“At the end of his life Marconi had become convinced that sounds never die, they simply become weaker and weaker. He was trying, by developing more sophisticated listening devices, to capture past sounds and he wanted, ultimately, to hear Christ delivering his sermon.” – Gavin Bryars
The philosophy of ‘all music ever played is still playing’ echoes into Concrete Handbag. This mantra has stirred the hearts of many a musician, entrenching them in valleys of deep thought. Taking into consideration sounds that we all experience as we walk through life (including life experiences, such as conversations, and outside influences, such as birdsong and background noise – i.e. sounds born in physical space), Andrew Hargreaves carries out internal investigations, detective-style, into the way in which sounds can shape and influence our physical environment and local geography, but Concrete Handbag explores the effects on mind and spirit, too. A deep connection exists between sound and memory: a song played on the radio can stir up a thousand different emotions and return you to long-dead years, like an aural form of time travel.
Either emanating from the past or running through a current timeline of happenings, Hargreaves brings together a selection of found images, poetry, music, and field recordings to create a ‘document of fictive memory’. Beth Roberts, of The Mistys, also contributes a set of vocals, although they’re ushered in and out of the ghostly mix and surrounded by whirlpools of reverb. The uninterrupted flow is a crucial part of the music, passing the baton, a train of thought, from one memory to the next.
We want to immortalize our lives and our memories: to make unbreakable, lasting concrete when everything must fall and disappear. Freezing moments to look back upon, they nonetheless become imprinted in impermanent objects. Photographs can last for years, but they’re susceptible to fire and burning. Camcorders record a series of diamond moments, but only if the VCR still works. Words are written, but the tablet upon which they were inscribed is beginning to erode, making illegible poetry and blind sentences. They’re just artefacts.
Concrete Handbag exists outside of time, conceived in the depths of an unreliable narrator – memory – and in a mind jaunty with age. Did that really happen, or was it just an embellishment, an altering? The music suggests that a third memory has come about, emerging from the shadows and creating an entirely new fiction in the process. Beth’s vocals swirl around in a decaying, lo-fi atmosphere, one that froths with acid and undigested events. Sounds from conversations echo in and around as the music searches for a deeper truth, going back and further back still, filtering out all unwanted filler to get to the core of Christ’s words, hearing His voice, which still echoes in the air to this day, because they were spoken into the same air, on the same planet, 2,000 years ago. Air still holds the sound of a dropped nuke, an illicit kiss, the ghost of midnight rain. Still playing, and still broadcasting the afterglow of the Big Bang in an old television’s explosion of static. Likewise, Concrete Handbag is tuned into in-between channels, the dim light from its screen flickering between make-believe and memory, and fact versus fiction.