What You Could Not Visualise (dir. Marco Porsia, 2022)

On 1 March 2019, I hosted a Rough Trade in-store discussion with Gary Asquith, Dorothy ‘Max’ Prior and Mick Allen from Rema-Rema.

The occasion was the release of Fond Reflections by 4AD, an overdue collection of demos, live recordings and Wheel In The Roses, the band’s solitary 1980 12-inch. That EP has taken on an almost mythical significance in the margins of accepted post-punk histories, and not just because it would ultimately prove to be the launching pad for the careers of musicians that would leave a mark on the ensuing post-post-punk music – guitarist Marco Pirroni with Adam & The Ants, Allen and the band’s Mark Cox with The Wolfgang Press, Max with Psychic TV and Asquith with celebrated future Mute group Renegade Soundwave. That was important, but just as important was that it gave the nascent 4AD, according to its founder, Ivo Watts-Russell, the label’s identity and the high musical watermark to which they would constantly aspire to.

It felt like that event and release in 2019 were both part of a concerted effort to usher in a better appreciation of the importance of Rema-Rema, seeing them move from music’s fringes to somewhere more central, alongside contemporary bands that seem to dominate the post-punk narrative. It was a chaotic, awkward and frankly nerve-wracking evening, made significantly worse by Asquith and Cox arriving late, but it was also touching. Asquith, in particular, has been active in both preserving and promoting the fleeting legacy of Rema-Rema, frequently describing it as his favourite project he’s ever been involved with, and those fond affections for the band that started his career was abundantly clear that night at Rough Trade.

Toronto film-maker Marco Porsia has now made a decisive move that will assuredly imprint the significance of Rema-Rema on a whole new audience. His documentary film, What You Could Not Visualise, follows his celebrated 2019 film about Michael Gira’s Swans (Where Does A Body End?), and features his signature forensic approach to exploration. Porsia’s film is currently crowdfunding, and is expected to be released in 2023.

For the film, Porsia interviewed the band and Ivo Watts-Russell, as well as those personally influenced by the band’s brief legacy – Steve Albini (whose Big Black covered Rema-Rema), Foetus’s JG Thirlwell and Cabaret Voltaire co-founder Stephen Mallinder.

Porsia also interviewed me for the film, which saw a return to Rough Trade West to once again stand behind the counter and reflect on that important band and what they represented.

Watch the trailer below and visit the crowdfunding campaign here.

(c) 2022 Documentary Evidence

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