memento mori

MKCD015 2014CE
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...or play individual mp3s from the track list on the right.

I started writing this album in 2012. It's often the way that I know the current album's nearly finished, when I start writing the next one - & this was no different. All the song titles (apart from Out From Under & Memento Vitae) I already had, & most of the songs were at least half written. A lot of what I had written was sounding quite downbeat, one way & another, songs about tiredness & despair, about feeling defeated, about turning away from a world that was just getting madder.

But what really crystallised things was that Di O'Gnosis has in her possession a little model skull. The top of the cranium is absent, there's a little bowl there instead. She also owns a little disco mirror ball, which it so happens fits perfectly in the bowl. Every time I saw the skull, I thought to myself "that'd make a great album cover". So one day I photographed it. It reminded me, more than anything, of a Memento Mori, a sort of historical artistic shorthand, where any portrait painted of someone in all their finery, surrounded by symbols of their worldly success, would include somewhere a skull or a skeleton - a reminder of death. A warning not to get too big for your boots.

& I'd just turned 40 (at the time) so it seemed entirely appropriate that I should write an album dealing with death. "Look it in the eye", I thought. "The next album shall be called Memento Mori".

Two days later I got a telephone call from my mother, telling me that my father had had another heart attack, & was in a medically induced coma. He died a fortnight later. We were very lucky in that, towards the end, he had a couple of days of relative lucidity, when we were able to communicate with him. He couldn't talk, owing to a tracheotomy, & we're not sure he could see. But we got a chance to tell him how much we loved him.

This album is dedicated to his memory. & it's not really as grim as I'm making it sound - it all picks up towards the end :-)

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If you've followed what we've been doing for a while, you'll notice that this album is a full, electric production job. Which is not to say that the band's (necessarily) headed that way as a live unit, the logistical simplicity of the acoustic setup has a lot to recommend it - but from a recording point of view, I think that whatever point I was trying to make by working acoustically has been made, & I'd been thinking about changing things around a bit for a while. This marks the first time a Mirrorkill album's ever been recorded with a full drumkit, & the first time I've really thrown caution to the wind with multi-tracked overdubs.

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Things you may need to know: An Anchorite is a real thing, like a more extreme sort of hermit - someone so disgusted with the world that they opt instead to be bricked up inside the wall of a church. Once you get past the initial horror of the idea, on darker days it sounds rather... restful.

Ellipsis is a typographical term, meaning "...", the three dots which indicate something trailing off - something missing.

A fugue is a musical form. & Gef the Mongoose was a "real" Fortean happening. (At one stage he even appeared to have a highly entertaining twitter feed, although that seems to have gone quiet of late.)

Liminal means of or pertaining to a threshold, being part-way between two states.

The backing track for "Last Transmissions from the Orbit of a Dying Sun" (ie everything except the guitar) is, in fact, an instrumental mix of Qualitative Easing from The Apocalypse Needs You, fed through a succession of hideously abused effects, most notably one called an "Acoustic Mirror" (whatever you're supposed to do with that plugin, is not what I was doing with it). The entire title popped into my mind in 2012 as a description of what it sounded like - it was only after the event that I realised that it perfectly evoked the feeling of sitting in hospital waiting rooms.