“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.