It was a year of live music – Josh T Pearson holding a revival tent meeting for the Church of the Sacred and the Profane in the Barbican, Wolvserpent and Wolves In The Throne Room generating a churning, fearsome spiral of energy in Clerkenwell, Callers and Wye Oak whipping up a prowling, smoking take on Wire’s Heartbeat. But I’ll have to pick on Earth at the Scala as my favourite gig of the year by a hair (Josh T. Pearson ran it close, mind). The energy there was one of the subtle, contemplative kind of joy that rises from watching craftsmen build a dry stone wall. The band quietly came on stage and went to work, with an physical sense of something being made out of the barest, most fundamental materials.
It was also the year I waited and waited for Janice Whaley’s crowd-funded boxset of her a capella re-envisioning of the entire Smiths catalogue, aka ‘The Smiths Project‘. She brought new meaning to over-played old favourites like ‘The Queen Is Dead…’ and brought long-ignored deep cuts back into daylight. It was a joy to join in with someone so commitedly realising a dream then watching that dream run so much further than they’d dare anticipate.
I also discovered Liturgy, whose Aesthetica was the first thing I reached for when asked to educate a certain Lady Gaga Little Monster (aka the teenage daughter of two close friends) in something a bit more challenging. Operating in a similar aesthetic zone of transcendence, openings and questionings, I immersed myself in Grouper (who’ll probably be my first gig of 2012 next week, not counting the piece of media theatre supermum and I are heading off to on Friday*).
Then (and quite unexpectedly) little elf and I discovered a shared passion for Tori Amos through the stunning return to form that was Night of Hunters. I don’t exactly know what resonated so strongly with my four year old (possibly her original confusion of Tori with Karen Gillan who plays Amy Pond on Doctor Who. That settled, she continued to request the CD, paging solemnly through the lyrics and photos and commenting especially on the dresses and relationships of Tori, her daughter and niece as pictured in the lyric book. She’s also watched the ‘special edition’s accompanying DVD about a dozen times. Thank God she fixated on this instead of (say) the Wriggles who’ve so far remained confined to the TV and have yet to contaminate the stereo. I do wish I’d bought Night of Hunters on vinyl, though.
A final bonus item – Richard Skelton’s *SKURA. It’s a limited run of high quality mp3s of every piece he’s recorded to date archived on DVD and enclosed with a beautifully produced discography included notes, essays and other ephemeral details. Consequently, I spent much of my free time over Christmas immersed in an imaginary snowy landscape deep in the moors that form the heartland of his music. Somewhere along the line, all this leaked into my most recent draft of Shaper. Now the whole book is full of snow. I’ll have to get that Kate Bush album to help out with the vocabulary before I start seriously revising…
*Or rather went to the other Friday. This post is rather behind schedule.