Found In Translation: Gwenno’s Baker’s Dozen

Covering all things psychogeography and domesticity, Gwenno talks Ronnie Angel Pope through the albums that capture the atmosphere of the places and communities that matter to her

Photo by Claire Marie Bailey

By Ronnie Angel Pope

So many of Gwenno’s musical influences are rooted outside of recorded music. From being in a Socialist street choir to being an Irish dancer – records make up only one facet of her expe-rience. She riffs, with easy glamour, on music’s myriad uses – as a tool for activism, as a shared experience, as a solitary comfort, but also, as art for art’s sake. Indeed, Gwenno’s Baker’s Dozen touches all of these bases. But what features steadfastly is the work of personal heroes that cue moments of existential resonance and gentle confirmation, which make her go “Oh yeah, I know myself. That’s me.”

For Gwenno, the musical experience is as much about the medium as it is the message. Though it’s not necessarily the medium of sound or analogue recording that we’re talking about here. We’re talking about language as a medium. More specifically, Cornish and Welsh, through which she writes, reads, thinks, and lives.

“Languages have character, and particular uses that really feed into the imagination, and his seemed like something I needed to pursue further,” she muses, when we turn to the subject of her latest album, Tresor.

An experience of Tresor benefits from acknowledging where it sits in relation to her 2018 album, Le KovLe Kov was expressed through the medium of Cornish, but was written in Cardiff, “as a tribute to everything that I’d been taught and had been passed down, despite not necessarily having my own Cornish experience, apart from home life.” As an album, it was made “to get to know Cornwall and the community better – it was a link to the place and to the people.”

Tresor, however, is an emotional response to time spent in St Ives, in January 2020. Though visiting “as a tourist, essentially,” Tresor confirms Gwenno’s ties to the place. As part of the creative process, Gwenno recalls being conscious of not wanting to “project any lived experience of Cornwall” onto the album — a potential challenge that turned out to be “really addictive”.

Another challenge, Gwenno notes, relates to the concern of translating the fullness and truth of human experience, emotion, and atmosphere, as tied to a particular place. “As a musician you use music as your form. And this is always the challenge with language – to convey emo-tion, the language that every human understands.” So, what would it be like to make an album that feels like a week in St Ives? “For the most part,“ Gwenno concludes, “it’s a document of a week in St Ives with all of the spirits of St Ives. It’s about saying ‘I AM HERE, I am committed to this’, it’s not flippant, or about moving on to the next thing.’

Welsh and Cornish have both been crucial “tools for accessing pure imagination,” akin to drawing upon childhood experience, “the time when the imagination is at its most active.” Yet despite finding her native Brythonic languages to be comforting, it is clear that drawing upon childhood tongues is no retreat. Instead, in continuing to write through Welsh and Cornish, Gwenno emphasises the importance of growing through the language, exploring womanhood, and motherhood.

After coming across a poem written in the early 20th century by Phoebe Proctor, the Cornish language poet, Gwenno was struck by “the really intimate day to day experience,” and the way in which Proctor conveyed this experience with such emotion. Proctor’s work opened up questions around would it be like to explore desire, or domesticity, through Cornish — “As an introverted person, as most musicians are, it’s a way of exploring all of these ideas without feeling self-conscious about it because it will take people a while to understand it.”

Thus, the medium is a perfect mediator between sensuality, freedom of thought, and recep-tion. Tresor can tap immediately, lyrically, into desires, fantasies cosmopolitan aspira-tions, whilst operating sonically on the scale of place, space, and time. Indeed, each of these subjects crop up throughout her Baker’s Dozen.

Working in a similar, rhizomatic way, Tresor opens portals to other times, other plac-es, other referents and atmospheres. It is an emotional response to the people she’s met, the conversation’s she’s had, but it is also a treasure and a commitment to a community, and the polymorphic facets of Cornish identity. It is proof that life is lived through language, and thus, language is malleable, able to mutate and accommodate the domestic, the gigantic, the minu-tiae, and the universal too.

Gwenno’s new album Tresor is out on July 1 via Heavenly. 

Source: The Quietus | Features | Baker’s Dozen | Found In Translation: Gwenno’s Baker’s Dozen

Record review: Angeline Morrison “The Brown Girl and Other Folk Songs”

‘The Brown Girl’ is one of those rare records that feels perfectly weighted, entirely free of anything extraneous…the whole thing feels lighter than air.

By Thomas Blake

Folk music has a unique kind of liveliness that springs from its adaptability, pliability and ambiguity. No two interpretations of a traditional song are alike because no two performers share precisely the same experience. As a black singer working in a category of music largely associated with white voices, Angeline Morrison’s perspective is – due in part to historical marginalisation – particularly uncommon. Morrison is a vocal advocate for increased diversity in British folk music: later this year, she is due to release The Sorrow Songs: Folk Songs of Black British Experience, an attempt to redress the imbalance of history by writing black people’s stories back into the UK’s musical heritage. But first, we get to hear The Brown Girl and Other Folk Songs, Morrison’s more orthodox take on a collection of ten traditional songs.

Recorded in Cornwall, where the Birmingham-born Morrison has long been a resident, The Brown Girl is an intimate experience, musically minimal but full of warmth. A cappella opener, The Green Valley, is a beautiful introduction to her singing, which has a clarity and sweetness that belies the moral twists and ambiguities at play in the lyrics. Although this and most of the other songs here do not deal with explicitly black protagonists, lines like ‘Am I bound or am I free?’ take on deeper layers of meaning in Morrison’s rendition, proof of how vivid and mutable folk songs can be.

The multi-tracked vocals of Our Captain Cried have a bewitching and otherworldly quality and also serve to emphasise the song’s multiple perspectives, while the title track sees her joined by co-producer Nick Duffy (of the Lilac Time) on spidery acoustic guitar. It’s a combination that brings to mind Shirley Collins’ work with Davy Graham or, more recently, Stephanie Hladowski and C. Joynes’ album The Wild Wild Berry.

Morrison has dabbled in folk horror, 60s-style psych and hauntology in her Ambassadors Of Sorrow guise. This affinity with the more eldritch reaches of the British musical landscape is there in abundance on the spooked recorders of The Cruel Mother and the drones of When I Was A Young Girl. The Well Below The Valley revels in its dark themes of infanticide and incest: Morrison’s voice is eerily confiding, strangely present, insistent even at its quietest. The brutal violence of Lucy Wan is rendered with a soft immediacy that makes it all the more chilling. Morrison has stunning control over the emotional depths of these songs. Her musicianship is equally impressive – Idumea (an eighteenth-century hymn written by Charles Wesley) floats on a rippling gauze of dulcimer, and a brisk, autoharp-led run-through of Bonny Cuckoo is bright and blossomy.

The Brown Girl is one of those rare records that feels perfectly weighted, entirely free of anything extraneous. Every multi-tracked harmony or subtly plucked string has its place, and the whole thing feels lighter than air. That is a remarkable achievement, given the gravity of the subject matter in many of these songs, the layers of history they have accrued over time, and the wholly new perspective Morrison brings to them. By the time of the final, contented exhalation that puts a seal on the closing track, Must I Be Bound, it’s almost as if a satisfying but mysterious journey has been undertaken, one that will lead ultimately to many further destinations.

The Brown Girl and Other Folk Songs is out now.

Director Terence Davies reveals challenges of Siegfried Sassoon biopic

Terrence Davies says it was “hard to write” his Siegfried Sassoon biopic, Benediction, because “there was so much material”.

Terrence Davies says it was “hard to write” his Siegfried Sassoon biopic, Benediction, because “there was so much material”.

The biographical drama, which stars Jack Lowden as Sassoon, tells of the story of the famed British poet whose anti-war stance notoriously culminated in his admission to a military psychiatric hospital.

Benediction also explores the soldier’s gay love affairs with Ivor Novello (Jeremy Irvine), Stephen Tennant (Calam Lynch) and Glen Byam Shaw (Tom Blyth), as well as his conversion to Catholicism.

Davies, one of the most critically-acclaimed British filmmakers of all time, tells GAY TIMES that taking on the project was a “daunting” prospect.

“How do you cram his life into two hours?” he says. “It was a question of what to leave out more than anything else. It was quite hard to write in that sense, as there was so much material. I tried to respond to the things which I could write about.”

The director resonated with Sassoon due to his homosexuality and poetry documenting the horrors of the First World War.

Davies also identified with Sassoon’s search for redemption, admitting: “I think that’s the most autobiographical part of the film. I’ve been searching for that redemption and I haven’t found it either.”

His only “issue” with the poet and his illustrious life, however, is his foray into Catholicism.

“Why anyone would want to be Catholic? It’s interesting because when you are born a Catholic, you don’t have to go through any time of conversion. The conversion goes on and on and on,” he states.

“It had to be incorporated because I didn’t know about that side of the church, as I was never involved in it. To manage that life within two hours…. It was those things that drew me to the picture.”

 

With an intimate sex scene between Sassoon and Novello, Benediction doesn’t shy away from Sassoon’s queerness. This was important for Davies, as well as depicting a less glamorous approach to sex.

“That’s what is so tedious about sex scenes, everyone has makeup on!” Davies says of how intimacy is depiction in the mainstream. “They look like they have been to the gym, and nobody ever gets cramps. Nobody ever farts!

“That’s why I almost wanted to make this more matter-of-fact.”

Benediction has received universal critical acclaim for Davies’ direction and script, as well as for the performances of Lowden and Peter Capaldi, who portrays an older Siegfried Sassoon.

Davies, whose filmography includes lauded autobiographical dramas such as Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes and Of Time and the City, reveals that his next film is based on Stefan Zwieg’s The Post Office Girl.

The novel chronicles the story of Christine Hoflehner, a post-office clerk in an impoverished post-World War I Austrian city.

“The script is done. I would love to do that as it’s a marvellous novel,” he says. “A novel that he never finished, he just tinkered with it. It gives the ending the most extraordinary, ambitious ending which is terrific.

“It’s about the destruction of hope and it’s very powerful.”

Benediction is now available in UK cinemas.

Source: Exclusive: Benediction director Terence Davies reveals challenges of Siegfried Sassoon biopic

GasLit Nation: Scholar Nancy MacLean on “the Trump Crime Cult’s Capitol attack,” and more

June 8, 2022

GASLIT NATION WITH ANDREA CHALUPA AND SARAH KENDZIOR

This is Part II of our interview. In this two-part interview, we take a deep dive into a right-wing hellhole with acclaimed scholar Nancy MacLean, the author of the bestseller Democracy in Chains, which discusses how anti-democratic networks run by powerful plutocrats came to hold the United States hostage. MacLean discusses the Koch dark money network and its shadowy political partners, the decades-long libertarian takeover of the Republican Party by far-right mercenaries, the infrastructure of this extremist network and how it has sustained itself for so long, the rise of the neo-confederacy, and the dystopian plans billionaires have for the American future. We also get MacLean’s opinions on recent crises like the pandemic, the Trump Crime Cult’s Capitol attack, and the assault on voting rights. And of course we ask her how we best battle these insidious adversaries, break America’s Koch addiction, and get our country back!

“Responsible gun owners are fed up!”

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

HCR
Heather Cox Richardson

June 7, 2022

Today, President Biden signed nine bipartisan bills designed to improve veterans’ health care and to honor those who have served in our nation’s military. It was an upbeat hour in the midst of a storm gathering as the nation takes on both gun safety legislation and the events of January 6. 

Today, Good Morning America ran an 8-minute segment with teacher Arnulfo Reyes, who was wounded in the massacre at Uvalde, Texas, where on May 24 a gunman murdered 19 schoolchildren and 2 teachers and wounded 17 others. The gunman badly wounded Reyes before murdering all 11 of the children in his classroom. In a powerful interview, Reyes vowed, “I will not let these children and my coworkers die in vain. I will not. I will go to the end of the world to not let my students die in vain.”

Then, actor Matthew McConaughey, who is from Uvalde, gave a passionate speech to reporters from the press podium at the White House. A gun owner himself, McConaughey called for strengthening our gun safety laws with background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21, instituting a waiting period for those rifles, and establishing red-flag laws. “These are reasonable, practical, tactical regulations to our nation, states, communities, schools, and homes,” he said. 

McConaughey described the children and teachers who lost their lives at the Robb Elementary School, and explained just how the killer’s AR-15 so destroyed their bodies that they had to be identified by DNA… or by their signature sneakers. He warned that “Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back; they’re a step forward for a civil society and—and the Second Amendment,” he said.  

He urged lawmakers—and Americans—to come together to pass legislation to protect our children. “Because I promise you, America—you and me, who—we are not as divided as we’re being told we are…. How about we get inspired? Give ourselves just cause to revere our future again. Maybe set an example for our children, give us reason to tell them, ‘Hey, listen and watch these men and women. These are great American leaders right here. Hope you grow up to be like them.’ And let’s admit it: We can’t truly be leaders if we’re only living for reelection…. We’ve got to make choices, make stands, embrace new ideas, and preserve the traditions that can create true—true progress for the next generation.”

As McConaughey finished and left the podium, James Rosen from Newsmax called out: “Were you grandstanding just now, sir?”

That response reflects the continuing dislike of Republicans for gun safety regulations. While the House will begin tomorrow to discuss passing a federal red-flag law, a minimum age requirement that a buyer has to be 21 to purchase a semiautomatic rifle, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, these measures will not get through the Senate, where the filibuster enables Republicans to stop legislation unless Democrats can muster a supermajority of 60 votes. 

Senate Republicans have already said that they will not consider the regulations experts think are central to stopping mass shootings: an assault weapons ban such as we had until 2004, limits on ammunition magazines, and expansions of background checks to cover private gun sales are all off the table. They also say an age limit of 21 to purchase an assault-type rifle like that AR-15 is unlikely.

Republicans seem to be feeling the pressure of constituents angry at more and more frequent mass shootings. “This moment is different,” McConaughey said, in an echo of gun safety activist and Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg. “We are in a window of opportunity right now that we have not been in before, a window where it seems like real change—real change can happen.” 

And yet, Republicans who have embraced an ideology that rejects federal regulations and celebrates the idea of gun-carrying men cannot accept the gun safety rules most people want. So they are turning to extremist rhetoric. Jennifer Bendery reported in the Huffington Post that the extremist American Firearms Association warned of “tens of thousands of Bloomberg-funded, red shirt radical, commie mommies all over the Capitol complex.” Its leaders told members to prepare for “battle” at the U.S. Capitol. “They’re coming after us right now,” a fundraising email warned.

Republicans are also under pressure from the upcoming hearings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. They have announced that they will launch counterprogramming to the committee hearings, and those Republicans most likely to carry water for Trump are already on social media trying to undercut the committee and to stir up new scandals of one sort or another. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH), Jim Banks (R-IN) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) will lead the way in arguing that the committee is illegitimate and out of touch. According to a document obtained by Vox, Trump has asked his chief supporters to shape the media coverage of the hearings and to ​​“control and drive messaging using the channels we control.”

Republican leaders appear eager to attack the committee without explicitly defending Trump, for it’s not clear yet just how bad he will appear in the story the committee tells. Tonight, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered lawyer John Eastman to turn over another file of emails…by tomorrow. Some of them, he said, fall under the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, and he outlined how “Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan to disrupt the Joint Session was fully formed and actionable as early as December 7, 2020.” 

The Fox News Channel says it will not carry the January 6 committee hearings live, although CBSABCNBCPBS, and CNN will. As Sawyer Hackett, a co-host of the Our America podcast, noted, the Fox News Channel “ran 1,098 primetime segments on Benghazi from the day of the attack until the committee hearings, which they carried live for more than 7 hours.” 

The Department of Homeland Security today issued a new bulletin in the National Terrorism Advisory System, stating that the U.S. “remains in a heightened threat environment.” It noted that “[t]he continued proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding current events could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies, and in combination with other factors, could inspire individuals to mobilize to violence.” Stories that the government is unwilling or unable to secure the southern border and the upcoming Supreme Court decision about abortion rights might lead to violence, it said. 

Also, it noted: “As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase.”