Isolation Station Mix #2 - Callum Gray
Updated: May 28
By Callum Gray
The darker side of isolation and lockdown is not something that we should turn away from. A great many artists have turned to privacy, whether it’s something enforced or something they’ve sought. A period of isolation offers a time where we are able to reflect, think and contemplate.
Julian of Norwich is one of these writers who voluntarily isolated and her Revelation of Divine Love is the earliest surviving book written by a woman. Among other musings on isolation this quote is powerful and somewhat applicable to our current experience.
Christ did not say, ‘You shall not be perturbed, you shall not be troubled, you shall not be distressed,’ but he said, ‘You shall not be overcome.’
While the quote at its core may not have aged that well, it still bears some semblance to our experience – that some discomfort, some distress, and some fear are acceptable feelings to have, and are in fact part of the human condition. While it's often suggested that we must resist these disturbed emotions, that they must be fixed, as though feeling them is like being broken. This quote allows some reflection on that. Feeling sad, or down, or lonely does not mean you are broken. Venting and feeling these emotions is important.
A short description of 7 of the 21 tracks:
1. Television Personalities – 'This Angry Silence'
Television Personalities are a band that are hard to pin down. They are sort of post-punk and they also seem to have hint of an indie-pop element that came really through the mainstream in the 90s. Television Personalities found it a bit earlier though. Innovative and extensive, they were around for two decades which meant they boast an impressive back catalogue. This track demonstrates their entitlement to both punk and pop. The guitars snap with tinny bite, the vocals are drawled and uninterested. It’s guttural, silly, and pretty good fun.
2. Sorry – 'Wolf'
New on the London post-punk scene. This track is discordant, chaotic and wonderfully moody. It's also satirical. Sorry some how allows for humour and darkness to sit side-by-side. Yes, while the two are frequent bedfellows in art, this time the circumstances feel a bit different. They’re unsuspecting, and a lot of the more high quality content lies in the detail. Not only is ‘925’ album of the year so far, it has a chance for album of the year as a whole.
3. Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya - 'Calypso Minor'
Ekaya, led by the prolific Abdullah Ibrahim from South Africa, released only this album as a group, and it is remarkable. Released in 1983 (technically). It is sparse at the right points. It is moody and dark. Thelonious Monk’s influence is perceptible, and it is just really remarkable stuff.
4. Leonard Cohen – 'Listen to the Hummingbird'
This is the final track on the posthumously released Thank You For The Dance. It has a distinct weight to it because of that context. It has an even greater weight for any Leonard Cohen fan. Leonard Cohen traces humanity. He then articulates what that humanity is with all its blemishes and beauty. While many accuse him of his hopeless misery, hope and light is central to his work. He teaches us about life and this track in all it’s reductive simplicity is no exception. It’s the perfect endpoint to a superbly talented and prolific artist.
5. This Heat – 'A New Kind of Water'
This Heat is so incredibly important to the post-punk and post-rock scene. Most bands you think of when someone mentions post-rock have noted This Heat as an influence. It combines Krautrock, post-punk and rock ‘n’ roll. It is such an impressive piece of work. The way their instrumentation works is technical and the tension built by the frenetic guitar and formidable bass is phenomenal. The strained vocals (and fantastic lyrics) only top it off.
6. This Mustard – 'Curtains'
Spectral post-punk from Ireland. Just Mustard are just one of the new excellent bands unafraid to experiment and play with soundscapes. This one features torrential abrasive guitar which swirls and completely envelopes the soundscape in which it sits. The heady angelic vocals cut through above the top, grounding you. It’s beautiful, isolating and enchanting.
7. Les Rallizes Dénudés – 'White Awakenning'
Formed at Tokyo University in the late 60s. Known as recluses and infamous for their radical leftism. Their bassist was a militant communist who even took part in the 1970 hijacking of Japan Airlines Flight 351. The frontman, Takashi Mizutani, maintained a very low profile after that hijacking. He only appeared a few times afterwards performing low-profile concerts. The last time he was seen in public was 1997 and it is currently unknown where he is, or if he is in fact still alive.
This track by them is abrasive yet beautiful. The guitars hum and whirr with a shoegazey fuzz and the chord progressions are nostalgic and spacious. By producing psychedelic noise rock akin to shoegaze they demonstrated that they were way ahead of their time. Forged in extreme circumstances, with extreme individuals, they made some pretty extreme music.