Not the V&A, guys. With all due respect.

I hear Pink Floyd have now become a V&A retrospective in their old age. The V&A is absolutely fine, no doubt; but these high-brow retrospectives of former free spirits just depress me; maybe even more so in this case, when Waters and Mason seem so frail (and…tamed) on the promo video, fully overtaken by the curators who go on about… what, exactly? (sample: “The wall, and… inflatables, and… stuff like that”)

…yep.

So I propose an “Animals” boot instead: I’ll stick with the audience-recorded youthful bile, thank you very much.

“Animals” is an interesting beast in the PF catalogue. Their early innocence long gone, “Dark Side” a landmark, they were now on the peak of stardom, and out comes this angry record that is as much about socio-political metaphor as it is about the band coming to terms with the evidence that PF is a spent creative force, about to disintegrate and become a brand. So they do bow out with a bang; this is their last album I enjoy, a loud, urgent, visceral statement, as opposed to the previous, (IMHO) overblown, (IMHO) overrated, (IMHO) tedious “Wish You Were Here”, basically the sound of millionaires moaning about being millionaires.

There is a reason why “Animals” was skipped on the “deluxe box set” treatment of their catalogue, and why none of its tracks made it to the (IMHO) PF karaoke tours of the 1990s; and this is a very good thing – it probably means it’s still too good for a cash-in exercise in nostalgia. Enjoy!

A Wise Musette

Thanks to a handful of LPs my parents owned, a good slice of my childhood was blessed with the soundtrack of Aznavour’s voice and the lush arrangements of his deceivingly simple tunes. His songs were like a wise version of French musette, conveying humanism, hope and a certain melancholic joy that can only be born from sorrow. His career took off right after WW2: in a way, his tunes are the sound of Europe waking up from trauma, determined to a gentler way of being and seeing the World. So may this humble, vaguely frozen historical snapshot help shine light on us now.

RIP John Wetton

John Wetton’s passing would not be a surprise given his ongoing battle with cancer… but it certainly adds to the darkness we’re traversing.

KC3 was a phoenix in no small measure thanks to his potent bass, his lyrical sensibility… and his voice. To this day, “Starless” is the highlight of a Crim gig.

“You need to know”

This ad has been doing the rounds on social media; people are saying this must be the dumbest couple ever. Actually, I’d say it’s an accurate, albeit unintended, caricature of our over-reliance on certain smart technologies and gadgets. These days we often delegate our own skills and knowledge on “smart” apps and devices; what is that process doing to our basic knowledge, our intuition, our sense of orientation, our ability to read the World and one another?

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What is it now?…

Is it nespresso? Is it a bunch of chemicals on a cute-coloured aluminum gadget? Is it the NOS logo? Is it “alternative tea” for “alternative facts” lovers? Is it “smart tea”? WTF is it now?…
………..
Wanna make tea? Grab some freakin herbs and boil some freakin water. It’s endlessly cheaper and it’s the. actual. real. thing.
Man, it’s getting so mindlessly boring among the induced euphoria.
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An anchor

I first came across Arvo Pärt’s work when this piece showed up on late-night FM radio in the mid-1980s. “Musonautas”, I think it was… maybe “Subterrâneos de Veludo”; either way, courtesy of Rui Neves and Jorge Lima Barreto. To say this piece became an epiphany is not an overstatement: it opened up a new way of listening and engaging with harmony and sound – and the narrative element that emerges, beyond words, but definitely there.

The depth and density of emotions envisioned through this piece still astound me: there is an overall mournful tone to it (and that does fit my current mood), but in-between the sombre tones there is a glimpse of hope just shining through. There is wisdom, beauty, faith, humility – all qualities that seem to have been torn into pieces in recent times.

And as is the case in all paradoxes, the absence of these traits in today’s World somehow makes this piece more resonant.

I have had the pleasure and privilege of listening to plenty of Pärt’s work throughout the years, but I keep returning to this particular one (and this particular arrangement) as one of my true anchors.

Your grace always will be

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From a time lost in time your grace seemed to precede time, somehow
War scars the trophies of an edict of unimaginable pain
your self glamorously reinvented as survival, you became our anchor
swayed through discreet glimpses, you knew

Yours the finest aristocracy of trauma, never undone
Humble and radiant, honoured, endlessly seductive,
a generous conundrum, your force was such, it felt
you’d ever be there

The call from afar you once answered I followed
through your joyful bravery
And I thus knew the World
as you had rendered it possible.

The day came and you bathed in despair,
Us unable to decipher, and yet you sweltered urgency,
Our hands held, as compassion was all that was left.
That day your choked breathing and mumbling had become one
and your eyes spoke of agony, heroically resisting departure.

As they finally closed and rested I kissed your forehead
and blessed our unspoken comraderie
Our promised lunch, endlessly delayed, now no longer to be.

You now on your journey, freed of scars
Us left behind, perplexed at the impossible
You no longer were

——–

for Isabel, 1942-2016

——-

“Shining bright in the black of night”

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We were going to release this track in two days time, just before Xmas: a tribute to our dearest Bruce and Bernadette who sadly departed in the last two years. But then it hit us: what better tribute to the cosmic energy B&B created and shared so abundantly, than releasing it on the night of the Winter solstice, 2016?

“Carry On” is a gentle ballad by Microdot (AKA Luc van Lieshout, Bruce Geduldig and Bernadette Martou), and it became a touchstone of the live premiere of Antifluffy at futureplaces 2013, as embodied on the occasion by B&B, no less.

The VHS monster emerged as a shared vision as we brainstormed our way into FP2013, and it subsequently splintered into the permanent FP mascot while doubling as “Tapeman” on the Tuxedomoon universe – Bruce and I agreed that embracing the paradoxes of semantic ubiquity, concurrent coexistence and multi-labelling was the way to go: go forth and multiply, we need as much antidote to fluff as we can summon. For a while it was glorious (and there is still quite a bit on our AV archives of Bruce and Bernadette’s time in Porto, 2013-2014)… Then they crossed the Atlantic and things just unraveled.

As news of Bernadette’s passing reached us in early April 2015, our team in Porto decided to record a mournful version of what had somehow become the tacit anthem of our glorious two years together in Porto.

Later that month I flew to Brussels to console Bruce in his mourning (my reflections on this time can be found elsewhere on this blog)… I did deliver this song tribute to Bruce, and on a quiet evening after dinner Isabelle, Bruce and myself listened to it attentively. Bruce kept his eyes closed and seemed immersed in memory and melancholy. He smiled throughout. He took the CD with him back to the U.S. a couple of days later…

Two more CD copies of this version were offered one year on, at Bruce’s memorial in Brussels, to Janet Geduldig Cook and Luc van Lieshout – Bruce’s sister and song author, respectively. We are so thankful to Luc for immediately agreeing to let us release it.

The Microdot original is obviously much, much better – it radiates the soul of all involved. Our version is a sketch, a rough attempt at turning a cosmic anthem into a heavy-hearted memorial tribute. It could have been polished, but then again that wasn’t the point: we wanted it to reach Bruce in time and in person. And it did: he smiled, eyes closed, swaying gently, reminiscing as he listened.

We miss you so much.

Listen / download “Carry On” by Before Surgery (free)

“In the Shade”

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I was kindly invited to provide a keynote address at the 1st Human Rights Autumn Retreat last Thursday (CES/U.Coimbra – many thanks to excellent hosts Cristina and Bruno). Unexpectedly, I found myself recalling long-forgotten memories of youth.

The Retreat took place at the Hotel das Termas in Curia, no other than the location of my very first art exhibition, back in 1982 (or was it 1983?…). It was a group show of paintings by five kids, out of an environment that can no longer be translated, really, predating pretty much everything one takes for granted these days on a cultural and social level: no internet, two TV channels, pre-European Union, a scarcity of networking, imagination scrounging for meaning through the simple experiences and the desire for escapism throughout daily life in a small town.

Art and Design classes in high school provided a gentle glimpse of possibilities, and the occasional bit of History or Physics further pushed the boundaries in our brains – but the truth is, our creative vocabulary was scarce, our technique was lacking. It certainly did not stop us, though: we poured our souls into those small rectangles of oil on canvas, often through the night, and shared tips and encouragement the day after. We emulated krautrock covers, Dali-esque abstractions, surreal portraiture: amateurish psychedelia for the most part, the avant-garde it wasn’t.

Somehow we ended up exhibiting on this hotel annex, now a restaurant, if memory does not betray me in regards to the specific location. I remember the entrance and the scale of the space; all other architectural details are pretty much gone from my memory. The exhibition was called “Na Sombra”, and it received mixed reviews… Those pertaining to my work were particularly harsh, I recall: they probably taught me my first lesson in curatorial skills, as I had decided to bring everything and the kitchen sink into public view. Be selective, H.

I still keep some of the works, although most were damaged by humidity throughout the years. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about them beyond sentimental value. As I shared these vague memories over coffee with the retreat participants, someone asked if I had photos from back then. I don’t. Even photography was prohibitively expensive then: one more perplexing detail in this untranslatable, unforgiving time spiral.

The location itself, still an oasis of calm, this time felt vaguely anachronistic. But then again, I could have been projecting my own weariness, at a time in life when health and age slowly begin converging into one and the same.