1 bunch seaweed
Foot after foot just follow your feet. Towards the tide. Grey tops collapsing onto one another. Don’t drink the water. Fire down the coast. Old power station. Plumes drifting upwind. Avoid acrid smoke. Blocks of masonry jutting from the sand, concrete cubes, some kind of military architecture, pillboxes. No one. No one for weeks. No one for years. No one. No footprints.
All gone. Just gone. Taken. Must have been taken. How else. Where else. People don’t just go. The imprint of Sarah’s head in her pillow, traces of scent around the sheets, which one, chanel, number five, slippers on the ground. Sarah gone. Taken. Taken. Forces beyond my ken.
Follow a stream trickle rivulet down to a rock pool. Plunge arm in to elbow. Pull out a handful of seaweed – some kind of bladderwrack. Bad eating but better than nothing.
Blanch the seaweed in salted water. Drain and toss with sesame oil.
Void on the radio. Dead static. Voices in there if you listen hard enough. Voices everywhere if you listen too hard. The mind makes voices. Like this one. This one.
Nothing on the telly. There’s nothing on the telly again. Darling. Nothing. Interference. No broadcasts. The mast at Elmley Moor still standing but no one at the studios. Masts one, people nil.
To the left a jellyfish. Sand plasma. Wibble wobble on a plate. Watch the sting. Scoop it with sand beneath into the bucket. Wash sand off later. Pickle it maybe.
Remove the tentacles following the instructions on page 32. Dice the body of the jellyfish. Marinade in the rice vinegar mix for at least six hours.
Limpets on the rocks. Take knife from boot holster, prise the fattest ones off. One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive. Keeps the spirits up does singing. Hah! That’s a good one. What’s the use in worrying, it never was worthwhile. WHILE!
Troubles troubles troubles. The trouble starts when it’s out your head. In here’s all fine. So pack up you troubles in your old kit bag and smile boys smile.
Boil the limpets. Chop them. Treat them like clams.
Serve with a foam made from the shellfish reduction.
“Here are dark telegrams from an expertly realised otherness that is Sunderland. Spare. Swift. Smart. And dangerous. Carrying us through maps of shame to rescue a convincing fiction of the past from its sullen entropy.”
“Less a novel and more an assault on the senses, I’m Jack cleverly uses inter-textual trickery and deft Mackem parlance to create a portrait of a man obsessed. It is a forensic montage, a frenzied confessional and a stark commentary on the effects of public notoriety. I’m Jack is a story as pathetic as it moving, as haunted as it is necessary. It takes the true crime novel into an exciting new direction.”
Benjamin Myers, author of Pig Iron and Beastings
“I’m Jack is an absorbing and fascinating read. Using multi-layered storytelling, a deep personal knowledge of Sunderland past, present and legend in a believable and hard-hitting blend of fact and imagination, it paints a genuinely disturbing vision of an obsessive, calculating and ultimately self-destructive personality.”
Bryan Talbot, author of Alice in Sunderland and The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
“I’m Jack is compelling, troubling, fascinating, a delight to read. It is a sublime anti-novel and a brilliantly original intervention into a most peculiar episode of recent history.”
James Miller, author of Lost Boys and Sunshine State
Ion Chromatography has revealed that the face of David Cameron is rich in umami.
The ears of David Cameron are deliciously crispy when deep-fried and served with flaked sea-salt.
The cheeks of David Cameron will reward patient slow-cooking in their own unguent juices.
David Cameron has been raised on a diet of milk and acorns and his flanks have been daily massaged in craft beer. His limbs should be hung for at least forty days before being prepared for the table. The flesh of David Cameron will be marbled with fat and contains a unique enzyme that encourages the production of red blood cells.
The belly of David Cameron should be brined for at least five days and soaked in clean water for a further day before being braised in red wine with a bouquet garni.
Ask your butcher to joint the lower legs of David Cameron across the bone to produce four steaks. These osso bucci will yield a delicious marrow, which you can suck free from its casing. Serve with risotto Milanese and gremolata.
The liver of David Cameron has been tenderised by overfeeding. It should be poached in milk and made into a pate. Serve with a red onion marmalade and toasted brioche.
The kidneys of David Cameron are best devilled and served with a glass of black velvet as a luxurious breakfast.
The lights of David Cameron should be discarded.
The sweat-breads of David Cameron should be bread-crumbed and deep-fried.
The chitterlings of David Cameron should be marinaded in a secret mix of ‘erbs and spices.
David Cameron has no trout or snotters. He is not a pig.
The penis of David Cameron is considered a counter-aphrodisiac by the Chinese.
The testicles of David Cameron are known as Home Counties Oysters.
The brains of David Cameron have a creamy texture compared by some to that of scrambled eggs.
The heart of David Cameron will be desiccated. Care will need to be taken to remove the assorted growths and tumours that will have contributed to its long-term blackening. Typical slow-cooking techniques will likely be insufficient to make it palatable. Outlandish culinary experiments in mummification using preservatives and emulsions derived from ancient Egyptian models suggest that it may yet be possible to consider this part of the animal for the table although this course of action is not endorsed by the author.
GC-Olfactometry testing shows that the blood of David Cameron has base notes of naphtha and leather. It can be combined with oats and spices to make an unusually piquant black pudding.
While the music of the Aphex Twin tells a story about the growth of the digital, the morphology of the face of Richard D James illustrates the parallel expansion of the digital into the visual arena. I Care Because You Do was the first release to use James’s face in its accompanying artwork: a lurid and sinister self-portrait, created in photoshop. Titles on the sleeve were also hand-written and a number of track titles were anagrams of Richard D James, Aphex Twin or Caustic Window. This use of autobiographics was, I think, an arch response to the general sense that electronic music was dominated, to use the argot of the time, by faceless techno bollocks. Well, here’s a face.
The fact that James was disinterested in engaging with the media leant this move a particular edge: the reclusive, or masked, counter-cultural artist stance has been parlayed many times since in various fields with varying degrees of success – Burial, Deadmau5, Banksy – and had precursors – The Residents, Underground Resistance. I think it’s fair to say that the reasons behind James’s media-avoidance were often misread and misrepresented but that, as many copyists recognised, it nevertheless proved to be effective in piquing public interest, particularly coupled with this apparently candidly autobiographical visual signature. What was distinct about Aphex is that he seemed to have decided to let the image of his face do all the media work.
The self-portrait was the seed. The video for Donkey Rhubarb took the image of James’s face and ran with it: or rather, plastered it over the faces of hip-thrusting, giant teddy-bears, and ground with it. A lurid and grotesque scenario, designed for the fried brains of ravers used to watching childrens’ TV while coming down. Reader, I was that raver.
The cover of the Donkey Rhubarb EP used a section of the face, repeated. James’s face was multiplying already, being emptied of its meaning content by repetition and reduplication. In a sense it was already reaching towards the digital – cut, copy and paste, batch process as aesthetic– as the music was doing the same, breakbeats sped and twisted out of danceable shape
The lurid nature of the self-portrait was the key, though, and Warp ran with it for the Richard D James album. Here, a cleverly lit photographic portrait fixed James’s face in the real but exaggerated certain features: the corners of the grin were raised – I’d guess this was done using the goo tool in photoshop? The lines on the face were exaggerated, perhaps using make-up. This is primarily an analogue face, but it has been digitally touched up.
The next step barely needs repeating: enter Chris Cunningham, Come to Daddy, MTV, and legions of US fans. James’s face has now been distorted, rendered in mask-form in 3-dimensions and placed on the faces of children. While James’s music was now using digital tools to perform incredible feats – listen to b-side Bucephalus Bouncing Ball for my fave from this period – Cunningham’s effects were still largely the analogue effects of the prop maker – no surprise that the TV screen acts as a womb, that old analogue medium birthing the king-mutant. Grotesquerie is the key here, the distorted, exaggerated face, the hybrid of child and adult, the long-limbed, underfed, Rich mutant: that flicker between horror and humour, the weirdness, rather than the cuteness, of the animated Dancing Baby run riot. While this riffs on Daily Mail fears of gangs of feral youths, it carries forward the raucously carnivalesque aspect of the Donkey Rhubarb short: the social order is disturbed. Once again it plays to the rave, to techno’s outlaw status, splicing it with a gothic body horror.
Windowlicker is a crunch moment. Digital grotesquerie unparalleled. Absolutely perfect photoshop work on the record cover – there is no way that the Aphex-porn woman hybrid isn’t a real thing, and indeed, each part of her was perfectly real – and the distorted visage of Rick now transmissible like a virus: from the Gene Kelly, pied piper pimp, to his bikini-clad dancers and finally the gurning, ponytailed, nightmare babe. Windowlicker obviously parodies the most misogynist excesses of hip-hop culture, but the proliferation of James’s face, its continual morphing into yet more distorted, chimeric forms, parodies mainstream culture’s obsession with image over content, superficial beauty over substance – emptying the image of any meaning and using it as endlessly malleable form.
That James’s face had become a virus was further emphasised when it was discovered after the event that it had been spectrographically inserted into the music of Windowlicker. Even the tune was structurally infected by the face. And so it has continued. Fans have made their own James masks. Various distorted versions of the face are mapped onto the faces of ravers at parties where he plays – in the digital realm of Aphex visuals, produced by Weirdcore, we’re all susceptible to the virus. The face is trying to escape its own aesthetic confines; the face has gone digitally feral.
All of which makes the latest image for Syro an intriguing addition to the canon. I guess we could read it as reflecting James’s absence from commercial release since the Analord series – no faces accompanied that – the ten year hiatus visually represented as cuts, or folds. It achieves the now-familiar grotesquerie with a jaunty analogue technique – simple excisions – but it made its way into the world through the deepnet, the realm of the digital outlaw. Digital tools are now so broadly dispersed and embedded in our lives that their use is pretty much assumed – even analogue techniques will be achieved using digital tools. The digital is now most significant as a structural distribution network and so Syro first emerges through such a network. But the face is still there, shifting, mutating and doing some of the media.
I can’t wait for Syro. The first track available, minipops 67, is incredible – so many melodic elements, so much totally ideosyncratic electronic funk, it could only have been produced by Aphex, as will become abundantly clear if you listen to the vanity-tronica tracks uploaded to youtube and passed off as Aphex before the stream was released. This sounds new, in the way that was not supposed to be possible anymore. A most welcome return round these parts.
This was going to be a link to an epic two-part Aphex interview posted at David Burraston’s noyzelab site last week but it’s since been taken down. Of relevance to the above bit of scribbling was explanation from Aphex of the Syro image – specifically, that it was intended to capture the mood of a microdot trip. It’s been a while but I remember microdot trips as being quite chilly and spare when compared to the relative warmth of a Strawberry or a Sonic, say, and they were renowned for their long-haul duration. It was never wise to inspect your own features under lysergic reorganisation: the folded-in effect is plausible.
Also of interest in the interview, which was primarily about gear, were sporadic outbursts of 9/11 truthism. I suppose it’s possible that Rich has gone down the wormhole – and certainly, twitter and “mainstream media” (nudge nudge wink wink) are buying this version – but as an alert (paranoid) Aphex follower I prefer to think of these claims as deliberately misleading truth-bait continuous with the career-long media policy of making shit up. They had something of the ring of a posteriori insertions to them, and the disappearance of the noyzelab interview – surely someone, somewhere has that cached, right? – makes it all seem like a bad dream.
A 1991 Omnibus documentary that I’ve finally got round to watching and wanted to post a.s.a.p. I read Libra about ten years ago but have only recently got the bug for the rest. It’s good to hear Delillo spell it out.
In a bid to be more active here I’m going to start posting quotations. I’m getting up to my elbows in Modernism, and this from H.D. is worth sharing for its anger at the degraded status of the poet. Paydirt in the last two lines of this section.
So we reveal our status
with twin-horns, disk, erect serpent,
though these or the double-plume or lotus
are, you now tell us, trivial
poets are useless,
more than that,
we, authentic relic,
bearers of secret wisdom,
of the inner band
of the sanctuaries’ initiate,
are not only ‘non-utilitarian’,
we are ‘pathetic’:
this is the new heresy;
but if you do not even understand what words say,
how can you expect to pass judgment
on what words conceal?
H.D., The Walls do Not Fall, p.14 of Trilogy (Carcanet Press: Cheadle, 1973)
I had tremendous fun sitting in the chair at a Contemporary Fiction Seminar event in conversation with my old friend and former colleague, crime novelist and Sounds and Melody Maker journalist Cathi Unsworth, and I hope this comes across in the video below. We covered quite a lot of ground talking at music selected to respond to Cathi’s work, but also hopefully addressing some broader concerns of the pop music and contemporary literature brief. I particularly enjoyed playing Nick Cave’s version of Stagger Lee in almost its entirety – still sends a shiver down the spine!
I’m very excited to be giving a paper at the Weird Conference a week on Friday. I’m going to speak about formal innovations in Weird fiction related to the spatial imaginary of the period, a kind of reversioning of Joseph Frank’s seminal essay ‘Spatial Form in Modern Literature’ as ‘Higher Spatial Form in Weird Literature’ that hopes to disturb Modernist border policing in an appropriately oozing and weird fashion.
To whet appetite, here’s Roger Luckhurst’s freewheeling and thought-provoking plenary from last year’s Weird Council with some urgent advice around 13 mins 40 seconds: