Thursday, 10 September 2009

Alan MX: Wookey And His Shields

My friend Michael Wookey is finishing his third album. I've known Michael for a while now and my love for him just about balances the fierce jealousy I harbour of his musical gifts.

A few years back a friend gave me a copy of Michael's second album, beautifully titled You Shield Me from Darkness. It must have been winter at the time, because everytime I hear these songs I have frost on my memory and woolen jumpers embracing my frame. In my technological retardation, the album I have starts with the marauding slur of Keep a Promise rather than the correct lead of I Can Show You Things, and it's a song that I find so nourishing. It's typical of it's brothers and sisters in the gorgeous chaos of instrumentation, but this patient tells a story not only in words and chord progressions, but also in tone and intent. The spoken count in at the songs alpha and the sombre drone that follows is a theatrical leveling. It widens the eyes, this lacuna of murmur which lasts only seconds until the falling xylophone provides the true genesis, but it's this little segue; marking the transition from loaded silence to majestic procession which tickles me.

Michael is guilty of creating little shanty towns in his songs. Little one act plays with beginnings middles and ends and all the intrigue and event of a rich local history. If sounds were transferrable to the written word these songs would be Dylan Thomas. And there is something very Under Milkwood-y about this album. The characters in Michael's sonic legion are thick with folklore and triumphs and failures. Each song boasts a congregation of sonics, parishioners with dark secrets beneath the floorboards and live skeletons in various closets.

Just as you come to grips with the haunting theremin, grizzled vocal and maudlin sense that something here is really paralyzing, the townsfolk collect and gather round a campfire for the chorus. The depersonalization and seclusion of the verse is replaced by a swinging romance of hope. He choirs his voice as omega draws near and the effect is prayer like. Sanguine is sought after and received as we fade out. There's more than music here, note that I didn't say JUST music, its evident from You Shield Me From Darkness that Michael Wookey is a novelist. And a good one.

I was talking to Mike about my green at the way he works tonight. The difference between us is that Michael truly creates the sounds you hear, through a family of seasoned and mutated instruments he has adopted and birthed over his career. His paternity over every ping and crash is in no doubt and is proven by the intimate performance only a father could achieve.

Michael lives in Paris with his wonderful lady Laura-Jeanne, speaking french and performing his arias for the people of France. I'm so envious of Michael I could literally die. The otherworldliness of is creations is quantified by his fearless residency in a foreign country. I'm eager to experience the beautiful solitude of being surrounded by people but hearing nothing. Well, not HEARING nothing, but perhaps not comprehending anything. It's difficult enough to concentrate on absence of thought, the haven for creatives, in this country with everyone blithering and intruding on my cipher. And I love to hear people talking. Listening to conversations can be exhilarating and informative, and also as pleasurable as symphonies. The lilting dissonances and impulsive changes of pitch and timbre. But at times you need a white noise to find the pebble in the cave.

Michael speaks far better french than I could imagine, but it must be wonderful to hear people talking and not have to hear what they are saying.

As well as covetousness; I am suffused with an immense pride and sense of privilege to know Michael personally. After disconnecting from skype tonight, following a conversation with Mike, I took myself outside to indulge my need to fog my lungs and listened to Keep A Promise again.

Someday I am going to sit down with him, perhaps; if I am lucky, in Paris, and talk about this song and the stories it tells me.

You should talk to Michael too.

No comments: