When Annette Peacock first came to public notice with her 1971 album, I’m the One, she was seen as an eccentric who was, perhaps, a little ahead of her time. I’m the One explored many facets of personal and artistic expression; the album was one of the first, if not the first, works to use the Moog, possibly the very first synthesizer used in popular music. Peacock may also have been not only the first woman, but the very first artist to use the instrument commercially. Many years later, with the development of the Moog and technology in electronic music, many artists appropriated the instrument’s use in their pop music, often using it as mere dressing for their tunes. Peacock, however, used the Moog as a special tool, a device that allowed the musician to express emotion in extraordinary ways. Through this piece of technology, she could give her voice new shape, colour and form that would further open up the dimensions into semantics and sound.
It is often erroneously believed that Peacock’s album I’m the One was her first. In fact, the artist had recorded an album prior entitled Revenge, alongside fellow musician Paul Bley. Because of distribution problems, the album was never widely released and, therefore, barely heard. Ironic records, Peacock’s own label, has finally reissued this most sought after release (retitled I Belong to a World That’s Destroying Itself for its reissue). It’s an obvious precursor to I’m the One, in that jazz music is reinvented by electronic means. But as this is Peacock’s first official work, it is also a document on first experiences, the amorphous explorations into uncharted territory where all ventures are received with the rewards of unheard sound. Rough, unapologetic and thoroughly sensual, I Belong to a World That’s Destroying Itself (1969) is the molten lava of ideas and emotions in their infancy, expelled with the force and fury of liquid fire.
Opening track “A Loss of Consciousness”, a slow-burning sultry groove, is given an electronic makeover with Peacock’s vocals digitally hijacked by the computer; the piano that vamps all over the beat reminds us that the framework is still prominently jazz. Free of the electronic manipulations, Peacock imbues following track “The Cynic” with a humour both dark and pointedly sincere. “So you see that whatever you do, you’re just amusing yourself,” she coolly sings of our daily meanderings. It’s somewhat telling that a late ‘60s number that espouses the general observation of public malaise is still incredibly relevant today. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that such emotions skillfully articulated more than 45 years back still have the power to connect with us in a digitally amplified world today. On the trippy and angular title track, Peacock evinces a genuine sense of dread in which disasters, both environmental and emotional, are registered with the delivery of casual conversation. The sour organ swells that permeate that song infuse the sonic space with the atmosphere of approaching danger. In a stretch of tracks, which include an earlier version of “I’m the One”, the artist explores all variants of blues and funk, each number ensconced in the headspace of a sleeping dreamer, fully immersed in the phantasms of the deep night.
Peacock brings us to what might be one of her finest moments. The supremely eerie and subliminal “Dreams” merges poem and sound in a cloud of festering emotion. Peacock sings of something lost on the banks of memory, of time stopping for just a fleeting moment for the vestiges of the self to emerge from the darkened depths. It is a mark of beauty that reminds us of how deeply we allow an artist to traverse the mysterious universe of our slumbering souls.