Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Spaces Between - Chris Carter

Yesterday I wanted to write about the pared-down reissue of Chris Carter’s ‘The Spaces Between’ but I started by talking about how six days into the month I’d almost spent my self-allotted amount of cash on cultural objects and went on:
   ‘How can I go for another three weeks without consuming (owning) more? Ah, the dilemma of the fortunate Westerner (I don’t know why I label myself ‘Westerner’, as if those in the East are still queuing for bread and living on cabbage soup!). But, you know, I have to remind myself of how spoilt I am in comparison to...the poor...the really poor...those evoked by my folks when I wouldn’t eat my greens (it was always Biafrans in the 70s and ever since, in my twisted mind, they’ve monopolised the starving There’s no market involved, so forgive me, I don’t know how to put it).
   But cultural objects cannot be equated with the starving since the new release of old Chris Carter recordings would be of no use to anyone who’s hungry unless they got enough to sell them to tourists on a market stall...and then, they wouldn’t make much money from Chris Carter CDs, would they? Can you imagine them trying to sell early experiments in electro to American tourists? They’d have more success with...(tries to stereotype the musical taste of the average American tourist and fails...)
   Now that ownership is a click and download time away, what hope is there of battling the urge to buy? The space between buying can shrink to become scarily small, as in minutes. Right now I’m pleased with myself for not buying every Chris Carter album available this afternoon...but tomorrow’s another matter.
   Optimo’s release of an edited (for vinyl loudness) selection from ‘The Spaces Between’ created a surge of desire for more of Carter’s music. The earlier full collection now fetches a handsome price but the tracks chosen by Optimo are such a tease that, briefly, I considered spending what was asked (cheapest was about £27). Then I came to my senses. I can live without it. We can live without all this, if we retrain ourselves. That is, live with what we have rather than sell everything, although there’s a case to be made for living like some romanticised hero from the past, ie, out of a suitcase, carrying only a battered Remington...check into 9 Rue Gît-le-Cœur, The Latin Quarter...and write your masterpiece...
   How did they survive, these cultural icons/heroes? They were not trapped by consumerism, therefore did not miss a collection of CDs, DVDs and books. Perhaps this freedom allowed for the greater capacity to create. I’ve a theory that selling everything would have an astounding effect on my creativity...but I don’t think I’ll be testing it out.’
   Then I decided not to post that part. I’d got too distracted. Perhaps I was putting off talking about the music on ‘The Spaces Between’ because I didn’t know what to say and, more to the point, I was wary of commenting when I’d only just played it and you know how it is, when new releases excite you to such an extent that you feel like telling the world you’ve heard The Best Album Since ______.
   One day and several plays later the seven tracks still sound superb, which is a relief, even though I didn’t go ahead and shout about it yesterday. It’s a relief because replays have, if anything, increased rather than diminished my pleasure.
   These tracks were recorded between ’74 and ’78 represent the promise of things to come if you view Carter as a pioneer and precursor to Techno, Electro, Electronica etc. What followed more closely was the increased use of this gear and these rhythms in the rapid evolution of late-70s electronic Punk into 80s Pop, of course. But I refuse to blame Chris for the crimes committed in that decade. Were Kraftwerk unwitting Frankensteins? Maybe.
   This material proves that although multi-gadgetry of the advanced kind is great it’s no substitute for musical talent. Apologies for stating the bleeding obvious. It sounds old in a charming way (the drum machine dates it) but Carter was an early user of the 303 and 808. I’m trying not to use the phrase ‘back to the future’.
   Despite the Kraut influence there’s a sensibility that marks it as another beast altogether. For starters, the tracks are not 24-minute-one-side-long grand gestures of cosmic sonic exploration, but concise creations akin to John Carpenter pieces. And when I say ‘charming’ I don’t mean light-hearted because much of it has dark under/overtones. I won’t pick a highlight or discuss individual tracks, just end by saying that if you love electronic music you should get this release.

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