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Alexander Tucker & Keith Collins
Fifth Quarter Jon Buckland , February 21st, 2023 08:48

An album dedicated to Derek Jarman and the landscape of Dungeness finds Alexander Tucker in an exploratory mood, finds Jon Buckland

Sometimes the pain of feeling no grief is worse than the pain of grief” – Keith Collins

Fifth Continent (and the accompanying anthology, Fifth Quarter) is a vast, encompassing work grown out of grief and missed opportunities. It ties Alexander Tucker’s sonic language to Keith Collins’ carefully spoken words and also to the pens, prose, and imagery of so many other collaborators, admirers, and tQ regulars including Jennifer Lucy Allen, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Stephen O’Malley, Simon Fisher Turner, Dan Fox, Barry Adamson, and our own Luke Turner. But there’s another character that features heavily on this recording – that broad, pebbled cape on Kent’s headland, Dungeness. A place as inseparable from Derek Jarman as he was from Collins and whose shadow looms large over this sprawling package.

It appears in images, in language, in sound. There’s the hum of Dungeness’s power station, its threat of foghorn blasts, untimely sirens, crunched shingle, lapped waves, and persistent winds all of which feature here as audible events, mere evocations, or mentioned in passing.

Album opener ‘In Smiling In Slow Motion’ is formed of field recordings that concurrently marry Dungeness’s many elements whilst the distant thunder of Tucker’s cumbersome static barges in. A click-clacking clock shuffles along like a clog-shod horse, instilling a paranoid glow to Collins intonations on space and psyche. ‘No’ is a shipwreck of a track. A collapsing boat, splintering into the sea. The swinging crash of waves forcing us ever deeper into the darkness to coalesce with the drowned driftwood.

Less propulsive than Tucker’s recent work as Microcorps, Brood X Cycles, and Nonexistent, Fifth Continent is a more exploratory offering with the warped lullaby of ‘Salvage’ and ‘Dome’s bristling set of oscillations peppered with mind-searing fuzz attesting to this. The four ‘Spring Room’ suites take us on a journey made up of gorgeous horns pealing with vitality, tapes faltering, and ascendant swells that merge the hopeful clamour of youth with a deep, aged, certainty. There’s a feeling that this could stretch on forever and the disappointment-riddled knowledge that it won’t. The initial iteration of these four pieces surfaces like unfolding daffodils, their yellow leaves raised aloft in praise of the sun, as if to say “Busy old fool, unruly sun, why dost thou thus, through windows and through curtains call on us?”

The strongest and clearest statement on the album, however, is reserved for the closer, ‘At Dungeness’. It pairs Collins’ commanding voice, his poetic reflections foretelling his own passing, with a troubled guitar timidly finger-picked as if by nervous fingers feeling their way across a shadow-strewn bed. It’s a pang-filled eulogy whose strums fade, whose clock ticks out, leaving only the scratchy wind beating at the shore to mourn this loss.