A skeleton as a fashionably dressed womanDeath never goes out of style. Death isn't sensitive to trends. On the contrary, Death's popularity is never-changing. Death and Fashion are closely linked to each other. In fact, they are sisters. This statement was presented by the Italian poet, essayist, and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi in his romantic poem "Dialogue Between Fashion and Death" in 1824. The poem begins with Fashion reaching out to her sister, Death: "Do you not remember we are both born of Decay?". Death does, at first, not recognise Fashion as her sister. Fashion insists that they are bound to each other and "both equally profit by the incessant change and destruction of things here below", that, "our common nature and custom is to incessantly renew the world." Death and Fashion are both executing decay and destruction of the body. In the poem, Fashion ultimately proves to Death their sisterhood in describing the obvious inflictions on the human body. Throughout the dialogue Fashion claims that she could be of assistance, aiding Death in shortening human life. Death replies: "Well, well: time enough to talk of this when you introduce the custom of not dying. But at present, I want you, like a good sister, to aid me in rendering my task more easy and expeditious than it has hitherto been." Fashion is transient and frivolous. Death is permanent and serious. Fashion, in general, is a way of testing the limits of our mortality and reconcile with death. It's an imaginative play with concepts and symbols. Aesthetics and trends in fashion often interact with symbolism and representations of death and human frailty or sufffering. The clothes we wear are not just fabric sewn together in patterns, it's so much more. It's a statement of who we are or want to be perceived. Dress for success. The step from Leopardi to Gothic fashion isn't that far. On the contrary, there's a straight line between them. Death and Fashion, are together forever. 


 

TKB OrdinaryepsHow many musicians in their right mind would commit themselves to release an EP every month during a year? Nota bene, during a pandemic. Well, I thought long and hard but couldn't think of anyone. Not even a desperate musician who wants to get out of a volume based record contract. However, some people go against the flow. In December 2020 T.K. Bollinger announced: "I have good news for you, and scary news for me. I am planning to release 12 EPs next year. One a month. Can I really do this. I guess we'll find out. I'm not doing this on a whim, mind you. I have a whole swag of songs prerecorded, so that part at least is somewhat under control. My hope with these releases is to push as much of my music out there as I can and see what sticks." This, to say the least, ambitious release project will be digital only with a physical release of the best songs as an album in early 2022. You can read the press release here (opens in a new window). Let's do some maths. 12 EPs with 4 songs makes 48 songs (!). The project management triangle states that the quality of work is constrained by cost, scope and time. I don't know about the cost, but T.K Bollinger has delivered according to schedule (scope and time). The quality of the first six EPs will now be assessed. I will quickly walk them through and also take the opportunity to leave unsolicited advice regarding which songs to include on the physical release. T.K. Bollinger wrote a disclaimer; "These songs are an odd bunch. They are grouped thematically rather than stylistically." I couldn't agree more. The songs vary in every conceivable aspect. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride. First out of the EPs was "Ordinary Choices". The opening song "I Can't Keep Singing This Song" sticks out with its catchy beat and rolling rhythm. "Swallow Me Whole" is unadulterated Bollinger-quality. "When I’m gone the light will swallow me whole / All my hopes and all my sorrows / All that I dreamed will be eaten up by the void – / That light will swallow me whole." This song should go straight to the physical release. The second EP is "Ordinary Hopes". The best song is "At Our Best", which may or may not make it to the physical release. The third EP is "Ordinary Fears". The obvious choice here is "Bright Futures" and "Drained of all Hope". The latter song has great lyrics. "Shame might be too light a word / Drained of all hope might fit closer / Shame might be too light a word / Drained of all hope might fit closer." The fourth EP is "Ordinary Joys". It's the weakest of the first six EPs. From this cheerful bunch of songs I choose "Holy Word". The fifth EP is "Ordinary Madness". This is, in my opinion, the best of the six first EPs. The four songs "Ill Comfort, My Friend", "Let Your Devils Take Heart", "Same Breath, Different Face", "Something Real To Hold Onto" should all make it to the physical release. The sixth EP is "Ordinary Inconvenience". From this album I choose "Disappointing Son". Musicians are different. Some musicians oscillate between hope and despair and will never deliver. Some musicians brood over their songs like a mother hen, unwilling to let go. Other musicians have a more simplistic and undemanding approach. T.K. Bollinger belongs to the latter category. In an e-mail he explained: "Some may be misses, but that’s the nature of my creativity. I’m not one to sensor my muse, I take what I can get and see where she leads me." And the overall impression? T.K. Bollinger will not have any problems with material for the physical release. However, there are highs and there are lows. This is expected and consistent with the idea of releasing an EP a month. Adding to this, the songs span over different genres and styles. It's not over yet. There are six more EPs to come (more correctly five EPs, since "Ordinary Loses" was released July 1st). You can check the EPs out for yourself here (opens in a new window). Finally, I admire the effort. The greater the effort, the greater the glory.

  

absolutenotzeroIn the beginning of the year I wrote a blog post (Absolute zero) about one of the few remaining second hand record stores in Stockholm, read more here (opens in a new window). It wasn't just about any store. It was about Skivbörsen, established in 1971. Skivbörsen has been closed since March 2020 due to covid-19. On June 28th 2021 the store was re-opened. That's really surprising news. I never thought that it would resurrect. Not after being closed for a so long time. Skivbörsen is divided into three sections. You enter the store through a half staircase. It's not suitable for people with accessibility needs. In the beginning the store was only 10 square metres (placed on the left side of the staircase). Today, it's more of a storage room for cds which are less in demand. The store quickly expanded on the right side of the staircase (a former toy store). From this larger part of the store there's a narrow spiral staircase leading down to the cellar. Personally, I haven't been down there since the 1970s. But, it's a goldmine if you have the time and energy to excavate the gems. Not much have changed over the years including the original interior. The first owner was a bit odd and didn't trust some of the customers. He installed a low tech surveillance system of mirrors and monitored the business from a small box-room. The present owner took over the store in the mid-1990s. Skivbörsen is a wonderful establishment for cds and vinyls. However, if you're a house dust allergy sufferer this isn't a healthy place to be. A good record store normally has order and structure. Skivbörsen gives the concept of chaos a new and deeper meaning. On the other hand, the supply is unmatched and prices are very moderate. The society is slowly opening up again. The re-opening is a prime example of survival instinct and endurance. Welcome back Skivbörsen!!! 

presence2I grew up with the "Big 3"; Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin ringing in my ears. Most people regard Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin IV as Zep's finest moments. Not only because of the content, but also in terms of the album art. I like "II" and "IV", but it was actually "Presence" that I played over and over again. The songs "Achilles Last Stand", "For Your Life" and "Nobody’s Fault But Mine" stand out. The album cover also stood out. It was perceived as "weird". The album art was designed by no less than Hipgnosis, read more here (opens in a new window). Hipgnosis was also behind the "Houses of the Holy" album cover. Allegedly, the band came up with the title "Presence" after seeing the images that were presented as front/back covers and gatefold images. Yeah, right but it's a good story. The album cover is a bit out of character. There's no natural connection between an epic hard rock band in the 1970s and a nice and tidy suburban, middle-class family in the 1950s. The album art was designed by graphic designer Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell together with George Hardie. The background in the cover photograph is an artificial marina, installed in London's Earl's Court arena for the annual Boat Show, in the winter of 1974–75. The inner sleeve photographs came from various archive stock pictures, and was designed to resemble a feature in Time Magazine or National Geographic. The album contains ten photographs of a nuclear family contemplating a black object, an obelisk. "The Object" neither casts a shadow nor reflects any light and has a commanding presence. Well, nothing was too pretentious in the 1970s. "The Object" seems to create a divide; a Kubrickian monolith or a Spinal Tap mini-Stonehenge? "The Object" was also used for promotion purposes, read an insightful article here (opens in a new window). Today, you would have to pay about $2000 for an original. A copy is cheaper, about $40. I wouldn't mind an original object on the window sill. Original will always beat copy. In music as well as in art.          


swarmeofbeeseSome wishes never come true. For instance, a long-awaited album filled with great expectations. In my annual blog entry "What to expect and wish for in..." I have had the same wish for five years in a row: a new album from The Victor Mourning. The first years were not very encouraging and no sign of activity, but then a glimpse of hope followed. The band members were located in Austin again, playing and recording for a new album. And then came the pandemic. On June 1st 2021 they wrote on Facebook: "These past few years have been a time of tremendous change for everyone, and we’re no exception. As we emerge from a year of isolation, we’ve decided to change our band name to reflect the direction we’ve been heading in for some time now. We’re pleased to announce that the band that began its life as The Victor Mourning is now Swarme of Beese. (Of course, there’s a story behind the new name, but we’ll save that for later.) You’ll still recognize the stripped-down underpinnings of our acoustic hillbilly noir sound, but you might also notice a bit more texture and an extra layer of psychedelic folk among our wide-ranging influences. More than ever, the songs meander off from the main roads and through dark paths in the backwoods, to the eerie places where boundaries between the real and the imaginal disappear. A source close to the band has described the sound as “hillbillies who got lost on their way to the moonshine still and stumbled upon some mushrooms.” Our first order of business is to finish recording the album we started before COVID struck, and to get those captured sound waves pressed into grooves of glorious vinyl later this year. There’s a strong likelihood that we’ll play a live show or two when it’s released. We hope you’ll join us on this journey, and maybe even take a moment to “like” our new page, where we’ll keep you updated as things progress. As always, we deeply appreciate your support! — Stephen, Lynne, & Stefan".  Well, my The Victor Mourning-wish will never come true. But, things could be a lot worse, like if Stephen, Lynne, & Stefan would call it quits. I will replace my old TVM-wish with an album from Swarme of Beese. However, I prefer cd over vinyl.   


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