and it is remarkable.  Lots of fast-forward footage of rotting animals and disconnected emotion.  Thoroughly recommended.  The cover is shit, I'm afraid.

 

Throbbing Gristle – Beachy Head

 

Quite aside from Throbbing Gristle being the most interesting band to emerge from the 1970s, this track is beautifully vacant, a hymn to the thousands who've thrown themselves into the churning sea from the towering white cliffs.  No bluebirds here, just shrieking seagulls and a strangely empty grassy clifftop.  I discovered Throbbing Gristle after first being exposed to Genesis P. Orridge's later band Psychic TV, whose music scared me so much I thought I was hallucinating a street covered with churning maggots.  Throbbing Gristle are easy listening.  In comparison.  The cover for the record that this track is taken from, '20 Jazz Funk Greats' is probably my favourite sleeve art of all time.

 
This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren  

This is a deeply nostalgic and erotic song.  Even though my copy is scratched and a bit fuzzy it still works as it always has.  It's a finger along your spinal nerve and a mournful lament for what maybe might have been.  Perhaps strangely at least two of the musicians on this track are from the same place in Essex as I am.  The cover is by 23 Envelope, who I believe is at least half composed of Vaughan Oliver, 4AD's in-house designer for many years.  And it is, of course, very, very good.

 

 

 





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