Friday, March 19, 2021

"It was the world I knew but it was very different"

When life gave William Doyle lemons (work-in-progress songs lost thanks to a terminally fucked hard drive), he was able to make lemonade in the form of Great Spans Of Muddy Time - likely to be the only album released today, and possibly ever, that takes its name from a quote from avuncular Gardeners' World host Monty Don.

Not for the first time I submitted a review only to instantly feel as though I may have done the record in question a disservice. The nagging suspicion that I just hadn't quite got onto its wavelength was compounded by subsequently reading its creator's Baker's Dozen feature for the Quietus - an enormously helpful guide to where Doyle was coming from that I wish I'd discovered and digested before sending off the write-up.

It's without a doubt one of the best Baker's Dozens to date - not only for the featured albums but also for the way Doyle talks about them. Taking the most revealing and interesting approach by choosing records "that have had a significant impact in the direction of my life", he repeatedly conveys the thrill of hearing or witnessing something that absolutely blows your fucking mind (Talking Heads' Remain In Light, and its opening track 'Born Under Punches' in particular; Factory Floor live) in a way that really resonates.

Michael Jackson's 'Give Into Me' was a formative influence not for Slash's solo but for the feedback at the end, "the first non-musical musical sound I'd ever heard", while Bjork's Homogenic actually seemed to make the world a different place, inspiring him to feel able to "make something beyond my means". In discussing Microcastle, a personal favourite of mine, Doyle manages to put his finger on what makes Deerhunter so special in a way that I never have: "They seem to understand texture like no other guitar group of their time ... Deerhunter understand the trajectory." And talking about The Fall's Grotesque, he offers an articulate defence of the value of listening to music that you initially find difficult: "[I]f you can hold onto that thing that you find jagged and unpredictable and almost distasteful at times and yet have a totally transformative experience with it, then you're absolutely fucking winning."

The intensely personal attachment he has to certain songs and albums comes across particularly strongly. When his dad was killed in a tragic accident, Radiohead's Hail To The Thief "absorbed a lot of my grief": "It wasn't like it was exaggerating the pain of the moment or anything, it just felt a space to live in." I think we all know what he means when he talks about "the really special records [that] just come down as a rope ladder from heaven".

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