I wrote this in Optima.
It sounds write for John. I know Mr Ballard would have preferred me to use a pencil, and perhaps annotate rather than correct and re-draft, but his time is over.
There has been ‘an incident’…
We are entering a time of post neo-romantic anti-surrealism. Da, da, da.
Everytime we go and move on and change, something is lost.
You can no longer ever quite repeat anything.
“The twentieth century gave birth to a vast range of machines — computers, motorcars, pilotless planes, thermonuclear weapons — where the latent identity of the machine was ambiguous”
John Foxx albums, artwork and motion pictures form a complex map of streets and cities connected across time and by mechanical fancy. You can never go back to places and expect to find them as they were before. They have no memory, you see. Unless someone thought to record them?
Under his tutelage, the ambiguous pieces that compromise Ballardian Video Neuronica assimilate neurological pathways that help us navigate the ramshackle, disjointed psychogeography of a dream landscape (whatever THAT means. FFS!!)
Watch a B-Movie short with the sound turned off. It doesn’t matter what the plot is about – the absence of dialogue is a relief, a gateway. A portal to a dimension of understanding that exists outside the logical.
Similarly, you can see direction and purpose more clearly (and so navigate more easily) if you close your eyes. Turn up the sound and try to imagine the screenplay of the film. By using less vital resources, the listener conserves energy that can drive the imagination. He becomes an explorer, an inventor. A space-time traveller.
The soundtrack becomes microsonic – a sudden giant, aural close-up of intense magnitude and proximity. It is so close, the experience of it is from within. It is dissection – a way of learning techniques that explain behaviour and morality through biological analysis.
The music, the machines that created it, and the men that designed it are all part of the same organism and inseparable one from the other.
Here in this lo-tech context – between the bleeps, amongst the vesicles and within the sequenced patches – lies the virtual and hyperreal mythology of Foxx.
Ballardian Video Neuronica brings together pairs of realities: The Past and The Future; The Artist and The Musician; The Automobile and The City. Electricity, and Ghosts. Foxx assemblage is the noble conquest of these irrational couplings, seemingly irreconcilable in appearance, into an environment which suits them perfectly. Anti-fictional synthesis, if you like.
“Music is neither decorative art or the plastic invention of a felt reality; it must every time be discovery. And revelation.”
It’s all very well drifting along for a few numbers, standing at the bar watching the skirts and smiles, passing comment about the clumsy decor, nodding to the clicktrack and ducking the searchlight beams that pick out shadow people in the corners. But you can only hide inside the membrane for so long, before the screaming keyboards and rumbling, persistent bass starts to interfere.
Crash Course is inevitable. Once in every while the underground explodes with a blatant, almost pornographic accessibility – this time in the form of an arrogant dance floor monstrosity that oozes competence and audacity.
He pushes aside those wallflowers and swaggers out to the mirrorball. Gestures, striking pose.
A thick moustache and over-tight trousers, cut from 1974.
Doesn’t know when to stop.
Leaves behind the sour taste of Who-We-Wish-We-Were.
We shrug, passive, dismissive. Unwillingly impressed and choosing not to admit to the girl beside us that we couldn’t take our eyes of him. It’s the stray Ballardian neurone in all of us that reconciles and re-orders.
A small, yellow pill – and we remember what we came in for as if it were years ago. The palate is freshened by the peppermint mouthspray of Obscene Chemistry. The young man in the booth with the beard and skinny jeans cues up Disaster Series – the vehicle in which we are to travel back to a place of discomfort, challenge and pathogenic instability. It slams against our conscience at high speed, crashing splintered metal onto skin tissue. When no-one understands, we feel safer.
“See the breaking glass…”
There’s a car waiting outside. An obscene ’58 Cadillac, driven by a man in a dark suit. The vehicle moves silently down the side street, past the strip joints and neon casinos out on to the harbourside freeway. A bold new direction in alter-sonic freedom. Music for extreme gaming – The Bitmap Brothers meet the Houser gang on the corner of 12th and Kennedy.
Shots are probably fired.
If they were, they would echo out across the night as the car pulls out of the city up the hill and over to The Other Side. It’s raining. Here is a perceived silence and an imaginary darkness, where you think you can only hear clocks, birds and whispered voices.
No-one has any idea what the time is, or how they came to be here, around this piano, in this post-war Lancashire front room telling stories.
And the thing about stories is that they are like stars – you never quite how old they are.
Or if they’re real or not…