I’m pulled back to the horn call from that belated funeral, where, witnessed by the Queen as if to somehow correct a historical wrong without even naming it, Weyonomon was honoured with a smudge - the ritual burning of sage and the collection of its ashes in a ceremonial shell. There is a sense of the ritualistic, too, in Lola de la Mata’s Queens of the Drag, as disyllabic intonations issue forth from a human voice at the threshold of synthesis, or boxed in by it. Accompanied by decaying metallic resonances, it assumes the form of a post-human incantation, guiding me through my own sonic memories from this part of London, the rattle of bass from behind me as I leave Corsica Studios, bathed in tangerine sodium light, wind icily cooling my sweat as I navigate the tangle of Elephant & Castle in search of the N133 stop; the screeching as my northbound train bends a little left then right on its way to Blackfriars, one of London’s great elevated journeys, a screeching that reminds you, because it was easy to forget, that the city is one of gristle and friction; the chopping tide of a helicopter interrupting our conversation, which was flowing so naturally, as we walk through Borough Market. Another contributor, Throwing Shade, hears in that market a serenity I don’t recognise but am compelled by, gripped by its touch of vaporwave, its unmasking of a London scrubbed and surveilled to vacuum point. Synthetic washes of chimes, choirs, strings, see-sawing with the empty calm of a maximum security city. So it seems, but there’s a melancholy to that calm that gnaws and grows, the memory of and - surely - the longing for another London, and perhaps the echoes of it in the rhythmic train sounds that underpin the track, the reassuring shuffle of wheels passing over rail joints.
Loss, interment, emptiness, injustice, solitude: but the inner perambulation this collection invites is also liberating and animating, full of sound’s capacity to give life. At moments, field recordings emerge or are woven in with all their contingent ambience, shifting the register to that promising juncture of documentation and creation. Sound here is, as Jean-Luc Nancy has it, “tendentially methexic”, contagious where the visual is not. But it also reminds us that contagion has another, joyful face, which is to call it a kind of sharing, the kind we will rediscover, grow and play with, within, and against, but never survive entirely without.
By Sam Mackay, 2021.