Fritware Painted With Lustre was born at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I had taken Tim Orff, a long time member of Platform Five(5), to the V&A for his birthday, and while we were looking at the ceramics of the Muslim world, he drew my attention to a particular item. “No, not the pot, look at the label: fritware painted with lustre!” The race was on to use this title for a project first.
This title wasn’t the only influence that Tim had upon this album. Earlier in the year I had borrowed a big VHS video camera from work and had lugged the device around the Tottenham Marshes in search of the genius loci. While playing back the footage, we found a shot where a fly had landed on the lens; the bright summer sun catching its wings; Tim christened it “rocket assed fly”, and the name was duly used for a joyful, chiming tune on this album.
In spite of the relative isolation of Eight Leggy DeLongy studio in Walthamstow, Fritware Painted With Lustre is full of the traces of other people: (Ain’t Got Much Money You & Me But Baby We Got) Toiletries was originally written back in 1997 in Kanchi’s kitchen, while I was visiting her at film school in Surrey; Richard’s “saturation bombing” synthesizers soak the background of the several parts of Air Supremacy; and on Messages Fourteen & Sixteen, a guitar melody accompanies answerphone messages from two friends: Pia, asking if we want to come to the pub, and Melanie, apologising for not calling back and then describing her pregnant delirium. Meanwhile on the opening track Dee Dee Meets Bozz Bozz, a sample of Deo playing the tablas is looped over a collage that calls forwards and backwards across the album, somewhat in the manner of many of the experiments on Monorail.
The Benelux of the previous album, Quails Are Given, had given way to The Benelux Circus. While The Benelux had focussed on songwriting, I had felt it was occasionally too focussed; I felt genuinely concerned that I might not be able to improvise or make noise anymore. The Benelux Circus brought the new open space that I had found using my new recording processes on the Fostex A8 reel-to-reel recorder to a wider range of practices. There are songs here: When You Go To The Sea, which appears in two iterations, and (Ain’t Got Much Money You & Me But Baby We Got) Toiletries have both been played since in live solo sets, and The Sinking of the HMS Mathilde combines the sequenced K1 composition of the VEDiC/VEDA albums with a lyrical tale of loss in far flung, exotic places glimpsed on the front of a take away menu.
On the version of Come O Come Emmanuel on Fritware I exploit tape speed pitch-shifting rocesses to turn myself into a four part choir, in an apocalyptic reading of the carol which focusses on “ransom captive Israel” as the nexus of an endless cycle of conflict. The transformed biblical landscape is also present here in the yearning anthem Caesarea Philippae where the devotee awaits the return of his messiah from the stars; there are shades of Philip K Dick here, whose Valis and Radio Free Albemuth I would have read during that winter.
And while many of the instrumentals, Blues For Bozz Bozz, Zoologischer Garten and Domingo Sonntag’s Mistress, exploit moveable 7th chords which would later become the basis for my modal system of playing, the heaving drone of Holloway Road pulls in an altogether more primitive direction. Bozz Bozz, incidentally, was an old cat who we found on top of a wall, who lived with us for a few months before succumbing to cancer. And Zoologischer Garten features field recordings from Berlin earlier in the year. There were so many people, places and instruments coming into the mix.
Once again here Solomon Kirchner and Sally Kitchener are credited, as well as Luther Blissett and Maurice Donne, who is credited along with BG Ramachandra for the Hoog Synthesis System, which in reality consisted of a Casio SK-5 played through a Korg Pandora. The cover here was the only time I ever designed for a CD jewel case. It is printed onto orange paper and features a portrait in ASCII-art on the reverse. The original photo had been taken by Richard and scanned at work. I still had neither a digital camera nor a scanner. The planets on the front and inside sleeve have been borrowed from Thomas Wright’s An Original Theory of the Universe (1750).
Golden Ages are often imagined in retrospect, but Fritware Painted With Lustre was probably the most confident album of this period. Innovations continued but it would be a few years before I hit my stride again.
Fritware Painted With Lustre can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.