Tuesday, August 17, 2010

stencil #025 - [mark] barrage

(under NOISE tag, corner Beavers & High, Northcote)

I play Hero or Dirt? recorded in 2005 more often than Delays which he released in 2008. 

But since then, Barrage appears to have become a Bartleby.

In his novel Bartleby & Co., Enrique Vila-Matas explains the Bartleby syndrome in literature:
We all know the Bartlebys, they are beings inhabited by a profound denial of the world. They are named after the scrivener Bartleby, a clerk in a story by Herman Melville, who has never been seen reading, not even a newspaper; who for long periods stands looking out at a pale window behind a folding screen, upon a brick wall in Wall Street; who never drinks beer, or tea and coffee, like other men; who has never been anywhere, living as he does in the office, spending even his Sundays there; who has never said who he is, or where he comes from, or whether he has any relatives in this world; who, when he is asked where he was born or given a job to do or asked to reveal something about himself, responds always by saying,
“I would prefer not to.”
For some time I have  been investigating the frequent examples of Bartleby’s syndrome in literature, for some time I have studied the illness, the disease, endemic to contemporary letters, the negative impulse or attraction towards nothingness that means that certain creators, while possessing a very demanding literary conscience (or perhaps precisely because of this), never manage to write: either they write one or two books and then stop altogether or, working on a project, seemingly without problems, one day they become literally paralysed for good.
Has Barrage (aka Mark Barrage and probably really Mark Gomes) succumbed to Bartleby’s syndrome in music?

Perhaps he’s stopped making music altogether. Perhaps he would prefer not to.

Accompanied by syncopated, melancholy, lo-fi beats, the lyrics to many of the tracks in Hero or Dirt? suggest a tendency to Bartleby’s syndrome; they’re dark, sombre and aloof:
There’s a gloom over Melbourne, Barrage sings in "Coming Apart"
I am defeated by the tide, he sings in "Tides"
They tell me I’m so cold / living a distance from myself, from "Unsentimental"
Delays provides lo-fi highs, too, but its prevailing experimental sounds are lacking in sufficient gloom which is why I play Hero or Dirt? more often. "Marceline" and "No Way Out" provide moody vocals that perfectly satisfy “melancholy natures seeking unhappiness”*

(*a description of Inez Institoris, a character in Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann [I’m still reading him]. Her cult for suffering has a tragic outcome [I should heed the warning]. The book tells the story of a composer who symbolically enters into a pact with the Devil offering his soul and body in return for twenty-four years of musical genius. [Coincidentally (?), Barrage sings about Satan in "Lucifer Song" on the album]).

Further Internet stalking suggests that Mark has ditched Barrage, reassumed Gomes and been appointed a literary editor. But whether or not, like the scrivener Bartleby, he’s standing for long periods looking out at a pale window upon a brick wall, preferring not to make more music, we can be fortunate that Hero or Dirt? remains on the planet for us to enjoy.

(I wonder if he’s read Melville's short story or Vila-Matas’s novel? He'd surely like both.)

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