When this album was recorded and first came out I was
very much taken by the synchronicity of numbers: the
fortieth album, in my fiftieth year and so on. I suppose it
was inevitable that it should be so - especially since at
the outset of things (or at least the point at which the
idea occurred that I *might* be doing this for a
considerable length of time) I had thought that an aim of
making fifty albums over a career might be a decent target.
At the distance of a few years, this seems something of an
albatross to hang around the CD's neck, implying a degree of
consciousness and significance about its making which is
some way at odds with the actual content.
In truth, I made this record much like all the others, being
dragged along, up, down and into each song by the songs
themselves. Disparate a collection as it may be, it seems to
me now that these pieces add up to a coherently consistent
The personnel on the album are the members of the pH
quartet, but here their contributions are much more as
individuals than was the case on "X my heart"; this is not
in any sense a "band" disc. Since I'd taken it as my aim to
make a set of songs which covered the majority of the bases
which comprise my style (if such a thing exists) it was
inevitable that the unifying factors would be song and voice
rather than instrumentation.
It would be fair to say that the songs fall into three
categories: constructed, found and discovered.
Construction is the most normal way of writing a song, of
course: a melody, chord sequence or lyrical idea makes
itself known and is then worked upon until it becomes a song
entire. "Unrehearsed", "Nightman" and "Fallen (the City of
Night)" fall into this category.
"Unrehearsed" is the song which comes closest to the "epic"
and band styles here. (Perhaps it's odd, therefore, that
this is the one I've played most from this album live, in
solo and duo formats.) There's an inexorable shape to this
one and the pHQ imprint is fairly clear. Maybe I should have
cut the riff section down a bit, but it was great fun to
play and there were also some constructional shapes which
demanded it last that long! Very sympathetic playing from
all concerned. As is often the case, the admonishment given
to a second person singular could equally be taken as being
addressed to myself.
"Nightman" is a straight acoustic guitar tune. I can still
remember the specific moment which inspired it, when I woke
at the dead of night and sat outside, thinking that I was
thinking things through, but knowing that I'd recall little
or nothing the next morning. At least I recalled enough to
document the sensation of the moment...which, I believe, is
not something that's not just to do with me personally.
"Fallen" has an odd resonance, post 9/11. But it's not just
with dramatic events that cities change under our feet and
before our oblivious eyes. I was, of course, writing about
London, after (another) fogwalk through streets which I once
knew well but which are now alien to me. We carry the cities
of our pasts in memory; the actual cities are something
else, especially at night. (And the fogwalking reference is
not accidental.) And night itself is a different city. Well,
I won't go into the densities of the lyrics here, beyond the
obvious night fallen, city fallen, pay attention at the back
element. But I'm not a teacher, am I? Just a trickturner
between word and music....A propos of which...a neat (I
think!) bit of Krebs Technik to get out of the the choruses
and into the end, which took an age to sit exactly right. A
good riff used incredibly sparingly for once!
It may seem strange to say that "Since the Kids", to all
intents and purposes a deliberated piano tune, is "found"
but it is indeed the case. The song came from a lengthy
improvisation on piano - about twenty minutes' worth if I
recall correctly. I then took this into the studio and
proceeded to edit it mercilessly until getting the full
form. Only then did I go about finding the lyrics.
Incidentally, my intention in these was to be absolutely
positive, yet realistic, about the parenting process.
"Stupid" (yet sweet at the same time) was found just by
messing around to rhythm tracks. Eventually the shape
imposed itself. An odd collision of instinctive guitar with
my first forays into soft synth world. The wild voice, of
course, was just that, an undisciplined wail.
"Always is next" sprung itself into being found from the
bass pulse. All the guitars and tune eventually coalesced
around that, although it took a long time to get this one
under control, infused with some retro spirit of Nadir as it
is. The Son of Sam-ish imagery took me completely by
surprise (yes, discovering what a song is about can be like
that...) but was entirely apposite.
And in the "discovered" corner we have "The Light
Continent". This was entirely improvised as far as music is
concerned. I began playing one morning in a completely open
- if somewhat anxiously reflective and sombre - frame of
mind. Just "I'm making music", in a free sense. (As it
turned out, while I was doing this, sombre and changing
stuff was indeed happening elsewhere, but that's entirely
another story which I choose to retain as private....) I
played my parts...my performance...in one continuous pass,
adjusting the various sound sources I was using as I went.
Again, a process of editing brought the piece into
(admittedly long) shape. By this time the vocal line, theme
and lyrics were well under way. (From the outset I'd had
something of a feeling for the dispassionate white emptiness
of the Sout Pole....) David and Stuart's contributions were
made under strict rules: they were allowed only two passes
each. The first was without having heard the music at all;
the only reference points I gave them were "It's 14 minutes
long and it's Antarctic". I remain really happy with this
Also discovered are the three fragments which appear on the
disc as link passages. Their presence is essential in order
to glue the whole thing together. It's often the case that
while recording one listens to small sections or loops of
fundamentally backing music which are fascinating nuggets in
themselves, but will never really get to be centre stage.
For three such moments this was the chance for individual
On the cover - apart from Paul Ridout's "artist's own"
collection of objects which embed or signify time - the
tachograph disc was ripped out of the machine at high speed
by Stuart on one of the many band Euro-jaunts, to general
hilarity, and the watch was my father's. It stopped on my
wrist within a day of my taking over the wearing of it.
There's a lot of Stuff on this disc and it goes to some
extreme places but overall it has, for me, a reflective
quality which simultaneously acknowledges and regrets the
passage of time and of how small we are in the great stream.
But always is next (soon come), so we'd better get on with
This record was made in 1998, but it seems longer ago to me.
So much, and much of the unexpected, has happened since
then; but essentially the songs here say "accept what's
happening right now and go with it (even if it's already
past, even if you know it will be past)". So...whenever it
was made, it is done. Believe me, I don't pretend to have
anything but through-view, as opposed to overview.
In the course of these recordings I believe I learned enough
to sustain me over (at least) the next ten years of
work...while I wasn't paying too much attention to
These notes have been made without any reference to the
newsletter of the time, so may well be at odds with some
opinions expressed therein. So what and see below. The stuff
is the stuff.