I used to write exhaustive lists of my 20+ favourite albums of the year. I don't do that any more, but last year I quite enjoyed highlighting a few releases that did not appearon a single other end of year list.
So I'll do that again!
You'll have doubtlessly heard each of these albums many times, as generally without exception they've been pretty ubiquitous. It's strange, then, that I haven't seen a single one of them on any “best of 2012” list so far.
I know it's just oversight, but nonetheless, I'm here to redress the balance.
Albums of 2012 pt. 1 - Cassandra “Seismic” Lifestone – Bury Me With Myself: The Internment Project vol. 1
The argument that “guitar music is dead” has been going on for so long that it now appears to be taken as fact. Cassandra “Seismic” Lifestone is, of course, famous for owning the largest collection of guitars in Blakeney. Nobody who's ever heard her Seismic Shift will ever forget the gleeful cacophony unleashed when she allowed 300 children from schools across North Norfolk to go nuts with her collection. In her role as curator, she captured something so atonally chaotic that the results could apparently be heard from as far away as Holt. It was only right that she should hence take on the name of the innocent beast she helped to create. From that day forth until her dying day, she'd be “Seismic” in name and nature.
Despite living on the tough streets of Blakeney, few would have expected her end to come so soon. The only blessing is that Lifestone got to choose the manner of her own demise.
So incensed was she at the news that her precious guitar music had died that Lifestone apparently refused to leave her house for days. When finally she did emerge her first act was to visit a local artisan with a strange commission. He was to melt down her entire guitar collection – all 300 of them – and forge a fully-functional coffin out of the molten remains.
Lifestone had herself buried in that very coffin amongst the bleak marches of Blakeney. Only one person knew of her coffin's location (the same local artisan), and shortly before finally sealing Lifestone in, she handed him an envelope, which he wasn't to open for a month.
A month passed, and the local artisan (who obviously wished to remain nameless) opened Lifestone's envelope to find a very detailed set of instructions. There was a link to an online cloud storage site from which the artisan downloaded a file. The file would become the album (Bury Me With Myself), and the instructions concerned steps the artisan should take in order to distribute her swan song.
Bury Me With Myself: The Internment Project vol. 1 is essentially a set of field recordings from Lifestone's first week of burial. She had her mobile with her down in that coffin, and for about an hour a day, she would record her breathing. This sound file would then be sent to a mysterious contact who would, at the end of a week (when it could be safely assumed that Lifestone had expired), edit her increasingly strained breathings into this: a claustrophobic 30 minute soundscape that is to act as a eulogy for the guitar music she loved so much.
It's not an easy listen, as towards the end we're essentially listening to Lifestone's death rattles. However, the ironic sense of humour she demonstrated on her Upside Down Spit series is very much alive and present. The biggest joke, of course, is the air of finality surrounding a piece so playfully labelled as “vol. 1”. But there are also laughs to be had at the notion that the sonic funeral for guitar music itself should not contain a single guitar sound over the course of its half-hour runtime.
At a push, you might label the rapping sounds that come early on – presumably Lifestone desparately hammering on the coffin surrounding her as she regretted her decision – as “guitar music”, seeing as she's ostensibly pounding on guitars. But at no point is a single string plucked or a single chord strummed. The irony is delicious.
The mysterious producer has not yet come forward and the local artisan remains nameless – and doubtlessly things will always be that way, as both are sort of complicit in manslaughter. But what remains is an uncomfortable and tragic halting dirge which should be of comfort to the cohorts of former guitarists across the world as they lay their instruments to rest for good.
Guitar music is dead. And, thanks to Lifestone, it's now also quite literally buried. There will be no more guitar music. It's fitting, though, that it should have had such a noble and poignant send-off.