Alone In The Bright Lights Of A Shattered Life
ere comes winter, sticking a finger of deathly chill into the small of your back and grinning like an idiot as the sharp twists induce convulsing shivers. Welcome to the unreal blanket of artificial heating, pitch darkness at 4 PM and rows of illuminated streetlights pin-pricking the gloom with clockwork efficiency. Look forward to donning fifty percent more wardrobe before leaving the house, or risking terrible exposure for your tender man-flesh. And that’s just in Britain, where winter isn’t even done properly; where half an inch of snow in the wrong place can result in overnight stays in temporary shelter with nothing but Pot Noodles for company. Cover Heathrow Airport in a thin layer of ice and watch the delays mount up whilst The Daily Mail ravenously demand Mr Blair pay a personal visit to defrost the runways with a hairdryer. Yes, the inescapable truth is that a proper winter would destroy this nation within hours.
Which is why I’m perfectly happy to experience one by audio-proxy, in the form of Library Tapes’ distinctly frosty Alone In The Bright Lights Of A Shattered Life; the general tone of which is somewhat given away by that cheerful title. You can tell this isn’t going to be a winter of picturesque snowscapes and mitten-clad children scampering around with their hoods up—it’s one of the bleak, sub-zero temperatures variety.
This season of unrelenting gelidity is captured across seven instrumental tracks—though the creeping icicles practically bond them together into a single piece. The foundation, a single piano; bass pedal firmly to the floor and barely in tune. A lonely presence, but a commanding one. It is almost as if Library Tapes heard the final moments of The Cure’s “All Cats Are Grey” and took this as a cue to record half an hour of similar material—a revelation which will be anathema to many, but hopefully rousing for a few others. Myself amongst them.
The atmosphere throughout is uneasily claustrophobic; the layers of snow have been building up for days, pressing against doors and windows and threatening to form an icy tomb. The thinly furnished cabin is dimly lit by candlelight, but soon even this meagre source of illumination and heat will be extinguished. A maddening calm has descended, broken only by the repetition of piano notes and sporadic blizzard-like flurries which pound against this homely shell and rake branches violently across the windowpanes. Everything has come to a grinding halt. The album suggests a world outside that is just as helpless and vulnerable as the tiny stage upon which it’s own instrumental narrative is set. Throughout the land there are innumerable pockets of survival, identically frozen in time by the onset of piercing cold. Winter has come and this frail cocoon cannot protect any one of us.
I’m going out for a while. I may be some time.