Yesterday’s post has sent me into a fit. The line drawn from that mid-2000s folk revival to the weirdness of Taylor Swift in 2020 has suddenly connected a great many dots in my head and I have been writing feverishly all night.
A vague book idea that I have been throwing ideas at over the last few months, initially called Frontier Psychiatry, has a new focus. It has become increasingly apparent that this Yorkshireman who doesn’t know America at all beyond a screen or page can hardly be expected to write a half decent book on the West simply for the sheer love of it. It has also become increasingly apparent that many of the books I could write, given enough time to research it, have already been written.
But I am intrigued by this notion that slipped out of my fingers whilst writing yesterday’s post: the dream meridian. Is there a longitudinal psychedelia that connects British surrealism to the Lynchian Pacific Northwest? I’ve always felt so. In fact, spending the evening revisiting Mount Eerie’s 2005 album No Flashlight, I’ve been struck by that odd sensation of familiarity again. The themes explored on that album, which fascinated me as a teenager so intensely, feel only a stone’s throw from a book like Justin Barton’s Hidden Valleys.
Perhaps they’re just universal themes but, considering just how cemented in place the Mount Eerie project is, I think there is something more to it than that… Chatting to @bummertimebc after yesterday’s post went live, we spoke a bit about this affinity after they shared their amazing album Wastelayer, a Mark Fisher-referencing slab of “dirge punk” recorded in Elverum’s Anacortes base, The Unknown. These worlds colliding has sent me west.
And so, I was up all night thinking about No Flashlight and Hidden Valleys, these two explorations of two very different northern territories that nonetheless share a sensation (if not quite a concept) of lucidity. Elverum’s summary of the album is also prescient in this regard. It resonates with Barton’s eerie Spinozism beautifully. For instance, towards the end of the album’s copious liner notes, he writes:
There’s another world inside this one, and the only way to get it is to be generous and not afraid of the dark / the void. This “other world” only exists as an absence, yet it is overflowing and beautiful. Also, all of these words and merely pointing at it, not saying it.
Participate in everything with indifference in your heart.
Fifteen years after first receiving this album in the mail from Anacortes, WA, I now feel like I have spent all that time since reading philosophy and literature to come back to it and say, ah yes, I see you now, through the void. I see it just as I saw it then, but now I feel like I can talk to it, having come full circle.
That’s a journey I’d like to write up, ricocheting around my Western obsession, and with far more clarity than these recent rambling posts have dared entertain. What has this American frontierism taught this Yorkshireman about how to see the world at night? That feels like a book that only I could write, and that’s always an inspiring feeling.
We’ll see how that goes…
The main reason for writing this post, despite appearances, was not to prematurely announce a new (mutation to an already existing) project. I mainly wanted to share the photograph up top. It was taken by my Dad in the summer of 2006, at the height of my teenage Mount Eerie obsession, somewhere along an old train track that used to be part of the Hull and Barnsley railway. It felt like a portal to that other world I was spending so much time in — sonically at least.
It was a surreal place; or is. (I’m fairly certain it is still there but it has been years since I’ve seen it with my own eyes.) It is nothing more then a tunnel mouth and a railway bridge, buried in a valley out in the East Yorkshire countryside. It’s more or less invisible until you’re on top of it. I used to go out there at every opportunity, scrambling around with friends on the weekends. I took so many photographs here over the years but none came close to this one. I’d quite like to find a new life for it, somehow…
As I was looking for this photograph, I also found a few others relevant to yesterday’s meandering nostalgia trip, including photographs I took of Bon Iver at the aforementioned gig at the Leadmill in Sheffield (right) and also Atlas Sound at the Brudenell in Leeds just a few weeks later (left).
(I wish musicians still blogged like Bradford Cox did — there’s a lot to be said for the musical blogosphere of that period too. Even Radiohead got in on it. Remember that?)