[8 March 2012]
Hold Everything Dear caps off a trilogy of laptop-based Cindytalk albums released on Editions Mego, the perfect home for Scottish frontman Gordon Sharp’s newest musical detour. But although it’s the last in the series, which began with 2009’s The Crackle of My Soul and 2010’s Up Here in the Clouds, it’s the trilogy’s first—and only—record to feature Matt Kinnison, Cindytalk’s drummer and percussionist who joined the group in 1990. A dear friend of Sharp’s as well as a band member, Kinnison died of cancer in 2008, and Hold Everything Dear is dedicated to him. It contains music that the two recorded from 2006 until Kinnison’s death, after which Sharp finished the record largely on his own.
The Crackle of My Soul and Up Here in the Clouds were color-starved, monolithic slabs of noise—think of Robert Hampson (a Cindytalk collaborator), or Mika Vainio without the painful frequencies. Hold Everything Dear feels just a little different. For one thing, silence plays a major role. A void can be as tumultuous as noise, and avant-garde musicians from Vainio to Merzbow have exploited this idea. Hold Everything Dear is indeed tumultuous in a quiet way. Noises abound, but it all sounds incredibly removed, as if it’s happening somewhere in the great beyond, and we can easily get frustrated wanting to fill in the phantom parts. This is, of course, the essence of death, what we feel when we lose someone who is close to us.
It goes almost without saying that listening to the record is not an easy experience. For most people, Sharp’s records have been giant no-entry signs, from his first post-punk band the Freeze to his industrial Cindytalk albums of the ‘90s to his 2003 landmark single “Transgender Warrior”, which heralded the beginning of Gordon’s transformation into the female Cinder. They have resided just beyond the border of mainstream palatability, musically and topically. The same can be said for Cindytalk’s Editions Mego trilogy, but Hold Everything Dear is even more haunting, even harder to shake, than much of Sharp’s best work. It is a dark yet luminous collage of spare pieces floating in weightless space—piano, drones, field noises, chimes, all kinds of distant but oddly invasive particles in the ether. It’s one hour long and feels longer than that, and even as the music tends to slip from my memory, the effect of it rarely does.
Listeners have noted that Hold Everything Dear sounds like a ghost, and that Kinnison’s soul haunts the record. Unsurprisingly, it’s many people’s favorite among the trilogy. By the same token, those who are after the pinpricks and sharp edges of Vainio or Merzbow, or who discovered Hold Everything Dear by way of the Mego catalogue, may find the record amazingly dull. To them—and to all of us, really—Hold Everything Dear is a challenge: to survive a gaping leviathan of emptiness, and to live in it, letting whatever comes to us come freely.