Like that beautiful weirdness with Kim Jong Il & the transgender centre half, things suggest themselves to you and stick about in your mind. And this LP is a portal for stuff like this, if you let it be.
Now listen, now listen….
This record stirred me up a lot. It’s put the wind up me at times too. But it seems I’m not the only one.
Recently there was a great write up by John Doran about it on the Quietus, which was a pretty frank confessional about drinking, specifically his drinking. When I first read it I wondered why Mr Doran had decided to use The Island Come True as the springboard for such a personal piece, but now I’ve been playing the record pretty much non-stop it seems that I’m going down the same path. I wonder if it’s the only way to approach this LP.
You see, in its own quiet, quizzical manner, this record is pretty fucking extraordinary. It’s unlocked a whole host of things that maybe it shouldn’t.
Time for a confession of sorts. I’ve always had trouble sleeping. I don’t like the idea of pills – as I have this concern (okay, ridiculous fear), that I’ll never wake up again. But the alternative is letting my hyperactive, suggestible mind run riot through the night: which can be a pain in the arse. To drop off with any degree of success I need a slipway with a gentle gradient launching me into some kind of drowsy Elysium, and an acceptable halfway house is to turn the radio on, a habit I’ve never got out of since my early years. Sleep of a sort normally starts to kick in when BBC Radio 4’s shipping forecast, Sailing By theme & National Anthem sequence leads into the BBC’s World Service output: a station that - through the fug of sleep - seems to conjure up the most bizarre situations. One time I “remember” a crazy sequence that began with reports of Kim Jong Il’s death quickly followed by a report on a transgender centre half playing for a South Sea Island nation in the World Cup. I am convinced something like this did happen.
And this is where this record, The Island Come True, comes in. This record is very much like a long night listening to the radio. It’s a trip that takes you through strange half remembered scenarios, ludicrous visual imaginings, and terrors, (real and imagined); not to mention some lunatic assumptions. The fact that it also sounds like a whole jumble sale box-worth of knacked old 78s means that the memories hang thin as gossamer, about to be blown out of shape by the slightest breath of wind. The hiss on most of the tracks adopts an almost physical, tessellate, lacelike form – ghosts in ballrooms, memories etched on a retina, or a scratch on a window.
And this LP has elements of impersonal terror about it, stuff that unlocks other stuff.
When I was young, being in this suggestible nocturnal state certainly wasn’t helped by the “fact” that my old bedroom at my parents was “haunted”: as was my gran’s spare room where I often stopped over. Nights in both rooms would have me waking up regularly; screaming, sweating, choking on a sticky, thickly congealed sense of utter horror, and in the case of my gran’s room, of being hung by a blank, white-faced evil, something that is nigh impossible to describe. I’d see windows open and shut; I’d feel cold hands on my legs or on my back. Or on my neck. I can’t say for certain if this happened, ‘cos I wasn’t fully awake. But a feeling of almost hallucinatory hate, and the blank misery of rejection of all things physical, that was real enough and I still remember it: I’d slipped behind the wrong plate; I was on the other side, about to look down at them… I’m not coming back…
The reason I mention all of that miserable stuff is that The Island Come True doesn’t feel like a “safe” record. It prompts you to think about those dark recesses, those 3am moments. It takes its title from a chapter in J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, and you can hear the childhood messages of dark on Dumbum or Now Listen!. Tracks like The Grief That Does Not Speak suggest some kind of Neverland, the place where I’ll go to too, like a lost boy, a ghost, if I don’t fucking wake the fuck up.
There are moments on this LP that sound like no-one’s coming back: this track I’ve just mentioned, The Grief That Does Not Speak, is akin to a lost cut of the Night Porter, or a weird waking dream where a whole host of waxen-faced members of the Sturm Abteilung roll back the years and come out to frolic or adopt poses of melancholy in some moonlit memory bubble. They’re all dead, they all got shot up, had horrible deaths, committed atrocious crimes but it doesn’t stop them dancing on here.
It’s not all about raking up "the bad" on The Island Come True but then it’s never all “here”. Exits comes on like some lost wormhole speeding the listener back to preschool: the fact that the track bears a resemblance to the Listen With Mother theme tune or some other gentle, “early years” musical prompt makes everything all the more loaded in the emotional fuck up stakes. Doctor Alucard seems to be a weird take on a Moondog piece interspersed with a sort of operatic sample that was last heard on a Vini Reilly’s eponymous LP from 1989. That bits of it also sound like some rhumba track that would be popular on a Saga holiday cruise is neither here nor there.
But this is what happens when you slip in and out of consciousness. Like that beautiful weirdness with Kim Jong Il & the transgender centre half, things suggest themselves to you and stick about in your mind. You start to get frayed. You wonder when the dawn comes and the Uruk Hai of the night – or of the more undisturbed sections of your mind - will bugger off back to Xanadu, in Ireland. And this LP is a portal for stuff like this, if you let it be.