Meet Pete. The singer on my second LP ‘DEVIL, REPENT!’
Available here: http://jamesjoys.bandcamp.com/album/devil-repent
My second album. Available to pre-order. Releases on 2nd June 2014.
Devil, Repent! sleeve artwork. Lyrics and poem. Releases 2nd June 2014.
My second album Devil, Repent! written and recorded in collaboration with singer Peter Devlin, will be released at the end of the month. After countless drafts of the sleeve artwork, we’ve finally settled on this. Unfortunately, we’ve no plans for a physical release, unlike first album Glyphic Bloom. Maybe in the future.
It will be available here: http://jamesjoys.bandcamp.com
James Joys & Peter Devlin
'Devil, Repent!' inner sleeve artwork.
James Joys & Peter Devlin - The Ark Of My Carriage.
I’ve to go somewhere for a while /
back to the bunkered century /
stone cold limb /
gusseted, wired like lamb /
flayed on the mount /
rip split /
all seer /
his parabolic verse /
I’ve to go somewhere
Mayfair Ballroom, Newcastle upon Tyne. Demolished to make room for the Gate complex, Newgate Street.
A small box with a large red button is passed around among an audience. An amplified quintet plays on stage; drums, bass clarinet, piano, double bass, turntablist. They are virtual shadows under the proscenium arch of Newcastle’s Mayfair Ballroom as though standing at the open mouth of a some beast. They play - as the box is passed from person to person in the audience – an open-stringed rickety’d flounce; a mix of curiosity and irresolution. The box, with long wires running from it that plug into a dark corner beside the stage, is followed by the musicians’ eyes. It is a nomadic neurology’s nervous extension, distended, out of reach. Fingers tap cured wood, high-string and keyed up, shortened temperament, shorted circuitously; periphrastic skirt hemmed in by perverse wants for wound, their rhapsodic licks acquiring a taste for trauma. Noise-nose / sound-scent; a synaesthetic affinity. The audience feel provoked, hassled and restless. A struggle and a quickening pursuit of some innovative authority not yet manifest; eyeballing one another. They sense that the index of possibilities is getting smaller, and poetic agency is in danger of collapsing into polyglottal babble – or a closed loop of denial and rebuttal. But within this triptych of players, audience and alien technology, infinite qualifications are being glimpsed, and written into existence as expressive discontent – how long can they handle the dissonances, breaks and deformations? The pressure, pleasure, of the near-inexpressible exhaustively incites unbearable newness; a newness enforced and empowered by necessity. Then.
The button on the box is pressed. Lights cut, and the sound lurches back. A pendulous distance now hangs between the audience and musicians, who keep playing. The sudden drop in amplification makes it seem as though the audience are eavesdropping on a private jam. It is a domestic embrace, intimately skin, breath, bristle; an acuter sense of the musicians’ language of physical gestures. Each audience member’s eyes dart between the five players, intuitively following the eddies that their shunts, jerks, twitches and nods set in motion. Sound is seemingly secondary to the dance they watch. Strenuously they leer as the musicians begin to fade away, as if two enormous arms encircle them and draw them away from the audience, into its deep, gated bract.
Spot the difference. Top: St David’s Centre, Cardiff. Mid-left: Stratford Westfield, London. Mid-right: Liverpool One. Bottom-left: Victoria Square, Belfast. Bottom right: Cabot Circus, Bristol.
They loom, gloom, over another plaza, and signify a landscape characterised and dominated by delineations of exclusion and exclusivity by absent agencies who exert an impressive control over the shaping of our cities. As Professor Stephen Graham, author of ‘Cities Under Siege’, has detailed, strategies of (en)closure, exclusion and domestic urban militarisation are used to dispossess citizens of – to paraphrase Lefebvre - their right to the city. Indeed, Marxist geographer Doreen Massey encourages us to ‘…ask not, perhaps, do you belong to this landscape, but to whom does this landscape, effectively, belong.’ There is a creeping colonisation of public space in city centres by privately controlled shopping thoroughfares that are assiduous in their architectural and commercial homogeneity; Liverpool One, Bristol’s Cabot Circus, Belfast’s Victoria Square, Cardiff’s St David’s Centre and Cardiff Bay, Stratford’s Westfield Centre, Sheffield’s Sevenstone, and Leeds’s Trinity, to name a few. They epitomise what architectural critic Kenneth Frampton calls ‘absolute placelessness.’ Newcastle’s Eldon Square shopping centre, opened in 1977, is of an older ilk but foreshadowed the heavily securitised and privately managed spaces that impose codes of behaviour; no skateboarding, loitering, photography, filming, busking, music, graffiti, ball-games, begging, protesting; no hoodies. Speculative complexes of one and two bed apartments house gated communities that are inevitable adjuncts to commercial redevelopment and regeneration. They seek to allude to a certain kind of cosmopolitanism; the young professional – creative, affluent, cool – the kind of societal fiction that partly drives justifications for regeneration. In Newcastle and Gateshead, new riverside apartments are situated directly in front of the deprived areas of Walker, Scotswood Road and Gateshead as if to mask the realities of societal injustice and urban decline. The encroachment of socially regimented places hands over control of nominally civic space - of the public production of space - to a surreptitious and spatially undemocratic expansionism; it is a crisis of the spatial condition. Indeed, Bryan Finoki, writing on his Subtopia blog, argues that there is a need to ‘develop our lenses for observing everyday space and the dimensions of our daily environments as they are inseparably linked with politics, state power, militarism, security, (in)justice, etc.’
These buildings are the architecture of 24-hour television; there is nothing to recall because we cannot be bothered to remember. It is an anti-archival condition of the re-recordable, with erasure as the register of our experience. It is at the same time however, more intrusive, more pervasive because it is more about surveying than seeing; it is, according to writer Iain Sinclair, ‘the flat literalness of reality TV.’ They are unsettling because they are transparent, because they are, on the surface, the absolute antithesis of the solid bunker and fortress architecture of the mid-century, with its load-bearing cantilevered cubes that trenchantly defied gravity and logic, but that also seemed anchored by their contention with nature, their dispute with the earth; their modulation of their surroundings. Redeveloped precincts like Liverpool One, Cabot Circus, Eldon Square and Victoria Square adopt spatial manifestos that encourage a perception of them as uncontained, free-flowing, organic and democratically organised spaces, and as such they make their limits disguised or difficult to perceive. Crucially these buildings have adopted the language of psychogeography and the strategies of the situationists. Their chief quality, as architect Rem Koolhaas has noted in his essay ‘Junkspace’ (2002), is solely endless proliferation, and not form. This extensive seamlessness, itself an infrastructure, is one of the essential attributes of public-private (PFI) regeneration projects. There is then, arguably, an overlap of terminologies and narratives, as the opiated disorientation of the dérive and the flaneur’s aimless drift across the city now seems analogous with the stuporous flows of people along contours of unified ambience. Indeed, we could go further and suggest that there is an unsettling sense of collusion between situationism and gentrification in modern planning rhetoric.
If you walk Newcastle, you soon sense how much of it was, is, in thrall to the ‘grand project.’ The enormous motorway - an intrinsically doomed plan, and failed piece of architecture - decisively cuts the eastern inner city and suburbs of Shieldfield, Sandyford and Heaton from the centre. Its relics of modernist optimism in the elevated concrete walkways, brutalist Bank of England building, complex pedestrian subways, Derwent Tower (the “Dunston Rocket”) and the Shieldfield housing estate are ideal film sets for a Kubrick because we have successfully recast these brutalist spaces as dangerous, bleak, sinister, menacing; the culmination of treacherous architectural hubris.
They are familiar to us as places of deprivation, perversion, degeneracy, violence, sometimes immorality. The social, civic buildings of the 1960s stink of piss and idealism. Their idealism is where their immorality lies. But Newcastle and Gateshead’s brutalist legacy, its car parks - including one very lamentably “ex” car park - stand, stood as monuments to not only civic, but artistic confidence. They dared to provoke something genuinely new, explicit, into existence. It created what was lacking. It wasn’t apologetic and it especially wasn’t submissive to natural topographies, instead, it created its own that sought to mirror, impose, and go beyond, the natural grammar of Newcastle’s three mounds, the Lort Burn (present-day Dean Street) Pandon Burn and the Ouse Burn, running steeply up from the quayside towards the sweeping curvatures of the city’s centre, its numerous centres over time palpable as a movement, a visual terracing of architectures upward from the Tyne. Newcastle’s (and Gateshead’s) cyclical projects of development and demolition imbues it with numerous false starts, and a history that stutters in a closed loop.
The grand projects of dismantling, the sound of vibrating metal spikes splitting concrete, the hard thud of stack collapsing on to stack, presents to us the apparent indistinguishability of renewal and reversal. It is a slow coercion from above to forget not only what existed, but the optimism of a society which sanctioned their construction. Time is tucked neatly back to make room for a new enticement of gloss, glass, cladding and transparent surface. Gateshead’s Trinity Square’s replacement is, like many new developments by the river, a diaphanous construction for the eye to skim, and a skin for the real city to decay behind. These are places to breeze past, not to linger; paler spaces.
We are amongst the abundance of jollies in the shopping malls that make you feel at home – art-official-offers-you (in less self-assured moments) glimpses of yourself. There is a man reading Walter Benjamin by the dry ex-fountain underneath the great glass domed teat, that same apparition that Keiller’s Robinson spotted in London in 1994. He, perhaps, an over-lapse of the arcadian dweller, spun back and woven from the same weave’d-wrought iron, but now all skin and no skeleton. A hallowed skin machine. This is our eternal pivot (and inescapable return) elliptically looped but splayed in-and-out-and-in-and-round-and-out-and-over, tinctured by an unquenchable elastic nag at the back of the mind. Emphatically looped but brayed and fragmented, a “history wandering onto the scene”, its unstoppable decline buttressed against aching progress. This arcade is a terrible mute accenting its attenuated double, the singing bract of Club Martinique, whose jazzers marched mourning through the city upon its demolition. A procession in semi-silent cloth, an ecclesiastical shuffle swung through rows of seven, drifting through conditioned space, built as conditional spaces. The nagging lack of an eight, a step too soon but none too far, they trod on made up ground, swell and swollen, un-whole in its laggard certitude. This city shifts, retracts and redacts itself. The fragmentary falter of readjustment is a mute yearning to see these places as figments’ fabrication. But falter’s pigment colours only the cornered gaze, the passing-byes of inventories out of sight; accentuating a wound and its repair, a limp and its loping redress; a double deal. They march through stillborn arches that support little more than fantasies of form, and coerce the curdling eddies of bodies through themselves. Newcastle’s a proliferation of extinctions and rebuttals; a city excusing itself into a farce of atonement – exorcising – patched up – stitched up. In what way does your local lie? But we walk the way-stations between rigid categories, places we pause to allow bleed-and-seepage-secretion from elsewheres, pioneer tails – trawlers and spider-rigs perched on the deep horizon. We’re wise ‘n’ too acquainted with the latticework of enmeshment and none too err-rationally, addressing none but a network. So why not witness a bend of dictions where the invisible threshold of madness becomes visible, where poetry b-l-ends into absolutely reality? Why not meaning communicated and imbued with the risk of tearing itself apart? Occupying a critical precipice, this is a condition that imperils its own destruction, the cleft between yarn and yearn, the parable and the parabola – parabolic – the moral fall and lift to redemption. Wakened to the city, digressed and peeled, mapped by the heavens and buffeted by voices of reproach, we walked in silence and shaped a void – well-shaped by omission. We defined a potent blank, listening to the passing measures presenting a reality that exceeded what we heard – we were already living among the ruins. One collision on top of another collision. The cleft between clasp and grasp – pressure the purest incarnation of grasp as it activates surfaces and tunnels down sub-dermally. A tunneling dub; an opening up of things by reduction…to the troglodyte – attentive to his doubled presence in enclosure – understands himself as informed and deformed by reflection and unending reification. He talks in sentences that tap themselves along the wall, listening for hallow’d spots, a register of repetition that occupies the space between innervation and enervation, both vitalizing and exhausting. At night – what night? - he dreams he is enclosed like papal flesh in pupal dress, with violable edges – suffering seepage – his skin a slow eruptive surface bubbling confession in slow froth; an irresistible spume.