This contemporary album of Brexit-inspired electro-acoustic improvisations is a fascinating exploration of what "remain" could mean for-- JOKES! Words and Music is a rare and deeply idiosyncratic 1975 album by artist Tom Phillips (b.1937), who really had no way of foreseeing how jarring/button-pushing his use of the Union Jack would feel in the confused, conflicted, auto-annihilating Britain of 2019. Actually you’ve probably encountered Phillips’ work before, even if you didn’t realise it: the cover image of Brian Eno’s Another Green World is a detail from Phillips’ 1972 painting After Raphael, and it was in fact Phillips - teaching at Ipswich, Bath and Wolverhampton art schools - who introduced his star-student Eno to the ideas that would help him develop his ambient and generative musics>>>>>. In addition to his prolific and venerated painting (the National Portrait Gallery mounted a solo exhibition for him in 1989), Phillips collaborated with Cornelius Cardew in The Scratch Orchestra, and in 1990 co-created an award-winning TV adaptation of Dante’s Inferno with Peter Greenaway (A TV Dante). His key work remains A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, a reworked version of W.H. Mallock’s obscure book A Human Document, each page painstakingly painted and collaged over, and published in six editions between 1970 and 2017.
The second side of the Words and Music LP - originally published by Hansjörg Mayer and never re-pressed until now - is comprised of readings from Humument, with Phillips himself narrating its strange, romantic poetry. It’s the other half of the LP that’s of chief interest, though: four Cardew-ish chamber works grown form impressionistic and graphic scores. Subdued, submerged, at times heart-stoppingly lyrical and melancholic, these pieces exude, as Recital so beautifully put it, “an air of forlorn fantasy", and there are passages that could have sat comfortably alongside Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman et al on Eno’s Obscure series. Urge you to check this one out, even if you can't bare the sight of it! Edition of 215 and not expected to come around again.