Cindytalk is led by Gordon Sharp, a Scottish band that have been making music for nearly 30 years. Originally a post-punk band, it wasn’t until 2009’s ‘The Crackle of My Soul’ that Cindytalk radically transformed the sound of their music.Sharp once coined his music “Ambi-dustrial”, which is an apt description of Cindytalk’s music.
‘A Life Is Everywhere’ is their new album, and its light years away from the sound of their debut album ‘Camouflage Heart’. ‘Time to fall’ opens the album with crystalline chiming bells, serrated shards of noise angle their way in and soon grabs all the attention. Its a tense and feral introduction, the equally thrilling ‘My Drift is a Ghost’ is dominated by a shimmering meteor shower onslaught of digital noise. By now you begin to understand the alien atmospheres and elemental themes that define this album, ‘To A Dying Star’ penetrates your ears with a bubbling, almost fluid downpour of metallic sounds. It slowly builds momentum until it seems to want to collapse in on itself, but instead disperses until it becomes formless.
‘Interruptum’ starts with more of a menacing shape, repeated drones channelling downwards are interspersed with silence. Flecks of metallic chimes, electronic noises and shuddering sounds are held together at regular intervals by a pounding drum. It’s fraught and mysterious, creating a strange atmosphere where presences seems to want to communicate with you but you are not certain of its motives. Its beautifully constructed, full of drama and tension, and certainly the most thought-provoking track on the album. ‘Interruptum’ is the calm before the battle-scarred storm that is ‘As If We Had Once Been’, a disturbing barrage of dubby industrial noise. ‘On A Pure Plain’ ends the album and is harsher still, a blistering clash of distorted noise which seems to be pummelling itself into submission. Its cloaked in a mournful melody which tries to hold the onslaught, but the shrill returns and seems to be taking on the melody as well as itself. Its a draining experience, but just like ‘To A Dying Star’ it eventually subsumes and scatters into the world it inhabits.
‘A Life Is Everywhere’ is a beautiful and often indescribable album, the brittle musical terrain it maintains for long periods should never have the right to sound as wonderful as it does. Amongst the quieter moments, the music is often uncaring and unknowable and encourages you to go no further. It is horror at its finest, you want it to stop but it has a thoughtful sense of balance which keeps you intrigued, and these contradictions are a reminder of elemental forces more powerful than us.
Cindytalk have been going for over 30 years now. Maybe there’s something about experimental music that breeds survivors. Perhaps the avant-garde spirit of continual destruction and recreation has rejuvenating effect on its creators. In the opening minute of the first track, ‘Time to Fall’, chiming bells break and fracture in a twist of blank noise. Scrapes of distortion assail the ears and it’s immediately apparent that this is a much more abrasive work than their previous outing, 2011’s ‘Hold Everything Dear’. Before long it’s built up to a tumultuous squall of pink and white noise that scours the cranial cavity.
Snaking shudders of sound slither across ‘My Drift is a Ghost’, before being washed away in a tide of noise. Beneath, currents of lower frequencies surge and swash. Fleeting flickers of smooth synth threaten to break through like rays of sun into a darkened room, but in an instant, they’re gone, dragged away by a sandstorm of static. Explosions bathed in galactic reverb bear down on the listener during ‘As If We Had Once Been’, the emergent rhythms gliding out in concentric spirals before shards of treble crash across ‘On a Pure Plane’. Yet from the screech of interference emerges a broad, soft sonic haze that pulses calmly as the album fades to black. In the main, it’s not delicate or gentle, and is more reminiscent of Prurient than anything else that comes to mind. So yes, it's pretty heavy duty stuff – and all the better for it. Photo by Spaewaif
A LIFE IS EVERYWHERE
Review in BOOMKAT August post-punk survivor Gordon Sharp aka Cindytalk returns with A Life Is Everywhere, surely his most volatile, lyrical and consuming work since his creative re-birth on Editions Mego a couple years back; here he gravitates away from the dawn-treading digital ambience of his recent sides and towards a noisier, more expansive destination, whilst also exploring some of the most beautiful, accessible harmonic themes of his entire career. 'On A Pure Plane' is the purest, plainest example of this fusion: it collages elegiac string pads with curdled, corrosive power electronics, staking out a middle ground between GAS's Zauberberg and Kevin Drumm's Sheer Hellish Miasmah, while 'Time To Fall''s trebly, ecstatic Vibracathedral-esque drone raga is slowly peeled back to reveal a glassy supporting structure of angelic choral sounds. 'My Drift Is A Ghost' lays the distortion on even thicker, this time buttressing it with murky, mortar-fire industrial percussion reminiscent of Alberich or Vatican Shadow; 'Interruptum''s elegant, light-refracting electronics are equal parts sacred music and INA-GRM; and 'As If We Had Once Been' is in-the-red but deftly turned, dub-conscious minimal synth, its heart-rending melody calling to mind Sand Circles' heatsick city visions - proper Terminator blues. These pieces are intricately constructed mechanisms, not let-it-all-hang-out improvisations; even at their most brutal, they have a balance and elegance to them that's proof of a master at work. Photo by Spaewaif
The trajectory of Cindytalk is one of the most unusual stories in music. The band was originally a vocal duo fronted by Gordon Sharp, who also contributed vocals to a pair of This Mortal Coil albums in the mid-80s. After a run of successful albums, the band fell silent. During this time, Sharp was investigating issues of identity and sexuality; when “Transgender Warrior” appeared in 2003, he had renamed himself Cindy / Cinder; thus, Cindytalk. But more than the name had changed. The new material, culminating in a series of albums for Editions Mego, was starkly abstract and virtually vocal-free. Fan reaction was severely mixed. Some embraced the experimental sounds while others complained and left. Camouflage Heart this was not, and some would never forgive.
Sharp now continues his sonic explorations on A Life Is Everywhere. Absent from the mix are the children and piano that made 2011′s Hold Everything Dear nearly accessible. A few connections to past material remain: the digitized shoreline of “The Eighth Sea” and the cosmic meanderings of “Switched to Lunar”, from 2010′s Up Here in the Clouds, find their echoes in “To a Dying Star” and “Interruptum”, while the industrial drums of “Of Ghosts and Buildings” (from 2009′s The Crackle of My Soul) reappear on “As If We Had Once Been”. Not that Sharp is recycling his old concepts; he’s updating them for a new audience. The sea may still be the sea, but now sounds even more alien.
The manipulated chime tones of “Time to Fall” are reminiscent of Daniel Menche’s gamelan work on the recent Marriage of Metals, also on Editions Mego. These artists share a dissatisfaction with sound restriction, and seek to extract the widest array of sounds possible from every available source. The chimes are never far from the surface, but neither are the distorted drones. A hint of melody bleeds through the center of the piece like a light leakage of moisture through cheesecloth. ”My Drift Is a Ghost” provides the impression of a rainstorm filled with ball bearings; one can hear every metallic bounce. The internal battle of “On a Pure Plane” implies that Sharp is still struggling with unnamed issues. The track is at war with itself, harsh bursts of percussive static seek to overwhelm the melodic underpinnings, but in the end are unable to do so. Perhaps this final track represents the true self at war with societal demands; if so, it’s an odd yet convincing triumph for the self.
I intentionally have not read a single word about this record before listening to it as I didn’t want any spiel to subconsciously tarnish or mould my listening experience. If it said it was about frogs playing snooker I’d be stuck with it in my head. I like to take this kind of stuff in on my own terms. I recommend you do the same. However if your brain has turned to jelly, read on and let uncle Ant take you by the hand.
It’s always a joy to get a new release from Gordon Sharp and company’s long term Cindytalk project. After seemingly vanishing off the face of the planet for fifteen years, their new material on Editions Mego seems to be getting stronger with each release. So many artists reach this stage in their career and things become stagnant and they sound like they’re just going through the motions. Cindytalk however keep progressing, moving forwards to the point that ‘A Life Is Everywhere’ just might be their finest release to date.
Opener ‘Time To Fall’ sounds like waking up with a foggy head after a night on the tiles, awoken by the ringing sound of an alarm clock and then being plunged into a huge vat of effervescent sonic hangover cure that fizzes and bubbles, refreshing and cleansing the mind with huge swells of aquatic sonics that eventually wash you up on the shores of some paradise island. ‘My Drift Is A Ghost’ has similar big washes of intricately textured liquid electronics (possibly manipulated field recordings) over which menacing bass bubbles and dark strings bring an elegiac quality. Give this some welly on the volume and you’re in for quite a ride.
After that intense rush ‘To a Dying Star’ oozes a really lost and lonely vibe and then around midway some drones enter the mix which have a celestial almost alien deep space quality to them and yet most of the sounds make me imagine microscopic deep sea creatures. Two separate worlds become linked. ‘Interruptum’ is a really spaced out number, with pretty chimes and twinkles dissolving into the ether. It sounds like a slow motion distant memory of a religious ceremony in a church not of this world.
‘As If We Had Once Been’ is a disorientating soundworld of dislocated rhythms and loops frantically battling against one another for supremacy and then some ghostly atmospherics casually swan in drowning the buggers out. Closer ‘On A Pure Plane’ is a thing of real beauty with complex chaotic electronics sounding like the inner workings of a mind on the absolute edge but are anchored by heavenly, heart wrenching strings. There’s tons of stuff about these days mixing these types of contemporary classical phrases with experimental electronics but this is the real deal. An absolute masterclass and a breathtaking closer to an album which effortlessly juxtaposes melancholy with euphoria. There’s an outstanding continuity to both the sound palette and sequencing of the tracks that really make this an album to be enjoyed in full. Not to be missed.
With 2009’s The Crackle of My Soul, Gordon Sharp, the leader of Cindytalk, radically transformed the core sound of his music. Admittedly, it came 15 years after its predecessor, Wappinschaw, but the difference from what had been a full band’s post-punk mélange of industrial rock and goth was such that the two albums might as well have been separated by light years, even taking into account the fact that the early Cindytalk albums had only ever hovered on the fringes of traditional rock music. Perhaps the surest sign that this new direction would represent a dramatic shift came when one glanced at the new album’s home: experimental label Editions Mego, which has put out Sharp’s subsequent three albums.
Like Cindytalk’s three previous releases on Mego, A Life Is Everywhere is built around keenly balanced electronic drones and ambient textures, interjected with hints of more organic elements that underline even the coldest cuts with a profound humanity. Having stated that, it may be the noisiest release yet under the Cindytalk name, although Gordon Sharp is more subtle just about any actual noise artist. “Time to Fall” opens the album with arrhythmic bell jangles that are scattered across the stereophonics and quickly subsumed by righteous waves of bristly, atonal noise, crystalline saturated electronic drones that pressurize both the higher and lower registers in a manner not unlike Daniel Menche or Helm’s Luke Younger. The track heaves with repressed tension, as clean synth lines a la Tangerine Dream wrestle their way to the fore, unsettling the aura of brutality to create something more subtle and emotionally resonant. “Time to Fall” suggests the turmoil of the human mind, even the human experience, in an abstract way, and serves as a potent opening salvo for an album that never gives too much away whilst slaloming around a range of feelings and sounds.
“My Drift is a Ghost” is shorter and punchier than its eight-minute predecessor, dominated by shimmering electronic oscillations and waterfalls of white noise. Despite likely being produced on a laptop, there is an organic quality to Sharp’s music, and harks back to the use of field recordings and found sounds on his previous album, Hold Everything Dear. It’s clear there are similar sound sources onA Life Is Everywhere, notably the metallic clinks and shudders that help close “My Drift is a Ghost,” but they’re mixed more intricately into a mix that is often more dense and forbidding than anything I’ve previously heard from Cindytalk.
Where Hold Everything Dear seemed to deliver a heartfelt message of love and compassion (albeit abstractly), A Life Is Everywhere is pregnant with a sense of loss, and perhaps even death, as suggested by the track titles: “Time to Fall,” “My Drift is a Ghost,” “To a Dying Star,” “As If We Had Once Been,” etc. “To A Dying Star” collapses under the weight of what sounds like sampled gusts of wind and bubbling water, whilst “Interruptum” is introduced by mournful downwards-sliding string drones like something off Mohammad’s latest album on PAN (check it out) and bouts of silence, before train samples and ringing electronic notes conjure up imagery of deserted, neon-lit train platforms in the dead of night. “Interruptum” is the least loud track on the album, and also the most interesting, with reverberating drum pounds injecting a hint of dark ambient into Cindytalk’s carefully-constructed composition. It’s merely the calm before the storm, however, as the short “As If We Had Once Been” is driven by distorted industrial beats over gloomy synths to knock us out of our reveries.
Album closer “On A Pure Plain”’s title suggests some sort of spiritual escape from some of the darker haunts evoked by the rest of the album, but, whilst it is underpinned by a docile violin melody, the top-half of the track is dominated by distorted noises, perhaps sampled from home appliances but here overdriven into baleful abstraction. In many ways, A Life Is Everywhere is a schizophrenic creation, the quieter, often acoustic moments buffering against repeated onslaughts of brutal technological noise, as incongruous as a lone tree growing in a shopping mall parking lot and sandwiched between two SUVs. Perhaps the title says as much as the music contained in this evocative and intelligent album: it’s a slice of life viewed through the prism of a singular individual. And like life, it’s full of beautiful contradictions.
El legado de Cindytalk sigue en constante evolución gracias a esta segunda etapa emprendida por Gordon Sharp (definitivamente en solitario) desde 2009 en eMego, refinando cada vez con mayor precisión hacia el drone minimalista todas las influencias que han caracterizado a su obra: vanguardia, ruido, intimidación, power electronics, industrial, post-punk, rock, etc, en una batidora de una primera etapa que abarcaba fantásticos trabajos durante la década que comprende el período 1984-1994, con dos puntos de inflexión entre el punto inicial con “Camouflage Heart” con la formación de Kinnison (que falleció en 2008), Clancy (miembro fundador junto a Sharp) y John Byrne hasta el extraño punto final de “Wappinschaw” (1994), dejando entre medias fabulosos experimentos donde “In This World” (1987) sigue brillando con una entidad propia (además del recuerdo imborrable de sus aportaciones vocales a This Mortal Coil en las versiones de Modern English, “Sixteen Days”, o Big Star, “Kangaroo”).
Una vez finalizada esta etapa, el rescate de Gordon Sharp por eMego sigue con la lógica de su catálogo estos años y para este 2013 nos promete una buena cantidad de referencias en este aspecto como ya comentábamos la de Robert Hampson (que también compartió un split en 2010 con Cindytalk), Daniel Menche, COH, Locust, Russell Haswell & Yasunao Tone,… Su primer trabajo para eMego con “The Crackle of My Soul” (2009) indicaba los nuevos caminos que tomaría el proyecto de Sharp, donde la composición digital sería la guía en esta nueva etapa solitaria y con el recuerdo de la muerte de Kinnison, optando mucho más por experimentar en terrenos ambient en “Up Here in The Clouds” (2010) y “Hold Everything Dear” (2011) conformando una trilogía agria , triste y al mismo tiempo dejando un rastro de belleza decadente en todos ellos gracias al tratamiento sonoro empleado, compensando pasajes de oscura demonización con pastorales estampas melancólicas.
Con “A Life is Everywhere”, el enfoque se repite pero se vuelve mucho más extremo y tenso, dejando que el peligro y el vértigo se apodere de una manera directa del disco, aunque al final el resultado del aquelarre esté envuelto de un romanticismo inclemente y perturbado. Es la sensación que podría describir con precisión el corte inicial con “Time To Fall”, capaz de conectar con un inicio donde el tono ambiental y los sonidos percusivos que nos rodean me recuerda a Philip Jeck al mismo tiempo que parece apoderarse del entorno un pasaje mucho más oscuro y tormentoso derrotando el sentimiento placentero inicial por una ráfaga de ruido que tampoco llega a ser molesta y busca en el tono neoclásico del final de la composición un espacio entre Pimmon, Lawrence English y Chris Watson, absorbiendo esa energía entre un tono mucho más melancólico. La presencia rítmica que se cuela en este disco sirve para diferenciarla con mayor precisión de la trilogía anterior y el primer arrebato abstracto y desfigurado lo encontramos en “My Drift is a Ghost”, dejando que las referencias al power electronics o a la época industrial estén presentes diluidas en dos niveles, el peligroso y el lecho emocional que impone en un ensimismado drone en un segundo plano, atacándolo de manera inclemente pero con un elemento constantemente purificador y sanador.
La tormenta sigue inclemente en “To a Dying Star”, implosionando en una cascada de efectos y ruidos que dejan paso a la poética estampa de la explosión estelar, dejando restos en flotación y de nuevo, llevando al extremo su sonido, induciendo un mantra incómodo, cósmico e irresistible al mismo tiempo. Un disco que sería deseado dentro del catálogo de PAN, Blackest Ever Black, Hospital, Subtext o Touch, que encuentra en “Interruptum” una auténtica estampa pesadillesca y torturada donde conecta con The Haxan Cloak, Kreng o Roly Porter aunque obviamente sin deuda alguna. Conforme vamos acercándonos al final del disco, el preámbulo de deformado dub e industrial de “As If We Had Once Been” arrastra una dinámica rítmica siendo atacada entre las intermitentes reverberaciones de sus interferencias y el eco emotivo pujando hasta que definitivamente, el ruido hace gala de toda su inclemencia inconexa en los cortocircuitos iniciales de “On a Pure Plane”, arrastrando todas las deformaciones de un disco de una manera terrorífica y apabullante al mismo tiempo que imaginamos el cielo con los tonos neoclásicos de banda sonora aislacionista que los acompañan, tensando la cuerda y exprimiendo sus volúmenes en una puja dramática que se resuelve desbanenciéndose y dejándonos en un limbo que sirve de punto intermedio. Tal vez suene reiterativo, pero de nuevo nos encontramos con un apasionado y apasionante trabajo de Gordon Sharp, figura indispensable sin duda. Lección magistral.
"'A Life Is Everywhere' is an ecstatic mix of rhythm, noise, drone, texture and melody. Simultaneously heartfelt and not for the faint hearted.
Within their self contained world Cindytalk continue the unique trajectory that has purveyed their career starting in 1982. This instalment further explores the fearsome terrain that was initiated with previous Editions Mego releases such as 'The Crackle of my Soul' and 'Hold Everything Dear'. Throughout the 6 tracks on offer the standard fair of music is run through serious level processes leaving, taking rhythm and sound to extreme limits whilst always retaining trace elements of their core. Ringing bells are interrupted by artefacts from shredded sound matter, euphoric chords are swamped by chopped rhythms which succumb to an endless storm of electronic bliss. Utopia has never been so bold.
The unique positioning of Cindytalk's output over a 30+year period is a testament to the will to explore. Unfettered by trend, taste and desire. This is unadulterated expression, a future music for those willing to confront the future as a viable option."
The first 2 12″s on PRAXIS came out at the end of November and beginning of December 1992 and the label is celebrating this with a series of parties around Europe in the last two months of 2012.
The first will be a party in London – the birthplace of the label – on November 2nd on the MS Stubnitz!
Still in the process of finalising the line-up, confirmed so far are:
Bambule – http://soundcloud.com/touchedraw
Base Force One – http://soundcloud.com/praxisrecords/
Controlled Weirdness – http://soundcloud.com/dj-controlled-weirdness
Dan Hekate – http://hekate.co.uk/
DJ Stacey – http://soundcloud.com/noyeahno
DJ Scud – (Ambush/Sub/Version)
Eiterherd – http://widerstand.org/
FZV – http://soundcloud.com/fzv
Kovert – http://soundcloud.com/kovert
Somatic Responses – http://soundcloud.com/somatics
Warlock – http://soundcloud.com/warlock
King George V Dock, Gallions Reach (DLR-Station), Royal Docks, London
Doors open 11pm, music starts midnight
Tickets on the night: GBP 10.00
Radio Black Forest and Endtyme Records present the much anticipated second installment of the WOODLAND GATHERING. Building upon the success of the last event in July 2011, this year’s line-up will go one step further in providing a true celebration of the esoteric, bizarre and experimental.Expect record stalls, films, talks, DJ’s and of course, live music all set against the stunning back drop of the Lake District and the unique atmosphere of Fell Foot Woods.
Creating mood and atmosphere out of a collection of sound sources as varied as birds, children playing, and chimes, is not easy. Thankfully, we have Cindytalk to take care of that. Twisting all of these sources and more into a subtle soft-edged Polaroid of sound, Gordon Sharp and the late Matt Kinnison create a dizzying abstract of an astounding kind.
‘How Soon Now….’ begins innocently, with the chattering of children giving way to chimes and bells ringing out amidst a cavernous bass texture. Subtle clips of children’s voices slip in and out, as everything begins to feel like a fractured memory of time gone by. After the brief solo piano interlude of ‘On the Tip of My Tongue’, ‘In Dust to Delight’ mixes machinery with the throbbing blend of synth and texture, mixing to create a tension not unlike a dark room in an unfamiliar house. Shimmering mirages of sound bend and weave in and out of one another, as you could almost imagine the sound to appear in front of your eyes like a hazy distortion of light and colours. The piano makes a return on ‘Walking in the Snow’, delicately picking its way through a sparse melody. ‘Hanging In The Air’ has blasts of static lancing out amongst, of all things, the recording of sparrows, chirping and flittering away. Quite a juxtaposition. ‘Floating Clouds’ bends chime like tones with no beginning or end into a continuous whole of melting waves and sinous billows of tone, while ‘I See You Uncovered’ witnesses the final visitation of the lone piano, this time room miked and reflective, evoking retrospect. Closer ‘…Until We Disappear’ open with the piano which gradually melts into a variant texture of the opening piece, bringing the edition back to it’s beginning, and finalising it in a most fitting manner.
A lot can be said about creating mood utilizing such disparate sources, but when it comes to actually pulling it off, it’s a fair bit more difficult than one could imagine. When describing this album, it feels more apt to call it a collection of colours, moods and textures, as opposed to a group of songs. Quite recommended.
"Like some purveyors of a darkened effect-driven fairytale/nightmare,Cindytalkwere a total contrast to the guitar driven meat they plied at last year'sSupernormal... More 'spirit behind the circus dream' than full on 'memories of skin'... Gordon, the Dietrich figurehead calling forth an eddy of vocal spurs to which the band responded instinctively. Vocals getting more manic, shouting, commanding things to rise rise rise ... burning up on the personal. A flash of semaphorical arms, twisty fingers... sending out the shivers... making you feel voyeuristic as the bitter sweet delivery was impeccably wrapped in varying shards of musical debris... " Live review by Cloudboy for Rottenmeats blog.
"Such a diverse line-up was testament to both the good taste of the organisers (again, massive thanks to the great people at Second Layer records and Harbinger Sound) and the genre-pushing nature of Broken Flag. But few bands could ever hope to encapsulate the spirit of the label in the way thatSkullflowerandRamlehdo. After all, they are probably the two bands that first spring to mind when one evokes Broken Flag. Skullflower were the penultimate act on the Friday, and with their dense clusters of extended guitar noise over monolithic rhythm section pounding, they elevated proceedings into new areas of sonic bliss. Matt Bower, the mainstay of Skullflower, has long abstracted himself from the gristle and grind of basic noise, focusing instead on hypnotic repetition and transcendent drone. His guitar playing, allied to that of his partner Samantha Davies, owes as much to LaMonte Young and Tony Conrad’s minimalist drone as it does to anything linked to noise or even rock, and, to cop a phrase of his, being caught up in the sound of Skullflower live is like sitting under a waterfall. With so much of the weekend’s music focusing on machines and electronics, it was a beautiful escape to be absorbed by the primeval post-rock of Skullflower. On Saturday, Davies and Bower teamed up with Gordon Sharp, aka Cindytalk, asBlack Sunroof!, although what resulted felt more like Sharp fronting Bower and Davies’ Voltigeurs than anything tied to the original Sunroof! Of course, Sharp’s presence was a stunning glitch in the uber-macho ambiance of the weekend, the exquisite, ambiguous transgender singer contorting and swaying as he belted out mournful, arresting singing over a blanket of ear-shattering violin and guitar drone provided by Davies and Bower. Black Sunroof! brought a touch of the sensual, the elegiac and -dare I say it?- the queer to proceedings, and were one of the most unexpected acts on display all weekend." The Liminal Review
It was a pivotal moment. 1991, Probe Records in Liverpool. An EP called Secrets and Falling with a strange railroad cover shot by a band with an equally enigmatic name: Cindytalk.
Four ‘songs’ that fell apart as quickly as they coalesced. Eerie atmospherics, rock stretched to the limits and verging on perpetual collapse. Post-rock, years before such a thing was categorised into existence. A yearning unique voice, not genderless exactly but both male and female at the same time. “In the still of the night/ I wake up screaming”. A meaning just out of reach but none the less empathetic. That song, ‘The Moon Above Me’, imprinted forever on my adolescent consciousness…
“Some people might see this as a criticism but I don’t see it like that at all. We don’t really write songs. I mean they’re more like moments in sound which in may suddenly come into being, hinting at being a song which then suddenly dissipates.”
I’m talking to Gordon Sharp aka Cindy, transgender warrior and the one mainstay of Cindytalk over their three-decade existence. Speaking with a soft Scottish brogue and constantly laughing, Sharp is the enigmatic leader and fractured romantic soul at the heart of a band who have always existed at the margins of sound and who are undergoing a renewed resurgence on the basis of three hugely acclaimed solo ambient albums on Peter Rehberg’s Editions Mego label.
Cindytalk functions as a variety of co-existent strands at present – their historical presence as a post-punk band that sonically dissipated very early on in their career into what Sharp terms ambi-dustrial; as a now formidable extraordinary fully-improvisational live band featuring Paul Middleton on drums, Dan Knowler on guitar, Gary Jeff on bass, Jacob Burns on electronics and Cindy on vocals; as a solo live act with Cindy on piano, laptop and voice; and as the aforementioned solo recording presence behind a trilogy of cracked ambient masterpieces: The Crackle of My Soul (2009), Up Here in the Clouds (2010) and last year’s Hold Everything Dear. Prior to a string of pending live appearances, we meet up to try and dissect what lies at the heart of this most unique, beautiful and haunting projects. My first encounter with Cindytalk was in their band format so I decide that this is as good a place as any to start.
“What we’re doing at present is pretty fucking outstanding and unique.”
I’ve witnessed quite a few Cindytalk gigs over the last couple of years and every time is completely different to the last. What is the current status of the band?
“We’d been playing in semi-improvisational mode for a long time until last year and then we were invited to do the [Ray Davis-curated] Meltdown gig. We had effectively a group of 7 or 8 songs top and tailed with laptop computer stuff (played by Sharp and Sheril Crosby) and then halfway through our rehearsals for Meltdown we thought, well, fuck this for a lark and we abandoned the whole thing and went on from nothing. But nobody realised which is of course the trick because if people realised that’s what you’re doing then it’s probably because you’re noodling or something but if you’re able to effectively keep your improvisations short and shifting it’s like you’ve written an instant set of songs.”
It’s not your ‘standard’ kind of improvisation though is it?
“Well yes – I think what we’re doing at present is pretty fucking outstanding and unique in the sense that its going two different directions at once with a full band improvisation – not proggy and not droney either, but short pieces with lots of melodies and things happening but… we’re not getting booked. Partly I think it’s due to the usual nonsense whereby people can’t afford it (or that could just be an excuse of course) and I get booked for a lot of solo gigs so every time I get booked I offer the band but I’m always told that nobody can afford to bring the whole band over. I mean sometimes it’s appropriate to do the solo set of laptop, voice and piano but it is very frustrating as we all feel we have something very special.
I can see why lazy promoters would run scared though. A fully-improvisational band who have come from a rock background to exist in a landscape entirely of their own making is not going to attract the profiteers but as all kinds of marginal textures bleed in to dancefloor electronics, Cindytalk live seems to make more sense now than ever before. Of course the Editions Mego albums may also be compounding this problem?
“But I can’t understand why you would want one and not the other – why could you not understand that it’s the same thing just going in different directions?”
“You can’t really just stand on street corners and start shout your head off…”
This is true. The loose trilogy of solo albums on Mego have reintroduced the Cindytalk name to a wider and different audience and well they should. These are instrumentally a million miles from the Cindytalk band and stand as unique tablets in current ambient music. Glistening and unfolding with rich melancholy textures made up of field recordings, found sound and (barely perceptible) voice these are by far the most abstract recordings in Sharp’s discography. Were these three albums intended as a trilogy then and how did they come about?
“I guess it is a trilogy but it wasn’t originally conceived that way conceptually. The Portrait of Decay was sort of the overall title for the whole thing which then came to represent the vinyl repackaging of The Crackle of My Soul and Up Here in the Clouds. “Hold Everything Dear is a bit separate from those two but is still very much in that vein and they were all recorded in essence in the same period when I was living in Long Beach, California when I got my first laptop. I started to make noise with that straight away ‘cos well I’m a singer and I needed the band around me and they’re not there so what can I do – you can’t really just stand on street corners and start shout your head off [laughs] so I got this demo version of Ableton live and started to work. But then Crackle of My Souldidn’t really start to formulate until I was in Japan 2004/05 and already in 2005 I was recording Up Here in the Clouds.
‘Guts of London’ and ‘Transgender Warrior’ (from Crackle… ) came out quite early on though?
“Yes, I was in Hong Kong and Klanggalerie wanted something for their singles club and I didn’t have anything really suitable at that point apart from those two, so I took advantage of it and it worked and then they became the focussing point. When I got to Japan I was finally in the right place and head space to push this further.
“I’m an existentialist in that sense – I think that’s enough – I think who we are is special enough and yes, we should always be looking to things beyond us.”
“All these projects overlap each other, they weren’t albums at first, but I already knew the structure for Crackle and before I finished it I became aware of the structure of Cloudsand so on. Crackle is probably the key of all of them as that was the first one and I was composing with abstract noise and found sound and not really the field recordings. I did have those recordings but I wasn’t quite ready to use them and, well, the trajectory was important as this was the first proper Cindytalk since Wappinschaw (1994). Of course I had no idea if I was going to be able to release this stuff. ‘Cos at the time I was in the wilderness, almost cave-dwelling as I generally tend to do, headphones on, making this stuff, dreaming that this would get a release – which is my culture, to get the fucking things available somewhere – but I did spend a decade not being to release very easily which was kind of difficult to deal with.
“So when I was putting these things together I was structuring them so I imagined they would be the be the follow-on from Wappinschaw - so they’re all recorded in pretty much the same 5 year period, and if they’re connected sonically or in other ways then that’s why. But I was very particular – this is going here, that is going there and this is going here so that there’s a step-up with each of them, so they would develop, change, move…”
These albums although different still strike me as being uniquely Cindytalk. carrying a very particular emotional resonance, something akin to searching…? Do I detect a religious aspect to the music?
“I am one of these people who searches – I have a very strong desire to create – I’m not a trained musician in any sense and the only thing in my repertoire that I would consider accomplished is that fact that I’m a good singer and I taught myself to do that. But religion doesn’t play a big part in my life – the searching aspect is vital but it’s not religious. ..[long pause] I’m an existentialist in that sense – I think that’s enough – I think who we are is special enough and yes, we should always be looking to things beyond us, but religion itself is not a part of my life.”
You mentioned only being accomplished as a singer, but you’re not singing on these albums?
“[laughs] Well yes, but that is how I like to work– I’ve effectively moved past that point at the moment and the only thing I’m able to do with any sense of knowing is the one thing I am not currently doing– I want to be in the alien landscape, rummaging around and trying to find the light. So it’s very important for me at the moment to not do the one thing that I can do well, so I’m in the dark working with technology that I am not comfortable with. I’m grappling again.
“I’m in the dark working with technology that I am not comfortable with. I’m grappling again.”
You’re almost resorting to guerrilla tactics on your creative self?
“I’m a big believer in jumping around and upsetting your own processes to stop yourself from making the same record.” How does the compositional process work in the solo recordings?
“Well I’m interested in the shape and architecture of these things. I spend a lot of time making the pieces fit in certain ways and so no matter how far down you go there’s something there – every single thread I put in is like a universe in itself so if you find a tiny sound in the corner then that has its own levels and dimensions as well. It can be fairly random too, to be honest.
“I’m not a great fan of gadgets or effects so I don’t really care that much about gear or software – I mean obviously I’ve had to learn some things but at the end of the day what I really do is just play with sounds. And then I have the field recordings, CDs, other peoples CDs [laughs]. Well actually I began this journey by DJing at parties in America – hardcore, breakcore and eventually noise – I would have these CD mixer things and I would take other people’s music and then slow it down, fucking it up, tearing it apart.
“I was into the Oval fashion of taking sounds and editing them. Some of it will come from this or the field recordings or my voice – ‘Transgender Warrior’, for instance, started life as me just singing those words over and over. So it’s about finding a sound, playing with that sound, finding the inherent quality of the rhythms and melodies within that; every single sound that I put in to a piece of music should be able to stand up on its own – should be enough so that even if I was only to use that sound once then it would be enough just to listen to it, that you could still feel it and that if even if it was on its own it would still be something interesting rather than a sound that is just disposable. Every single element should be able to exist as a thing in itself.
“Every single element should be able to exist as a thing in itself.”
[I start to rabbit on about Coil and sidereal sound but Cindy interrupts me]
“It’s science fiction! When I toured with Cindytalk in the States in 1996 somebody played me that box set of deep space sounds and I never recovered – you know, crackles and pops and deep hums and well I only heard it in passing and I’ve not heard it since and I don’t even own a copy but it totally affected me. Certainly with Crackle and Clouds I was trying to create music that came from another world, almost like sending signals out and them coming back.
“But this changes slightly for Hold Everything Dear. It’s funny you should mention religion though as I wouldn’t call myself an atheist either – it’s too much of a position. But anyway, yes, with the last album I was very determined, knowing how nervy and angsty, to create something a little more…still. I occasionally get moments like that when I’m at the piano and I get glimpses of [breathes out] but I wanted to try with the longer tracks and when they do have these moments where they do sink down and there are these long tones and – well, I don’t know what other people think, but I wanted moments of stillness. With the first two albums as soon as you find yourself somewhere you’re being shunted off to the next place so I’m looking for the space on Hold Everything Dear. So is this actually a slight movement back towards composition then?
“Yes, well, maybe just slightly less abstracted. But I’m a mistress of the abstract so it won’t last. Going back to the piano, I remember being in a studio and seeing this piano and thinking right I’m going to have a go at this and just literally feeling my way across the keyboard searching for the melody and finding it for a tiny moment so you’re looking for the cohesion and you catch glimpses of it in the sunlight and then it’s gone…”
Which is much more like life.
“Well yes, exactly. So what is a song exactly? It’s like it’s a perfect moment but our lives aren’t like that – once in a blue moon there’s that three-minute period where things go brilliantly, and thankfully there are some songs that capture that in our world, but then there’s a million ten million other songs that are rubbish, dull, pathetic and I refer to that as the conspiracy of song, the tyranny of song – as though we’re forced to keep trying to make those perfect little things that do not reflect our far from perfect lives. I prefer something that is more… diffuse.
Cindytalk are performing live as a full band on May 4 at The Cube, Bristol and at Woodland Gathering Festival with Faust on August 17-18.