In 1966, shortly before recording “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with The Beatles, Paul McCartney was asked to compose the film score for a film called “The Family Way”. The film was directed by Roy Boulting and told the story of a newlywed couple living with the husband’s family in a crowded house. Paul McCartney asked George Martin to help him compose the music, but was blighted by writer’s block, and only came up with two brief piano pieces, which George Martin expanded into 25 minutes. The film starred Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett along with Barry Foster, who would later go on to star in a TV crime drama series called “Van der Valk”, which aired between 1972 and 1977. It has recently been reinvented with Marc Warren playing the Dutch detective.
Marc Warren shares his name with a clinical psychologist based in Virginia Beach (in Virginia). Dr. Warren specializes in the treatment of health mental problems, and he helps people to cope with their mental illnesses. As a psychologist, he evaluates and treats patients through psychotherapy or talk therapy.
Bessel van der Kolk very nearly shares his name with the fictional detective based in Amsterdam, and his bestselling book, “The Body Keeps The Score”, describes how childhood trauma can affect physical health as well as mental health. In 1999, Bessel van der Kolk created the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSM), which now has over 350 different centres, mainly in the USA. The NCTSM explains that traumatic reactions can include a variety of responses. Some of these are psychological, such as emotional upset, depression, anxiety, behavioral changes, difficulties with self-regulation, attachment disorders, regression or loss of previously acquired skills, attention deficit, academic difficulties, nightmares and insomnia. Other responses are physiological, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The conceit of the book is that our bodies know what we have been through and react accordingly. Our bodies keep the score.
A few days ago, I carried out a shift at Samaritans and had a two-hour conversation with a caller, who seemed reluctant to end the call, repeated themselves a lot before finally revealing a traumatic childhood event. As soon as they had disclosed this secret, which may or may not have been buried for a number of years, they seemed happy to end the call and were confident that they could now enjoy their evening. It still isn’t clear to me whether this caller intended to tell me this concealed memory all along, or whether it was that talking around the issue helped them recall the terrible incidents of their childhood. It was a very revealing moment for me to witness, at first hand, the power of unveiling buried memories.
Jane Weaver’s “Modern Kosmology” is full of uncertainty, self-doubt and a disconnection with the past. My interpretation of the confusion that is apparent in lyrics such as “Sometimes everything’s amazing, then the silence reminds us we are lost” in “Slow Motion”, is that she is experiencing emotions that she can neither process nor understand.
These feelings of disengagement are replicated in “Loops In The Secret Society”: “I feel the fire fire fire. Is this in my soul or is it love love love. Does my blood run cold? I couldn’t move move move when the feeling comes. It’s so electromagnetic. Where’s the ceiling gone?” In “H>A>K”, she asks “Leave me by the beach, moulded on the surface, corroding the rocks, fossilised and sun blessed.” In the title track, she sings “I’m obsessed with the mess and the skeleton of our muse, but the tension you mention like static between the grooves.” In “The Architect”, she implores the listener (or herself?) not to suffer, reminding her that she is the architect of her own future.
Jane Weaver is an English singer, songwriter and guitarist, who had been recording for over 22 years when her seventh album, “Modern Kosmology”, was released in 2017. She spent decades in obscure bands such as the 90s indie band Kill Laura and the folktronica group Misty Dixon. Since 2006, she has released nine full length albums.
Although I’ve focussed on the lyrics, it’s the sound of the album that is so impressive. The title, “H>A>K” refers to Hilma af Klint, a Swedish painter who combined abstract notions of expression with a precise determination to represent her ideas about mysticism and spirituality. This is a pretty good description of the music on this wondrous album. Most songs have a hypnotic pulse that is reminiscent of Can’s finest work. However, the propulsive force of the mesmeric bass lines, combined with a tumbling drum sound provides the perfect canvas for precise, persistent melodies and other-worldly vocals.
The music has been described as psych-rock and the comparisons with the psychedelic music produced by Jefferson Airplane, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band or Ultimate Spinach are interesting, if not perplexing. Although the sound is in no way similar to “White Rabbit”, “The Hip Death Goddess” or “Our Drummer Always Plays In The Nude”, the feel of the album is that we have been handed a gift from musical aliens who have used their million-year journey to the planet, to contemplate infinity, stare into the stars and wallow in the endless void of space.