Savage Songs Of Brutality And Food. By The Extreme Angels Of Parody is an album by Simon Fisher Turner and his two children, Isabella and Jasper. Its release was prompted by a conversation between SFT and Charles Powne from the Soleilmoon label about a specific album of children’s music, which in turn gave Fisher Turner pause to mention a project he’d been working on using the recorded voices of his children, which turned out to be this album.
It is a deliberately personal album, but one that is faithful to an aesthetic that Fisher Turner Sr. has been employing for the last few years under the banner of Guerrilla Audio; the concept also extends as far back as you care to look in his back catalogue, right back to when he first alighted upon a Revox tape machine. It involves making discrete, covert recordings that find their way into later sound works, adding a naturalistic, unpredictable quality alongside electronic structures; they sit somewhere between field recordings and the wiretapped conversations of vintage Scanner.
In the case of Savage Songs…, the fifteen pieces included here represent the majority of the lifetimes of Fisher Turner’s two children, now deep into their teenage years. They are constructed from recordings that Fisher Turner made of them while they were growing up – little nonsense poems, overheard conversations, early attempts at French, the sounds of innocent young minds hard at work learning or playing or inventing fantastical worlds that they then inhabit, even if briefly. They are like tiny time capsules of Isabella and Jasper’s youth, otherwise lost to the mists of memory and age were it not for their father’s idea to recor them. The effect is both universally nostalgic for anyone who looks back with misty eyes on the all-too-rapid maturity of their children (and who wishes they’d preserved those memories better; more respectfully; more completely), yet also deeply personal for Fisher Turner who so attentively documented their growing up in this way.
Nostalgia might abound in the mournfully-arranged pieces like ‘Cream and Latin Odor’, ‘The Sad Skipping Story’ and ‘The Mighty Dinosaurs’ (the latter with The Elysian Quartet), which have a sweetness and poignancy in the musical accompaniments, but a sense of inevitable playfulness can also be found here. ‘OH YEAH, forget about it, YEAH’ judders along on fragmented electronic patterns like sonic hopscotch, underpinned by a dismissive refrain from Isabella that, from a teenage mouth, would sound cutting and hurtful; ‘BlahXBlahXBlahX’ is noisy and rambunctious, nudged forward by retro computer game chip sounds and a processed “blah-blah-blah” refrain that suggests young Jasper was completely oblivious to his dad following him around with a microphone; ‘Squirrel Song’ is a stentorian waltz set to springy synths that commences with some gentle harmonising from the two young Turners; ‘JAZZ JAM corner’ sounds like a short offcut from The Residents’ Commercial Album.
In his honest, truthful and tender press release Fisher Turner says that there will be no second volume, in spite of the hours of unused recordings that remain on his overflowing hard-drive. His children are now 17 and 15, and the idea of being trailed around by a doting father with sound intentions no longer seems as fun as it did when they were tiny. Savage Songs…, then, represents a loving gift; a one-off; a unique paean to unique childhoods and the unstoppable act of getting older.
Savage Songs Of Brutality And Food. By The Extreme Angels Of Parody by Isabella, Jasper and Simon Fisher Turner is released September 4 2020 by Soleilmoon.
An email to Simon Fisher Turner, 6 August 2020.
Thank you for sending this across.
I have to say, for all sorts of reasons, the press release moved me profoundly, and I confess to having shed a tear while reading it. Anyone with children who have suddenly grown up almost without you noticing – because it wasn’t sudden; never could be; you just didn’t see, or perhaps refused to accept, the signs – would recognise some of the sentiment in that. And that’s before I have even listened to it. My two daughters are 14 and 12. I don’t recognise them. I’m just some old fart whose music tastes they do not want to understand and who is boring because he tries to work hard to provide for them.
I remember once, probably in 2008 or 2009, sending you a text from St Albans. I was waiting outside a uniform shop where my now-14-year-old was being fitted out for her first school uniform. I have no idea why I said this to you, nor what conversation we were in the middle of at the time. You told me you could relate. It felt like her future and her sister’s future were starting in earnest. Now they try to customise their uniforms, skirt length, hair length etc to the limits of what might get them a detention and I’m still waiting outside shops while they try on clothes.
Strangely, too, something in your press release text made me nostalgic for my own childhood. It was the reference to Soleilmoon asking about an album of children’s songs. I had such an album as a kid. It was called All Aboard, a beautiful LP that had all sorts of classic songs on it, like Bernard Cribbins singing ‘Right Said Fred’. It also had ‘The Laughing Policeman’ on it, which got scratched on one of the policeman’s laughs, creating a locked groove that was utterly disturbing for this toddler playing nearby and might explain why the cut-ups of Burroughs and loops that I read about (before hearing them) fired up my imagination so much. I kept meaning to buy a second-hand copy while the girls were small, and now they’re not. And neither am I.
I look forward to listening to this and writing about it before release. You can probably guess the thoughts and nostalgia with which I will approach it. Think of this as a preview.
Words: Mat Smith
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