Monday, January 06, 2014

Music Monday: Coil - Lost Rivers of London

An oldie from 1996, one of the great evocative London pyschogeographical tracks from Coil (RIP Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson and John Balance). With the exception of the opening and closing 'drown myself' lines, the words come from  Hubert Montague Crackanthorpe's Vignettes (1896), actually from several pieces in that short book.

'I'm gonna drown myself in London's lost rivers
I will walk down to the rain

I have sat there and seen the winter days finish their short-spanned lives; and all the globes of light — crimson, emerald, and pallid yellow — start, one by one, out of the russet fog that creeps up the river. But I like the place best on these hot summer nights, when the sky hangs thick with stifled colour, and the stars shine small and shyly. Then the pulse of the city is hushed, and the scales of the water flicker golden and oily under the watching regiment of lamps.

The bridge clasps its gaunt arms tight from bank to bank, and the shuffle of a retreating figure sounds loud and alone in the quiet. There, if you wait long enough, you will hear the long wail of the siren, that seems to tell of the anguish of London till a train hurries to throttle its dying note, roaring and rushing, thundering and blazing through the night, tossing its white crests of smoke, charging across the bridge into the dark country beyond.

In the wan, lingering light of the winter afternoon, the parks stood all deserted, sluggishly drowsing, so it seemed, with their spacious distances muffled in greyness: colourless, fabulous, blurred. One by one, through the damp misty air, looked the tall, stark, lifeless elms. Overhead there lowered a turbid sky, heavy-charged with an unclean yellow, and amid their ugly patches of dank and rotting bracken, a little mare picked her way noiselessly. The rumour of life seemed hushed. There was only the vague listless rhythm of the creaking saddle.

The daylight faded. A shroud of ghostly mist enveloped the earth, and up from the vaporous distance crept slowly the evening darkness. A sullen glow throbs overhead: golden will-o'-the-wisps are threading their shadowy ribbons above golden trees, and the dull, distant rumour of feverish London waits on the still night air. The lights of Hyde Park Corner blaze like some monster, gilded constellation, shaming the dingy stars. And across the east, there flares a sky-sign, a gaudy crimson arabesque. And all the air hangs draped in the mysterious sumptuous splendour of a murky London night.

I'm gonna drown myself in the lost rivers of London
I am gonna drown myself in the lost rivers of London'

Crackanthorpe (1870–1896) was born in London and drowned in the Seine in Paris. His 'Vignettes : a miniature journal of whim and sentiment' (1896) also feature a Christmas Day 'Reverie' which express a rather snooty sentiments about the residents of what is now SE5:

''I dreamed of an age grown strangely picturesque -  of the rich enfeebled by monotonous ease; of the shivering poor clamouring nightly for justice; of a helpless democracy, vast revolt of the ill- informed; of priests striving to be rational; of sentimental moralists protecting iniquity; of sybaritic saints; of complacent and pompous politicians; of doctors hurrying the degeneration of the race; of artists discarding possibilities for limitations; of pressmen befooling a pretentious public; of critics refining upon the 'busman's methods; of inhabitants of Camberwell chattering of culture. And I dreamed of this great, dreamy London of ours; of her myriad fleeting moods; of the charm of her portentous provinciality; and I awoke all a-glad and hungering for life'.

See previously: Coil in Clink Street SE1

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