Thursday, February 09, 2017
Grandma [there's no one quite like].
Con-Dom - How Welcome is Death to I Who Have Nothing More to do but Die
Tesco 102. CD - fold out digi-pak with booklet. DLP box set with etching.
Dr Adolf Steg - Dead Mothers Blood
Multimedia artwork. Edition of 10
If you’ve ever been inside a nursing home you’ll know that they’re not exactly a day out at your local health spa. They’re where people go to die. And in the main we’re not very good at death and dying and coping with it. Death is for other people to worry about when the reality is exactly the opposite. We make jokes about it and invent religions to give it meaning but really, we try not to think about it too often. Unless we’re reminded of it by a dying relative or friend or the news of a passing celebrity or a politician its best left unpacked, something for other people worry about, something that's not going to happen to us for a long time anyway. We hope. But in the end death is just that. The End. There is no escaping it.
Lots of us will spend our final days in a care home or a nursing home. Most of those days will be spent in an overheated communal room that smells heavily of disinfectant and urine, a wall mounted TV blaring Escape to the Country, overworked and underpaid staff doing their best under the circumstances handing out weak tea in childproof plastic beakers. Or perhaps in a cot like bed with the sides up, a rubber under blanket to protect the mattress, bleeper around the neck, photos of loved ones arranged on a nearby table, oblivious to the world, reliant on others and waiting the inevitable.
Power Electronics often dabbles in death but I don’t think any artist has ever gone as far as taking the death of their own mother for inspiration. The results are a brave and ultimately harrowing release and one that will no doubt have a deep effect on those who make their way to the end of it.
Its a release that works on two levels; the first are the sounds themselves which as you’d expect are despairing, haunting and unsettling. The second is the imagery, the strength of which I found so upsetting that I had to cover it up or hide it side on while I listened. You can cover your PE releases in all manner of dismemberment, torture, necrophilia, sadism, gratuitous porn and right wing propaganda but the sight of an old woman slumped in a winged back chair her face covered in the bruises of a fall, chills me to my very core. The cover is we must imagine, the face of death itself.
Neither do I think that there has been a Power Electronics release that has as its opening track a sample of the Clive Dunn single ‘Grandad’. This saccharine 70’s pean to an aging grandparent is the sanitized portrayal of growing old, the well worn slippers and the pipe in the pocket. What Dando offers us is the exact opposite; the adult nappies, the shit, the piss, the stink, the dementia, the wailing, the futility of it all, the waiting to die.
There are three key tracks: ‘Living Death’, Chocolates’ and the exasperatingly blunt ‘Just Fuckin’ Die’. There are samples of toilets and communal rooms, screams and in a series of shorter tracks we find the likes of ‘Wee’ and someone being asked by a carer if they want to go for one. Sarah I & II is a resident shouting. ‘Chocolates’ is a brooding 13 minute loop of cycling hum over which Dando recites a letter as written by someone with serious health issues who wishes to end their life [the chocolates are there to disguise the bitter taste of the lethal dose of barbiturates]. Which brings us to euthanasia which is essentially what ‘How Welcome is Death …’ is all about. ‘Just Fuckin’ Die’ is a ten minute loop of churning distortion which eventually reveals its brief and frustrated only sentence. ‘Living Death’ a slightly phased vocal over screaming turmoil, a collection of conversations between Dando and his mother, the misery, frustration and helplessness created by those who can no longer look after themselves. Power Electronics and death appear to be suited like Country & Western and lost horses, Pop and love, House and dance, Punk and spit. Could any other musical genre carry a message with such force and such honest brutality?
The very last track is the natural matching bookend to Clive Dunn’s Grandad; the equally saccharine schoolkid choir sing-a-long ‘Grandma [There’s No One Quite Like …]’. A song you are unlikely to hear sung anywhere near a care home.
After a lengthy hiatus in the studio Dando may well have produced his most profound work since 2001’s ‘Colour of a Man’s Skin’ and just maybe the work with which he will be forever associated. A standout release of the genre and a work guaranteed to haunt you until the end of your days.
Whether Dr Steg’s mother has died we can only guess at. This arrived with no information at all but the man has previous; he once sent me a button badge upon which were glued the ashes of his recently passed father-in-law. So we can assume that what we see is what it says on the tin. Or in this case the plastic grip lock bag. The contents are a bloodied strip of toweling, a bloodied, torn and creased piece of paper containing random words and squiggles and several pieces of broken glass. I really don’t know what to add to this. I’m no art critic. I only know that this week [this month, this year, last year] has been a depressing one. These objects, these works remind us that our time here is of the limited variety. Best make the most of it.