Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I got to wondering last week whether watching people do intricate technical work was sexy. No, don’t run away! Think about it…The delicate placing of a silicon chip; blueprinting a skyscraper; rows upon rows of sexy bald monks illuminating a sacred text. No?

If it is even remotely sexy, then angel tech has a specialist porn film on its hands. A quick visit to our studio will currently reveal a selection of thirty-something gentlemen hunched over two or three macintosh computers, drawing the blips out of waveforms, routing devices in and out of the mixing desk, trying to cancel the hiss from an ancient rehearsal recording. Occasionally someone from the outside world will drop by and offer opinions. Occasionally a spliff will be rolled with equal care and attention to detail. Occasionally a whole tune will be played and three heads will bob along in time to the distorted drumbeats.

Introverted, maybe. But not sexy, right? Right.

In Prague last October I visited a museum of miniatures. A single driven individual had produced several rooms full of miniscule curiosities, viewed through assorted magnifying lenses and microscopes.
The Mona Lisa on a poppy seed.
A flea carrying a tiny handbag, padlock and key (where was the flea going? What was its terrible purpose?)
Part of the lord’s prayer inscribed on a human hair.

The latter certainly suggested a man fuelled by religious fervour of some kind (and many of the images on grains, seeds and buttons were of a Christian nature,) but this may just have been compounded by housing the museum within the grounds of Prague’s oldest monastery. Looking at a picture of the bloke responsible for this pernickety marvel, he seemed to match up to the stereotype: hair not quite long enough to be making a statement, slicked back over his scalp, wide, thick glasses, a librarian’s moustache… you could imagine him scampering home from Mass with the latest idea in his head, “Yes! A ladybird,” he’d mutter to himself, “A ladybird, standing upright, playing a mandolin…” Straight out of a short story by Angela Carter, he would ignore his wife nightly for the satisfaction of straining a single eye through his magnifying glass onto a brightly lit patch of desk… Tweezers in hand… Wheedling away…

This is the point about the museum: it was filthy. Something about the exhibition reeked of illicit pleasure. The very act of getting so intimately close to the display, the way tourists would take a peak through a lens and suddenly back off laughing as if confronted by the image of a half-nude nun on a washing machine. We waited until it was relatively quiet and we could progress calmly around the two rooms.

Presently, angel tech stares down the microscope at each song in turn, messing with its fundamentals. It’s sometimes difficult to keep focussed when doing something as simple as isolating a couple of instruments seems to suggest the birth of a completely different song… but most of the time, it’s just about dealing with a list of tasks attached to every tune. We’re bloody-minded about it; we’re getting the fucking ladybird to hold the fucking mandolin, thanks very much. Can you lose a sense of perspective when doing work as brain-crawlingly fussy as this? Yep. 'Course you can. But that's when having so MUCH of it helps. After a while you simply have to leave it alone, work with something else, and return to it later. Have a cup of tea. Go for a walk. Go to Prague.

We played another acoustic gig at the Cube Cinema, Bristol, last week. Neil has been very concerned that our acoustic shows feel succinct and confident in their quietness as opposed to doling out the waves of noise we're more likely to produce with electric guitar, bass and drums. So I tried to make myself small on stage that night, intricate and of dubious provenance, as if gazing up at the audience from the microscope slide. As if every tap of the keys was likely to be amplified tenfold. It seemed to make more sense of some of the newer songs, like "The Jukebox Will Tear Us Apart," which otherwise can easily turn into a sort of cheesey bombastic dirge with its big ol' list of bands, songs and LPs. Maybe it's an idea for how it should sound on the album: like following a tiny piece of electronic equipment on a factory production line, trundling along the conveyer belt, slowly watching the device being put together by people with anglepoise magnifying glasses and hunched shoulders.


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