Mister Poppy – Jelly

“Jelly is like time. Jelly fits any mould. It resists the sentimentality of form. Jelly is a state of putrefaction before dust…” – Andrew Poppy

Jelly is the follow-up to Andrew Poppy’s Hoarse Songs from 2021, and finds the composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist exploring harsh electronic tonalities that emerge from the shadows of our collective imaginations.

Consisting of five long pieces, Jelly is accompanied by a libretto that shows Poppy the lyricist to be one part Beat stream of consciousness poet, one part experimental philosopher and one part languid observer. Mostly delivered as spoken word verse, Poppy’s words come across as a sort of voyeuristic sequence of clipped words, half-formed sentiments and hyper-visual word patterns. Dramatic, dirty and laced with a Lynchian notion of the fixated gaze, Poppy’s words alight upon grim notions with microscopic detail. Opening track ‘Tattoo / Copy Something That You Love’ might be about the processes involved with getting a tattoo, but it’s delivered with a nightmarish visceral streak that’s as unflinching as the Velvets’ ‘Heroin’ – a different needle, but the same sting.

According to Poppy, these pieces were at least partly inspired by Robert Rauschenberg. That would certainly explain the abrupt edges, collaged approach and his insouciant approach to subtle appropriation. Each piece here hovers round the twelve-minute mark without ever feeling like they have no sense of direction. Each builds slowly and often imperceptibly from base elements – a sonorous bass pulse, a fleeting, fluttering tone – toward some dramatic conclusion, without losing sight of an essential minimalistic ethos that allows empty spaces to be just as prominently featured as Poppy’s finely-crafted loops and dense blocks of electronic sound.

This is an often uncomfortable listen (which I intend as a compliment). There are many times on pieces like the haunting, hyper-sensual ‘Mister Post-Man / No More Fumbling’ where I’m reminded of Coil, especially when a flurry of strings drift into view on top of Poppy’s wiry, undulating electronic sequences. That’s not to suggest that these pieces deal with some sort of dark, brooding, shadowy occultist magick. It’s more the case that they contain a sense of tantalising, enveloping danger, acting like a portal to somewhere other than here, where every moral sensibility is inverted.

If that all seems to jar with a title that feels playful and ridiculous, therein lies Poppy’s compositional sleight of hand – an ability to take something quotidian, atomise it, play with the mess it produces and reassemble it with only the briefest sense of where it came from. A beautifully challenging and intensely-detailed album.

Jelly by Mister Poppy was released October 1 2022 by fieldRadio. Thanks to Philip.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Andrew Poppy – Hoarse Songs

Hoarse Songs is composer Andrew Poppy’s first release since 2012’s Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling and finds him presiding over an eclectic sequence of ten pieces, each one as vastly different in its presentation as the next.

On the captivating opening piece, ‘Song Tide (Interruptible ted)’, you find Poppy blending together the strictures of modern classical musical with a nod to Erik Satie and a perhaps unexpected sojourn to the most introspective moments of ‘Rhapsody In Blue’. Just as you think you’ve worked out the direction of the album, the next piece is almost entirely electronic, delivered in a jerky, non-linear fashion that sounds like the confluence of a series of differently-timed layers of loops – brass sounds, off-kilter percussion, electro pulses, bubbling electronics, poetic vocals – occasionally intersecting like an AI-derived score.

And so it progresses, each successive piece throwing you ever so slightly off-balance. ‘Wave Machine (Endless Parting)’ deploys exciting synth patterns with white noise percussion and hypnotic harp flourishes beneath Poppy’s canticle-esque vocal; ‘Downside Up’ plays with wonky fusion jazz; ‘What Alice Said’ and ‘What Is This Place’ are evocative, beatific moments of operatic theatricality; ‘Riderless’ takes cyclical horns from Mike Soper, Laura Jurd and Nathaniel Cross and attaches them to metallic music-box electronics; the delicate ‘Cyber Spark’ is enveloped in a sparse, fragile, icy brilliance.

The album’s surrealist twelve-minute centrepiece, ‘X Y Song’, is like a modernistic tone poem with relationship fluidity as its ever-mutable central reference point, while ‘Hoarse’, the album’s final statement, is a genteel, gently uplifting piano composition that would bring this collection to a serene full stop were it not for the interjection of its composer’s strangely unsettling intonation of the title.

Perceived wisdom says that composers and musicians must shy away from these dexterous displays of magpie-like eclecticism, that they just stay shackled to something forever and never liberate themselves from it, however uncomfortable and restrictive that might prove to be. Andrew Poppy has ever been the contrarian composer, and Hoarse Songs is yet another timely and deftly-delivered two fingers to the new classical tradition.

Hoarse Songs by Andrew Poppy is now available for pre-order from andrewpoppy.co.uk

With thanks to Philip.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.