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Isabella, Jasper and Simon Fisher Turner
Savage songs of brutality and food. By the Extreme Angels of Parody Stevie Lennox , September 28th, 2020 08:04

The worlds of sound art and child-rearing collide on an album of children's songs and chants collaged and transformed by Simon Fisher Turner

We have a fixation on memories and their impermanence. It’s an impossibility that makes any attempt to encase the intangible in amber an ultimately vain, yet noble quest - not least when recording and transforming the first thirteen years of your children’s lives into sonic collage. Savage Songs… sees the unlikely confluence of the roles of both father and sound artist, as he becomes the incidental producer in the conceptual stage in encouraging his children, Jasper and Isabella, to express themselves via story and performance, whether they’re aware or not. The untreated nature of its acoustic elements enable a rather abstract, yet completely vivid, immersive experience - sweeping pans conjuring a young Jasper running past your view.

A kind of Holy Spirit to Brian Eno’s Father, Simon Fisher Turner’s journey from reluctant pop star to ambient outlier has seen him collaborate with Derek Jarman, join The The, and become an Ivor Novello winner for Best Soundtrack. Indeed, after his win, Turner was quoted as saying “Music is life, it’s breath”. A common sentiment, absolutely, but in fewer hands has it been more literal than across SFT’s life-hoarding discography. For as regarded as Turner is with respect to the avant-garde, his playfulness and ear for a hook can’t be underplayed.

‘Idiot Song’, for example, is a wonderful collision of the high and low brow, as Jasper conducts an Urban Thesauraus recital of derogatory synonyms (“balloon, clodpole, nerd, dipstick, noodle, twit, pillock”). ‘Blahxblahxblahx’, ‘SQUIRREL (deep snapper mix)’ and ‘Salade Canard’ could be mistaken for one of Negativland’s more accessible, Devo-esque moments. These captive memories are populated with dissonant piano, percussive glitches, and glistening dreamscapes, with each subversion turning the album into a fascinating, unique lifecycle-jam. The centrepiece of Savage Songs… is the twelve-minute ‘The Mighty Dinosaurs’, which, on paper, and in less able hands, would otherwise not work. The Elysian Quartet perform a muted, reactive accompaniment to the children as they navigate new words and ancient worlds with a curious trepidation, making for a captivating, gradually untangling flux.

There’s an ongoing tension between Jasper & Isabella’s pure naivety and Simon’s intentional, knowing soundscapes that offers a kind of Kuleshov effect; The offseting of a field recording of a skipping rope verse, or daily shower, in the setting of minimalist, ethereal composition casts these snapshots of childhood into new light, allowing the album to transcend its constituent parts, creating a singular space of reflection and memory. This same profound understanding of psychoacoustic links transforms a simple field recording of child’s attempt to make music with a household object in ‘STRAW (performance)’ by masking its source and seemingly blending the struggle for breath with scathing traditional South American instrumentation as the piece gradually unfurls over the course of a minute.

Savage songs of brutality and food…. is a rare example of sonic art that works as a fascinating, prying document of the crucial stage of a human life, where children can become unwilling accessories to an accomplished piece of art. It’s also an incredibly charming, evocative record. Like Michael Apted’s Seven-Up series, it’s a glance into a deeply personal collection of memories that extrapolates into something universal. Naivety and pure intrepid joy seep out of the speakers, while Simon Fisher Turner continues to push his experimentation further out in every direction with seemingly the same zeal as his young collaborators. For the many of us who long to immortalise those years of sweet ignorance - not least in the midst of our current proto-pocalypse - this album may go some distance to assuage that yearning.