Thursday, August 28, 2008

riddley walker and the trees

"the vision of saint eustace" by pisanello, 1395 - 1455.

mr. punch, or pulcinella; lord of misrule.

The 16th century puppet figures of Punch and Judy loom large in Russell Hoban's 1980 fable, "Riddley Walker"; grotesques which weave their analogous tale through the dark arteries of a blasted Albion haunted by sinister lurking charcoal burners and feral dogs in his post-apocalyptic parable of atom and eve and the chase to resurrect the working knowledge of the littlest "adam" who lies at the heart of the wood.

"The Punch and Judy show can trace its roots to the 16th century to the Italian commedia dell'arte. The figure of Punch derives from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella, which was Anglicized to Punchinello. He is a manifestation of the Lord of Misrule and Trickster figures of deep-rooted mythologies."

From Ocelot Factory on Russell Hoban:

"Riddley WaIker is set in an unspecified, post-apocolyptic era in the future, when dogs have become humanity's enemies, and history is a rubble of allegory. It's told in a language that recalls the "smashed mess of mottage" of Finnegan's Wake, but Mr. Hoban's inventiveness guarantees that the language of Riddley is his own creation. Gutteral yet eloquent, we hear in it echoes of rudimentary English (and a tendency toward sagas) that evoke Beowulf, mixed with remnants of the technological catchphrases and political jargon of the 20th Century."

My friend, Gus, sent me an MP3 a while back from Trees - "Streets Of Derry"- along with a suitably cryptic reference to it being a remix; it is perfectly feasible that the original recording has been tampered with in some fashion, or it may simply be the remastered version. I do not know. He did not elaborate. I am not familiar with either the group or the album, but there is a very similar vibe to Fairport Convention at work here. A hallucinogenic echo in its electricity which crackles and drags like a clubfoot on carpet.

Very possibly, the Incredible String - or even Third Ear - Band would have been more relevant to the Russell Hoban theme which has been bubbling under for some time now, but since I have featured more than a little from those two groups of late, this shall do nicely.

The intertwined electric and acoustic guitars of Barry Clarke and David Costa succeed in taking the track far from where it might easily have slumbered. Cilia Humphris, while an accomplished vocalist, plays second fiddle to the sum of its parts. The first few minutes only set the stage.

A coiled snake on a tree stump. The Ardship of Cambry.

And Aunty.

TREES: STREETS OF DERRY from "On The Shore" LP (CBS) 1970 (UK)



Peewit said...

Methinks it is the remastered version. I have the vinyl reissue of this album (and the other Trees Album "The Garden of Jane Trelawney") and to my ears there is very little to choose between the two versions other than that your mp3 is 2 seconds longer than mine!

I would recommend giving both albums a listen as I think given your apparent tastes from the blog you would enjoy them

ib said...

Thank for clearing that up, peewit! As sometime man of mystery, Gus has a habit of lapsing incommunicado - as have I, I hasten to add - and I wouldn't necessarily have put it past him to include some overdubbing...

I think i will be checking out both albums at some point, sooner or later; the guitar parts are great - as is the bass, although I omitted singling it out on the original post.

Have you read "Riddley Walker", by any chance ? I dug it back out after this post, and am currently in the process of re-reading it. A bit like an even darker Mervyn Peake, but without the (sometimes) overbearing descriptive passages, and trotting along with mercifully shorter sentences.

I hesitate to say it - having been let down so many times before - but it's crying out for a film adaptation.

I'm pleased you didn't pass over this one. Thanks for the comment!