Monday, 26 July 2010

The Sound of Surprise and Double Trouble

I think it was Mingus who said that jazz should be the sound of surprise – well, you could apply the same sentiment to all music, assuming that just occasionally you want to be taken aback by a track that says something new and unexpected. Oh I love the sound of a well-tuned genre piece as much as anyone, but after what feels like a few centuries listening to music, the sound of surprise is still something special. Yeah, you get jaded by everything from time-to-time having heard it over and over, although I should say that Mingus has never made me feel jaded.
   Anyway, Gultskra Artikler’s ‘Kasha Iz Topora’ album surprised the hell out of me, partly because it’s not in the electronic mode of ‘Qwerty’, but mostly because it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard, although there’s a mood about certain tracks which recalls what you might call Modern Classical. That’s probably put you off. A bowed cello haunts ‘Begushema Vpered’, but not to the extent that it dominates because there are all other manner of scraping, rustling and creaking, along with a one-not bass motif towards the end.
   You see, beginning to describe what’s going on here is virtually impossible. As for slapping a genre on it, I refuse (mainly because the only one applicable would probably put you off). His does get rhythm going on ‘Slovami Poeta’, a string-driven rhythm, but he’s too wrapped up in the idea of surprise to let that run for long. Strange things go bump, whizz, clang all over this recording, and they rattle, clunk, hiss and thump too – but lest you think this is some kind of Improv affair, think again because it’s all orchestrated, organised, placed precisely to create an atmosphere of other-worldliness and, of course, dreams or nightmares, of a mythic world, perhaps; one which we can visit but never fully enter because it exists solely in Artikler’s head. It’s not Improv (I say again) or Jazz or Rock or Electronica or anything so simple. It is what it is; a work of brilliance.

   A Russian (Khrushchev) crops up again in ‘Double Take’, which had me all excited at the prospect of a film in which Hitchcock meets his double to a backdrop of Cold War footage which, I thought, was going to tie the whole story in – well, it didn’t. Not to my eyes anyway. Turns out the story by Tom McCarthy is good (Hitch meets Hitch to discuss Life, Death, Time, Film and all that), but the use of the footage made little sense. ‘The Birds’ is used extensively, although I don’t know why in relation to the story. Perhaps they couldn’t get access to all the Hitch films. Khrushchev and Nixon’s meeting is used a lot, but again I couldn’t see the relevance – at which point I began to think either the director’s smarter than me, or not as smart as he thinks he is. That old footage has been seen a million times before to illustrate the absurdity of the Russia vs America scenario, along with old TV ads or public info films etc, you know the kind of thing. The best is definitely Hitch’s wry quips to camera taken from his TV shows. In the mix is Ron Burrage, the Hitch lookalike used, shown getting ready for filming, or talking about life as a Hitch double. All that did for me was to ruin the illusion. You can’t have it both ways, the fantasy and the workings of it, not in my book. Perhaps, fittingly, I should watch it twice because it got such good reviews.
   Funnily enough, I’ve got my own doppelganger. He looks so much like me that he fools the police, so he must be quite a resemblance. Or, conversely, I fooled them and bear a great resemblance to him. Well, who owns the copyright in this double-take game?
   Anyway, the law stopped me in the street about 30 years ago, to ask how long I’d ‘been out’. Out of where? The nick. It took me half an hour to convince them that I wasn’t the criminal they thought I was. Imagine it. I’m on my lunch hour, being grilled, in a jocular manner, about my identity. I wonder if my double’s ever been stopped and congratulated on having a book published, or praised for playing a blinding set the previous night? Not that either’s happened to me.
   As if that wasn’t enough, about twenty-five years later, I’m walking down the street near our flat when a car slows to a halt and out come three beefy blokes, the one in front reaching for his back pocket as he crosses the road until he stops just feet away. By that time I was primed to run but he apologised, showed me his badge and said they were looking for someone. The law, again. Had my double also been seen in London, I wonder? The previous incident happened in Aylesbury. Perhaps he’ll turn up on Crimewatch one night. Then I’ll be in trouble.
   Finally, whilst crossing the forecourt of the local garage a few years back I heard someone calling out a name, not mine, obviously, but he persisted until I turned around and he apologised. Can I have three doppelgangers (is that a contradiction in terms?), or just one who gets around? It seem incredible, but I’m starting to think it might be true.

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