Wordless Speak

Julia Star

mm I write lyrics so I normally listen to the words a lot. I find hearing voices comforting, especially my voice weirdly cause it makes me feel like I actually exist and I’m valid, my opinions and feelings are valid.

My flatmate plays this album for me if I have  panic attacks so I grew to like it a lot 

Will Soer

At 2:10 in Duval Timothy’s 2012 track I Do It, the artist (who makes everything from clothing to sculpture) stumbled upon a thoughtful melody, briefly fiddled with it, and then wandered back off to the track’s main motif.

Five years later, that melodic movement returns at the penultimate track of his gorgeous album Sen Am (translates to ‘send it’ in Sierra Leonean Creole) but this time it feels inevitable, its presence slowly approaching before stepping out into the twilight, eyes ablaze.

Though he’s still a solo pianist, he sounds like more than this now, his fingers have a steady weight to them as if strengthened by his years of pulling solidity from mist. It talks of leaving and returning to Sierra Leone, a story of years when time warped, introduced on the opening track Whatsapp voice note; ‘I hope you find a new family, this is Emasin speaking to you, long time, how is everything, listen me what I’m saying to you, Duval everybody miss you, I hope you miss us too again.’ Talking about his decision to use these personal messages, Timothy said ‘I like the idea of them hanging in the air like unanswered questions or a something that somebody said to you [that] you can’t get out of your head because something about it resonates.’ Resonating, echoeing, thickening.

It reminds me of the Rough Trade bonus disc released alongside Gil Scott Heron’s final album I’m New Here, a set of unproduced performances and spoken interludes from the ageing legend. His life would soon end, and its final decades were marred by addiction and imprisonment, but – as the I’m New Here, an album recorded in a relaxed, take-it-or-leave-it mood, testifies – the intensely personal character of his voice never left. The bonus cd isn’t online, but I’ve transcribed one interlude here, followed by another late session track.

Some of the chords I play may or may not exist, a lot of them are inverted, convoluted, and a lot of them are just mine, but they bring about the feeling, you see if the chords don’t feel like the words you saying you got two songs, or one composition and one set of words, it’s like a hand and a glove.:. I’ve heard voices that could reach from here to there, and voices that were real real pretty but I ain’t understand a word they said and did not feel nothing from it, because the words did not generate, [pauses] feeling is a special part of music, and we generally start with just some chords that I was looking for that said to me that feels like what it is you want to talk about.’

Alongside my properly written (and rewritten, and rewrittten, and rewritten) contribution to this theme, I’ve made a late addition, as my favourite mix of all time was recently made listenable online for the first time, Call Super’s Fabric 92, originally released on CD in February 2017. I was taking a 1 year Social Anthropology masters in Edinburgh at the time, and really really enjoying it; I couldn’t even nearly keep up with the reading suggestions, but some of what I read was beautiful. One particular reading experience stuck out; sat in my little dorm room (whose bright lights I had tinted with red plastic), soundtracked by the mix, which I was listening to in preperation for seeing mr Super himself at my local club Sneaky Pete’s that night. I was going solo (having got into Call Super after he did an amazing mix for Benji B’s show, and fallen in love with his release on Dekmantel), and the club was literally 5 minutes down the road, so I could relax and read at my own speed.

The chapter I was reading was from Stefan Helmreich’s Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas, wherein he documented time spent with marine biologists in California’s Monterey Bay, travelling deep into the sea and watching the ways they extracted and interpreted data, the way they ‘made the message from the mud intelligible.’ Helmreich learned that this process was not as coldly logical and formulaic as one might imagine; these ‘marine microbial texts are animate by envirionmental and ethical imaginations’, before delving into the various ways the sea has been understood in the past.

My favourite section described how 1800s scientists believed ‘seawater was compressible’, that down in the sea, it ‘grew more and more solid until a point that was reached beyond which a sinking object would sink no farther. Thus, somewhere in the middle regions of the great abyss, there existed ‘floors’ on which objects gathered according to their weight. Cannons would sink lower than wooden ships, which in turn would lie beneath drowned sailors, who themselves lay at slightly different levels from one another, depending on their relative stoutness, the clothes they were wearing, and, quite possibly, the weight of their sins.’

As I read, the music sank me deeper into this unseen realm, and I felt deeply calm. When Call Super posted this mix online a few years later, I read the press release for the first time, and low and behold; “For the listener, I simply wanted the music to take you out to sea so we could watch the weather together. This isn’t about getting beat upside the head, this is us dreaming in the dawn.”

Haig Binnie

Dans la Nuit enters with a dreamy and surreal theme which will remain with us throughout the track. Initially building in a seemingly formulaic pattern, adding new steps at regular intervals, allowing the song to fill out and take form. The listener is encouraged to get comfortable, almost able to predict the next percussive alteration, however all is not as it seems. We are met with a sudden change in narrative with the now familiar piano taking centre stage, all before a freefall into improvisational strings and brass. With the occasional vocalisation mirroring the now free flowing nature of the song, broken free from its once formulaic nature to become a totally different creature.

Thomas Richardson

facebook messenger conversation with Will Soer, commencing at 00:34, 15/08/19

W: You know how you were saying that the sound of Justin Vernon’s voice is just super emotional for you
Are any other specific sounds like that for you too?

T: Hm good question
Parts of this track

W: Mmmmm
The strings here do it for me
Similar kind of emotion too, like Justin could get down to these tracks

T: A classic
The acid line in the one too

Oo and the arps in this one
Crazy crazy track

W: Do you have it with anything other than music?
Like visual elements of a film / painting

T: Defo nothing visual that springs to mind
I have poster and art and stuff in my room
Photographs of me younger
Photographs of dead friends
Dead family
But that’s pretty obvious

W: Pretty big compliment to the spirituality of music
If that’s where your mind goes

T: The only emotions there are sadness and regret at not spending more time with people I loved
It’s less defined with music
More just raw emotion

W: Undefined

T: More positive generally but not always

W: More like just a level of intensity

T: Yeah or like a planar thing, it’s on another plane of experience

W: Mmmmm

T: More all consuming in a sense

W: Thomas
Could we put this conversation in Deep Cuts
Or something built off it

T: Feel free man
I like this line of questioning /discussion

W: I haven’t done an interview as a submission yet
But actually gets right to what I’m trying to achieve, just genuine responses

T: Think Frank Ocean makes me feel similar types of ways to Bon Iver
And Kevin Parker from tame impala
But Kevin is more to do with melody and lyrical context

W: Feels like we only go backwards
Perfect song
Frank is my favourite artist

T: I could have cried at Glastonbury
If I wasn’t so gobsmacked
And desperately trying to remember every single moment
He has such a special voice, like at points it’s almost cheesy with emption, like neeyo usher levels

Thomas Richardson DJs under the name Tem, and has organized events series in Bristol including Double Vision (disco/techno + diffraction glasses) and Freedom of Groovement, the latter of which is based off his amazing radio show, each episode of which traces the sound of dance music in a certain country.