ark Hollis said he wanted Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock to achieve both “complete intensity and complete calm” and they did somehow and what’s more they did it almost perfectly, a sense of fate (and man I don’t believe in fate; I read Nausea at 19 and my world melted, not this “solid into air” stuff, no way, solid into liquid, seeping into the ground, gone gone gone) and undeniability and rightness (yes, this is the point at which you all say “oh for fuck’s sake not another excuse for this English twat to wiffle wiffle piff piff on about fucking Talk Talk again, get over it already”). The thing is that so many people have taken from Talk Talk, heard them and changed their sound, begun something because of hearing them, whichever, and yet they all seem to take the “complete calm” strand of the thread, without realising that the “complete intensity” strand is just as important, that they each need the context of the other, that they work together, symbiosis. Even Hollis himself took the “complete calm” path on his solo record, sonically at least. The intensity of the man’s mind, his soul (there it is again and I still don’t believe we have them) is there; can you listen to “Westward Bound”, a song that’s probably about moving back to London so his kids can go to the cinema more easily, and not feel an overwhelming sadness and grief and openness? Because that’s the intensity of his soul and it is disquieting (and yet so quiet) and I cannot listen to it more than once every two months or so and then I have to have found that space, that need for it, because it is not comfortable music. Perhaps ‘O’Rang took the sonic intensity, Herd Of Instinct has many great and beautiful and wonderful moments when skronk and scree overtake the taughtness and tightness of rhythm, the comfortable flowing bedrock, and challenge you to take it and you can but still they are nothing like the moments in Spirit, the broiling, restless, drowning sea of percussion that tears apart “Desire” and fills up your lungs with painful salt, nothing like that in ‘O’Rang.
This music, this Spacebox, it is so quiet and low and full of holes (the space between the notes, yes we know how important they are now) that you wonder how it exists, whether Benoit Burello ever shouts, whether he has fire in his eyes and in his mind, so quiet you wonder how it got made.
Like Hood and Bark Psychosis this is the Talk Talk I can listen to whenever I feel the need for the sound and the feeling without the full-on catharsis and redemption and awakening (because I can’t do that every day, no, no matter how much I would like). No electronics here and of course that disappoints me but not too much because I can have electronics elsewhere (little moments of computer jazz, oh!). No, Benoit strips down and back, drums and double bass (returning to prevalence, how warm and fuzzy and reverberant is that sound, those big long strings and the strong fingers that foosh them), acoustic guitar, electric guitar, sparse and frayed piano, maybe a clarinet or saxophone, I thought I heard some strings but they remain unlisted so maybe I merely imagined them and I can imagine that Benoit would be pleased that I had done so because this is music for imaginings and dreams as much as anything else. See that candle? I was disconcerted (not always scared) by dreams when I was a child so it is now a boon to be able to find them in waking safety. Those pointillist melodies and drifting endings where the song circles itself like a cat bedding down, Benoit’s voice so often double-tracked and effortless (if not something I am completely comfortable with) fading away and allowing the mood to carry the song (such as you can call them songs). I know it’s a substitute, facsimile, I know I am only listening to this because I cannot bear to listen to that other thing as often as I would like to. But it still has value.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01