Review by: Alex Deller
This one was sitting on the CZ review pile for quite some time, and then was sitting on my shelf for quite some time. Very bad form on our part, and I do apologise. To be fair, though, Mattin hasn’t made it easy for any of us. I mean look at this thing: an abstract fug of scrabble and babble that tries to make sense of the societal dislocation and the rise of the far right by examining two separate historical moments: the early months of the Russian Revolution and the life of fascist slayer Germaine Berton.
Don’t get me wrong, these things interest me. I read and I have read. I am not an entirely ignorant person, nor an uncaring one. Like many I am disheartened by the state of the world around me, and I want to make better sense of it by understanding what led us to this grotesque, farcical, dangerous point.
But my time, right now, is incredibly finite. In the 18 or 19 hours a day I am awake, only one of them, give or take, I have to myself. That’s time to perhaps have a think about a record, and perhaps write some words about it.
With ‘Songbook #7’ I feel that to properly do it justice I have to do some deep reading and some deep thinking, because a lot has gone into it sonically and intellectually. But then this scrapes up against my lack of time, and the simple fact that managing to watch 22 minutes of Never Have I Ever or read 12 pages of a comic book currently feel like towering feats of the mind.
So instead I circle the record warily, eyeing it with vague suspicion and spinning it occasionally to try to make sense of things. But that doesn’t help much, either. Because beyond making me more aware than ever that I need to bone up on world history, anarchist theory and proposed antidotes to the disease of modern capitalism, the music, too, is a tad heavy going. Uncommon noises fizzle and scrape, duelling with each other to see which can be the most jarring. A clarinet periodically goes off. Moor Mother does something electronic that doesn’t sound very cheerful, and Mattin makes the recitation of historical facts sound like a poisonous threat. It’s a cloying babel of ugly, uncomfortable sound … a low-level migraine bumping round at 33rpm. And do you know what the real kicker is? It’s also all but impossible to read to.