Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dust and Lights

"The last three Cindytalk records have been the best, most assured releases of Gordon Sharp’s 30-year career. Issued by Peter Rehberg’s Editions Mego, it’s hard not to hear them the triad as a culmination. Like most British men of a certain age (even in far-flung West Lothian, Scotland), Sharp first came to music via post-punk’s decree; to this day, The Freeze remain woefully underrated (especially their two sessions for John Peel). Much overrated, however, was the Peel session that led to Sharp’s association with Ivo Watts-Russell’s This Mortal Coil. “Kangaroo” notwithstanding, there was something about 4AD’s bourgeois glossolalia that just didn’t suit the fractured upbringing of this lad from Linlithgow. As I’d soon discover, that wasn’t all Gordon Sharp was not suited for.

Indeed, Sharp had been fucking around with gender roles (mostly on stage, mostly in Europe) for quite a while. Of that, I was aware. I pegged it as some vestige of transgression leftover from his more “industrial” days. But then I heard 2009’s The Crackle of My Soul — the first in the trinity for Pita’s imprint. The tune “Transgender Warrior” said it all without saying a single word: “Gordon” would now be called “Cinder.” Up Here in the Clouds soon followed, and while there was nothing as startling or revelatory as “Transgendered Warrior,” it was a beautifully damaged record all the same. I pegged that as Cinder finally being comfortable in her own mortal coil.

By the time The Crackle of My Soul saw release, Cindytalk collaborator Matt Kinnison had died of cancer. In the years post-“Kangaroo,” Cindytalk had dwindled steadily down to a one-man/trans-woman band. By the year 2000, on record anyways, it was really just Matt and Cinder. Hold Everything Dear, named after the John Berger book, is thus a lamentation. But make no mistake, a maudlin marche funèbre this one’s certainly not. The electronics are simply too intense, the field recordings processed too abstractly. First cut “How Soon Now...,” with its Teutonic child’s play soaked in sheets of feedback, sounds equal parts Stockhausen c. Gesang der Jüngling and Sutcliffe Jügend’s power electronics. There’s an isolation evinced in a track like “In Dust To Delight,” it’s perfect intervals slyly referencing Wagner’s opening to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. On the other hand, Cinder’s sparse piano stylings never sounded so deliberate, as if every note was an ode to Kinnison.

Whereas before Cinder seemed content to let the samples do the talking, for the first time on the Mego discs, she physically intervenes here, tightening the contextual reins by adding that most fundamental of musical elements — rhythm. But because this is Cindytalk, you’ll not hear a quantized break or beat. Apropos for a tune titled “Floating Clouds,” forward motion actually starts from the ground up; there’s a teeming of organic life (winds and percussion, most prominently) underneath the sepulchral drone. In the interstitial pieces here, the piano often tolls pentatonic, perhaps a nod to the Japanese studio where much of this one was laid to tape. Developmentally, as with most of Cindytalk’s recent work, the happenings macro are still very much protracted. But what do you expect from an album named Hold Everything Dear?

Finding out precisely what is dear has occupied the majority of Cinder Sharp’s life. You may think because you are … but what are you, exactly? Male, female or some third party in-between? Re-listening to the records Cinder made as Gordon, you can almost hear him searching. It’s more than a crisis of style. Having found both a label for herself and for her music now, Cinder is finally free to look for other, perhaps more philosophical answers. Yes, life sucks, and then you die. But what happens to the ones you leave behind? Well, if you’re Cinder Sharp, you’ve come to know a thing or two about rebirth. And here, if you’re lucky enough to be in Cindytalk, ultimately, you make the greatest record of your second lease on life."

By Logan K. Young for Dusted Magazine .

"A muddy green or staring blue..."

I never loved a dear gazelle
"We’ve been quite taken with Cindytalk‘s brand of slow and fogged-out synthery since hearing Up Here In The Clouds and The Crackle of My Soul, both released for Editions Mego. On Hold Everything Dear (EDITIONS MEGO 122), the solo effort of Gordon Sharp has been supplemented with contributions from Matt Kinnison, the record was recorded in Japan, London and Essex, it took them five years to complete it, and it’s got some connection to the work of John Berger, the polemical left-wing writer and broadcaster. None of this might actually be relevant to the music we hear, but it bears Sharp’s signature traits: layered, slow-moving blocks of processed sounds, informed by a sense of authority and sternness of furrowed brow that verges on the severe. More romantic moments do intrude in the form of short and distant piano music fugues, and little excerpts of field recordings such as the voices of children which open the record. Yet for some reason, these glimpses of hope serve only to add to the abiding sorrow of this record, which seems to be taking universal pessimism about the state of the world into a metaphysical dimension; titles like ‘Waking the Snow’, ‘Hanging in the Air’ and ‘Floating Clouds’ are laced with the sort of cryptic symbolism you’d associate with an ascetic philosopher who has virtually withdrawn himself from all human intercourse and retreated into a world of private signs and meanings. Far more than producing vacant droning, Cindytalk manages to invest his work with complex undercurrents and overtones. Where the Droneskvadronen All-Stars are content to issue largely non-associative sounds which allow listeners to project their own delusions and fantasies, Cindytalk constructs his music to deliver all the intellectual content of an essay from a Marxist journal from the 1970s…also exists as a double LP set."

Ed Pinsent review for The Sound Projector.

I never loved a dear Gazelle–
Nor anything that cost me much:
High prices profit those who sell,
But why should I be fond of such?
To glad me with his soft black eye
My son comes trotting home from school;
He’s had a fight but can’t tell why–
He always was a little fool!
But, when he came to know me well,
He kicked me out, her testy Sire:
And when I stained my hair, that Belle
Might note the change and this admire
And love me, it was sure to dye
A muddy green, or staring blue:
Whilst one might trace, with half an eye,
The still triumphant carrot through
(Lewis Carroll)

Code 39

Rewind 2011 - Top 50 Releases of the Year

39. Cindytalk: Hold Everything Dear

See complete list HERE .