How it Became What It is
The upcoming album Fears We Leave Behind was written over the space of about two weeks. My friend Tiago and I then spent about a month recording the tracks, including one particularly fraught day recording Six Vials, when I drank way too much coffee and we both went slightly mad.
Then, I moved to Timor Leste, leaving the rest of the production to Tiago. There followed an erratic yet productive chain of emails, as each track took shape, in spite of dodgy internet connections, hectic work schedules and random bicycle accidents. We are almost finished.
Tiago’s dedication to this project has been overwhelming. I’m indescribably grateful for the time he has put into making sure the songs sound exactly how I envisioned they would, and sometimes, providing that vision when it wasn’t there.
I’ve got a few weeks off from teaching soldiers how to sing speak English…
…so I came to Puri Wirata in Amed, Bali.
I’m staring out across the Lombok Strait and listening to the final master of Fears We Leave Behind. Despite the haste with which it was created, this album is a patchwork depiction of all the ways I’ve travelled over the last few years. It is an infusion I didn’t know I was concocting. It is everything I was unable to describe.
If you listen carefully, you can hear Portugal and Panama in the songs. Invisible markings of movement and sound left in the darkest reaches of the soul, only to be brought forth as some sort of subconscious musical alchemy.
A Portuguese friend in Timor Leste listened to the songs. What he could hear was England. I listened again, and then I could hear it too. Of course I could! A strong English weft, around which the colourful warps of venture and voyage wrap themselves.
What better way to pay homage to that weft than with this poem I wrote, while ensconced in my mother’s house last Christmas. If you don’t like poems, you can stop reading here, and just look at this beautiful picture of my mum instead.
At My Mother’s
At my mother’s, I resign,
rather than decide,
to enjoy myself.
It isn’t like it used to be.
In a good way.
On the television, a man drives his truck into shoppers
Just like the ones we have here.
They urinate on the homeless, now
(not the shoppers).
On the bus, a frantic, careworn woman hoists a flat screen TV.
Casually, she cannot find her son.
But the child at the back knows where he is.
Or where he was.
A sensitive boy sits with his grandma.
She struggles to understand him,
but she would hate him to think she didn’t care.
She asks him to bring it, show her.
He promises he will.
Earnest, blue eyes.
I see into his future,
that sensitivity broken and splintered
into a not-belonging.
I see his power broken,
because I am
(though I try not to be)
By the lake mallards,
with shining green heads,
waddle towards us.
Their hope is menacing.
Who told me
you aren’t allowed to feed the ducks anymore?
We imagined a false flag.
Someone, somewhere, getting rich.
On the television,
a wise man tells us that lightning
leaves patterns on human skin,
like translucent tattoos of intricate fern leaves,
spreading out over someone’s heart.
Perhaps the heart of that sensitive boy?
his skin like this.
All the while the wind chimes in the backyard remind me to be melancholy…
lest I forget.
A whole day in bed,
twisting in the warm folds of the duvet.
Occasionally swapping hands,
one clasps the book in a crooked urchin,
the other slipped
between deliciously warm thighs.
On the television,
a woman in a van speaks of musical keys
I want to write music, now.
Music that moves, just because it can.
I know those rooms, I think.
The clouds lie heavy, with a new lightness.
The warm dry air.
A hundred pillows and a thousand adverts and a million useless words.
And what else?
My skin, my bones.
Is that all?