And this is how the damage is done

I know this will be a little off topic – I’ve never felt driven to write about the death of somebody I don’t know personally before. I’ve also never really felt saddened by it. Shocked perhaps, maybe even curious. But I’ve never sat with a tear rolling down my cheek listening to their work and wanting to talk about it until hearing, this evening, about the passing of Nick Talbot, the main creative force behind Gravenhurst.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Gravenhurst. I was in Smallfish Records in Old Street. Mike, as usual, had given me a stack of the glitchy, messy, bleepy electronic music which I love and I was standing at the back of the narrow shop skipping the tone arm across each record, looking for something to grab me. Only I realised a few records in that I wasn’t listening to them – I was listening to a voice as pure and direct as any I have ever known floating through the shop PA. I left the shop with a copy of Flashlight Seasons on both vinyl and CD and have listened to that album every single month since.

In 2004 I broke up with a long term girlfriend and moved to Sheffield. Somewhere around junction 26 of the M1, driving my hire van with my life in the back, the betrayal of the woman I loved fading behind me, The Ice Tree came on the stereo and I ended up in hysterical tears to the extent that I had to pull into services and let it all out. “I caress where my lover once lay by my side / Before I turned inwards and forced her to fly”.

And a few years later, and more than once, I’ve had moments where life has seemed insurmountable – where my faults and regrets have overwhelmed me – and Nick’s soft intelligence has placed it’s hand on my heart and centred me again. Flashlight Seasons in particular is more than a record for me – I cannot bear to imagine my world without it.

and it’s the words that get you. The voice, yes, the production, of course. But the turn of phrase: “The magic of stones / when taken back home / is left on the beach”. “Emily said, the things in my head are keeping me from sleeping / If I don’t go to them, they’ll come for me instead, and the company I’m keeping”. “Still the ties that bind us, blind us to the emptiness of the prize”.

I cannot think of another artist whose work – not just a song or a record – but an ENTIRE body of work has caused so much emotional response from me.

I’m not a music journalist and I can’t tell you whether or not Gravenhurst are “important” or give you Nick’s musical lineage (I fear Elliot Smith with be invoked in the obits). All that I can say is that if you love music, really love it…if it fills your soul, centres you and gives life meaning to you, then you know how rarely it is that you connect to an artist so completely. From The Velvet Cell to Animals to The Prize (oh god, The Prize – why is this man not bigger than Jesus?) to She Dances to the heartbreaking, stripped down honesty of The Diver and Damage – This is music to save your life and I can’t stop thinking about how sad it is that it couldn’t save his.

I have tickets sitting right here on my desk to see him at The Scala next Tuesday. I might go down there anyway – see if I can see the ghost on the shore and raise a pint to him.

Sleep well Nick. I never met you, but you have meant more to me than I have words to express.

MAAP player

It’s been a while in the making, but I can finally publish the v1.0 of the MAAP player that I’ve been working on for a while.

maap player

Maap player

The Multiple Artist Ambient Project is something I came across a few months ago and immediately fell in love with, partially because the community based aspect of it was right up my street, but mostly because the music was truly beautiful. I found myself sitting on the page for long periods of time, randomly moving sliders around. The presentation layer annoyed me a little though – just a bunch of inline media players, and I felt it needed something more experiential.

This has gone through a number of iterations and still has work to do on it. Features to be added include:

  • “autoplay” feature where the orbs move around themselves
  • real time visualisation of the sound
  • dynamic playlisting of all the MAAP tracks
  • potentially a change of physics engine for ease of optimisation

I’m indebted to a couple of things in this build – designer Leigh Furby who helped me conceptualise the interface (and didn’t complain when I reduced all his beautiful work to a basic circle, fisixengine for the, er, physics engine (which is amazing and easy to implement but sadly seems to have ceased development – even the docs are only half written), and the MAAP project for being such a great inspiration.