Saturday, July 29, 2006

The path to fatherhood

(now with pics)I didn’t get my wish - they weren’t called Aphex, Thompson or Ragga. But five weeks on from their summer solstice birthday our premature twins were ‘discharged’ from Lewisham hospital on Friday 28 July, our final trip down the lift, this time carrying them in their car seats, the last of many symbolic moments, as if we were needing extra resonance from these strange and beguiling events. Out to the ground floor of the Woman & Children’s Unit, and out in to the blazing light of this wrong hot summer. New mum insisted we supplanted memory with photographic representation anyway, capturing them just before they were fixed to the back seat. Photo 250.

Although there have been many things to savour, none really fits into the ‘best thing that ever happened’-type superlative, no moment could be monetised that way. We were admitted in the early hours of their 30-week embryonic birthday, and spent the next few hours in a constant round of consultation and observation. This meant that we were extremely tired for the ‘business end’, and I could only experience it as half-life, emotion or indeed function occasionally puncturing the drowsy, dream-like proceedings. By this stage, the expectant mother was at last jacked up on gas and air* then, ahead of the c-section, a spinal immobiliser so you can’t feel anything from the abdomen downwards.
[* This episode summed up the pointlessness of all the genning up. We had read book after book about procedure during the various stages of the birth, and had just been to a meeting a day earlier about what to do, but once in the situation we were flummoxed; all the text meant nothing to us and could not be applied to the real situation].

At around 11am son followed daughter in quick succession but, with the dangers of prematurity, we had to mainline realism and couldn’t get carried away: we hadn’t seen them being born; they came out straight in to their ‘ovens’, and now they were sheathed in plastics and wired up to the nines. So for me the moment was a few days later; going down to the level of my little boy, looking him in the eye and feeling some kind of transubstantiation, a passover process. Not only was he becoming me, but I was becoming him. To have this sense of regenerative change, even if it was emotion-as-metaphor driving the sensation, was special. Such things can sustain religions and, yes Jack Davenport, it was priceless; beyond materialism. The memory of it will have more value than a thousand photos. Later, I looked him in the eye again as he was on my wife’s breast and in his half-opened glint I read “she’s mine now, I’m taking over”, so you can’t always trust twisted emotions during this time.

With ups and downs inevitable on the way, there was the sharing of fluctuating fortunes with all the other prem parents in the neonatal unit, those who live just down the road around SE4 and those who come from Kent and further afield. And the jostling with the nurses, doctors, sisters and consultants – why can’t they come home yet? What’s wrong with her today? Why is the tube back down him? There were a lot of just-about-diplomatic exchanges as we tried to adjust to the latest second opinion. I’ll also miss the toing and froing from Lewisham. Cycling through Ladywell Fields, under the rail lines, along side the river, in front of the derelict Catford Greyhound site, up and down the railway flyovers and on past the athletics arena to Lewisham hospital with the mother’s milk, or in the other direction with stuff to wash. This aspect felt really productive and – in not driving the mile or so – positive. We also had the chance to really get to know the area between central Lewisham and the start of Catford, the park behind the tower blocks, St Mary’s Church, the Tamil shop with its cutlet goodies at the back, the Islaamic centre further up, no doubt a hotbed of debate about the destruction of Lebanon at the moment, the nooks and crannies of the hospital. Ah yes, the hospital, this was my first long-term introduction to the strangeways of an institution and was interesting in itself. What I won’t miss is their canteen, truly awful packaged or cooked muck.

We were knackered even before they came home, me because I have spent these 40 days or so going between the office and the hospital, my wife because she has spent hours at a time with them in neonatal, having been up twice each night to ‘express’, not to mention getting everything ready back at the house. But now we’re ready to use the amount of information we’ve accrued and happy that although our path to domestic parenting was not conventional, it has given us some treasured moments already. We have a beautiful boy and a beautiful girl and we can’t ask for more.

Ok Mr Truth, is there a sonic relevance? Well, my littl’uns are likely technoheads already, having spent their formative time in a world of beeping respiratory and cardiac machinery. In dedicating my latest digital waveform to them, I tried to combine bleepage with a lullaby and a floppy rhythm. Enshallah they’ll thank me for this when they’re ready….
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Friday, July 14, 2006

The virtual dance

A mate sent a mix cd entitled ‘junglelectro’ which I think he did himself on computer software. I can’t vouch for this, as it came up in Japanese on my iTunes at work, and I can’t tell you more about him, as he has a public presence as a presenter flogging shit. I can’t say any more, I won’t. Anyway, he wanted to know my thoughts so I put down my reactions in real time.

First riddims evolve into Lemon D's Going Gets Tough – the space-step classic, and the Bill Hicks samples are ace... ooh, in comes a tune from indiejunglists The Postal Service which I put on a mix a while ago. Steppas go crazy! Difficult to eq that one, as I have found out before – it just bursts! Don't know the next, but the breaks are Peshay-like and it rolls. Yeouch, in comes a heavy flanged riff – I feel queasy. This is method raving, locked in on my cyber pod... kool thwaks, amen mid-90s madness, splinter my face. Oh you already have. Pause for short two-steps, it's an ominous hiatus, but nice washes convince me otherwise... The syncopatics build up again under nice pulses and a top end...

OK, so where's the ‘-lectro’ component? Then Hicks, again, hails the switch. This is not a fusion but parallax forces - do we side with the techno pulses more because we hear them second? Four to the electro floor. Synthia, SYNTHIA!!!! Distended voices. What do they want. Don't know, but take me to your European city of the future. Grids. Networks, Matrices, dance in this bit, think in that, ooh but a ghostly female vox comes in to break up the co-ordination. I'm losing myself. repetition restores the sync, or does it make it worse? In a cyber hole again. Human bounce next up. Europeans aping Americans, no doubt. Twisted funk, the PR people call it. Can you sell this on your show. No, Mr Evans from Letchworth, we've sold out. But maybe we'll do you a rip, if you like Will Hicks. PROVE IT. And the next one contorts and squeezes on top of a squelchy low end. Then goes for pavlovian appeal. What have they taken? What have I taken? (a cuppa while clicking on my apps in the ‘dock’). It is replaced with a burbler/screecher. Sirens keep our attention, though we doubt their import. Nice 80s industrial snares; will always love that sound. I smell Belgium. What’s this controlled eruption of noise? This would tear Fuse apart. Have it then fuck off back to Englertron on the high-speed subsea transpodule. How many euros? Ur having a laugh, Gert! I hear a break!!! And a quaint bleep. Early Warp techno innit? Or un homage, certes. Then it goes elsewhere, back to the grid with its break incorporated.

Tiga & Zyntherius pops up – les lunettes de soleil au nuit? My partner and I loved this one from the indulgent electroclash daze. Will the whole tune come in? Yes, but is Hicks still relevant? Average riff, rhythm too low, but it works. Naughties Velvets in the diseased metropoli of Eurabia, whites and their middle-class Asian/Arab friends go off to future-dance sophistry, where noise is art, while jihad is plotted in the ghettos. Take your glasses off and disengage your Islamophobia. “One of my best friends is an Arab, actually”. No he isn’t. ‘Sunglasses’ fades into some wet eurodance. What is it? Bing bing pom. Danse de melancholie? End of the night (end of the mix] is nigh. Ah, but here’s another Tuff City outing – I know it. Rother? Clone boys? Felix shower screen riff appears so it must be a rmx. Hip-hop and ATCQ finishes us off. This tells us that no locked groove is permanent, you can switch modules as mood dictates. Back at home with the chong in hand, Phife Dawg! Black swing, the first and best manifestation of modern recorded music. Now please go and earn some money/buy some time to do it again. The last Hicks message tells us something, but it’s not clear enough and we don’t care anyway. Because the beat of the drum has gone….
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