Down into the streets, the creases of Jack “King” Kirby’s face, trapped by what could easily be the canyons of New York city avenues, the grey confines of the Depression streets that Jack Kirby ran and fought in. They’re like walls, imprisoning a generation. And somewhere, there’s a tannoy on a street corner, on all the street corners on this map of a man, and it’s playing “Heroes” by David Bowie.
“Heroes,” which begins with the words “I…I will be King.”
Standing here in the middle of a Manhattan map of Jack Kirby, with Bowie singing “I can remember (I remember) / Standing, by the wall…” Bowie singing it in Berlin, surrounded by the ghostly presence of producer Brian Eno, an Eno both here and sharing a stage with Alan Moore a couple of years ago, Alan Moore who in the early Sixties sent his mum out to buy a copy of BLACKHAWK while he was laid up with a childhood illness, only for her to come back with an issue of FANTASTIC FOUR because he’d told her to just look for the cover with the characters in blue costumes on, discovering Jack Kirby’s work for the first time, Alan Moore who’s also in the audience at an early Roxy Music gig and watching Brian Eno in some insane costume making music with Science, Alan Moore, whose early career could easily be described as trying to find out what might happen if Brian Eno had written the Fantastic Four, Brian Eno, who conceived of his generative art software project 77 MILLION PAINTINGS as “visual music,” which is as good a term for “comics” as any I’ve seen…
Eno, and Robert Fripp and Tony Visconti. It’s 1977 in Berlin. I am nine years old.
(The first issue of 2000AD was published this year, close to my birthday. Jack Kirby’s working on his 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY comic. STAR WARS is on release this year, while Philippe Druillet publishes GAIL in METAL HURLANT and presumably watches the film SORCERER, on which he did production design, crash and burn in the wake of George Lucas’ giant star destroyer. Ahmet Zappa learns a few years later that “my dad was asked to write the music for STAR WARS; he turned it down, he said he wasn’t interested…I remember Jack confided in Frank that he felt like the stories he created helped shape the Star Wars saga.”)
Guitarist Robert Fripp has been prowling the studio, creating washes of feedback. Thirty years from now, he’ll be constructing fumetti as blog entries: comics made from photographs. He stands in the correct space in that big room and fires music into the speakers and Eno’s synth.
(John Byrne and Terry Austin have started work on what was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s X-MEN. Dave Sim has begun writing and drawing CEREBUS, and co-publishing it with Deni Loubert, whom he shall soon marry, but is two years away from being taken to hospital by Loubert and his mother after apparently deciding that acid was not just a recreational drug (Grace Slick) but also a fine dietary replacement food. Marvel Comics production manager John Verpoorten has just died, at the horribly young age of 37, just two years after working on BIG APPLE COMIX for its publisher Flo Steinberg, who left her post as Marvel’s secretary and fan liaison in 1968, the year of my birth, returning as a proofreader in the 1990s, which is when I got to speak to her, this wonderful laughing voice down the phone saying “you an’ me, we gotta have a cigarette together sometime.” BIG APPLE COMIX, a hybrid between the underground and commercial or “overground” forms of American comics, is very much a product of a woman who knew both Jack Kirby and Spain Rodriguez — an underground book by overground people, a bridge book between the comics of old and the comics of today. Archie Goodwin, of course, is in it right at the start.)
The room is crackling with the ghost of the frequencies embedded in its matter by Fripp and Eno. All that sound has to go somewhere. The sonic pressure gathers weather systems in Ideaspace itself, swirling invisibly around the studio. Everything has been building up to this.
Records of the year (maybe):
FLORINE, Julianna Barwick: astonishing vocal music, multitracked and layered and processed until it became the sound that the trails of collapsing photons passing through the feathers of angels’ wings in a particle accelerator should make. Or something.
BROADCAST AND THE FOCUS GROUP INVESTIGATE WITCH CULTS OF THE RADIO AGE, Broadcast And The Focus Group: the title should tell you all you need to know. You’re either the sort of person who wants to own an album by that title, or you’re not. It is, as Moon Wiring Club would say, in the finest tradition of confusing English electronic music. It’s less a “proper” album than a collection of sounds that surround a certain set of timebound notions about Strangeness. As the title implies, it sometimes seems more like research (in the form of original music). It is really bloody good, yes.
THE SPOILS, Zola Jesus: of which I’ve made much mention lately. Nika’s a beautiful ghost moaning from the shadows of a bombed-out cathedral, on this record. Possibly an aspect of my continuing fascination with The Haunted in early 21st Century music. But I’m returning to this record a lot.
GABON and INCAPULCO and a bunch of other releases, High Wolf: top of the whole glo-fi thing, for me, has been High Wolf and his wet lo-fi tropical dreamstates. GABON in particular was a glorious thing. Hypnogogic reverie when you’ve still got the drugged beat of a rainforest drone-rave beating in your ears.
MONOLITHS AND DIMENSIONS, Sunn O))): the more I listen to this immense album, the more I think of it as four movements transitioning from the pagan to the organised church through an apocalyptic collapse into some awful, barren post-civilisational doomspace that fades to become a weirdly sylvan, almost innocent place. Of course, that could just be me. Never discount the possibility that I am a mad old man and completely full of shit. Anyway, yes, it all sounds a bit prog, but they pull it off as far as I’m concerned.
I can be sent things via Avatar Press at Avatar Press, 515 N. Century Blvd., Rantoul, IL 61866, USA, but I cannot promise a response or a review. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but I warn you, it’s a dump address, not my regular email address, so it can take me a few days to check it.
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