Lo-Fi Friday #1: Porn On Vinyl

This is the first post in a new series, imaginatively titled Lo-Fi Friday. It has a companion series, Hip Hop Monday. This is for the most part original thought, reflecting the way my mind organises the music I listen to, rather than a claim to empirical truth (which doesn’t exist, yo). Watch it get unwieldy immediately.

Porn On Vinyl – The Bonfire And Her Husband

At the centre of the spiralling outwards, at some sort of core, what lo-fi is to me is diary music. Not in the sense of painfully earnest lyrics, though they can feature. In the sense that, by the very virtue of the fact that technology leaves no resistance whatsoever between the songwriter, the recording apparatus and the distribution, what you get from a ‘bedroom’ album is as close to a screenprint of someone’s brain as you can get, as they try to express something specific but maybe not entirely verbal. Daniel Johnston was the archetype, or maybe Emily Dickinson or a caveman wall painter who was sadly estranged from his clan, if you want to be anal. What makes it so endearing and intriguing is the fact that, as far as we can make this judgment without getting into all manner of traffic with ‘artistic intentions’ and ‘sincerity’ (both of which I may can back to at some point), one of these albums is the personal rendered public. It’s just the sound, it’s hard to explain.

This song is Porn On Vinyl. Aidan Wall, who does it, does Hipster Youth too. I like Hipster Youth, but I’ve always preferred Porn On Vinyl, maybe because I’m prejudiced towards the sound of a guitar, even an old nylon-string one, in my introspective-sounding music. It’s got complexity and elegance to counter any of the inevitable ‘just lazy’ accusations, but it still sounds like it was recorded inside a box. Maybe that’s a symbolic way of expressing shyness, or maybe (probably) it’s aesthetic. It wouldn’t have half as much personality if it was done with, say, the mics and engineers that did Joanna Newsom’s last album, even though Porn On Vinyl has the intricacy and the vocal ability to survive that where other bedroom songwriters wouldn’t (not that that detracts from what they do now).

The song’s a story, about going to a bonfire at a crazy old man’s house. It’s a childhood recollection – “Everyone knew the house was haunted, but everyone wanted to see the bonfire” – and it follows the sweet-stuffed Halloween “we” as the man’s house burns down. He’s cavalier and philosophical at first (“he said all things must die and all fires burn out”) but then seems to panic and runs in to the house to rescue portraits. He cries “these are my family, these are my friends.” And then everyone passes out and he’s gone.

It’s a simple story on the surface, but questions pop up. The portraits are of “the women and children, who didn’t relate” – does the man know them? Are they estranged family, or just strangers in pictures? Even arriving at the old man’s house, it’s noted that “his bonfire has long burned out but our bonfire hasn’t even started yet.” Did he just give up on the world, his passion for life ending before the kids are even old enough to be aware of theirs? Or, less likely, did the kids set fire to the house? It’s intricate enough to bear that kind of analysis, and definitely obscure enough, especially if you didn’t have the lyrics handy.

Aidan says:

The song is based off a really vague memory I have of going to a bonfire as a child, in the back garden of this now deceased [?] eccentric old man. I asked my sister and parents about it and they have no recollection of it, but it’s probably my most vivid memory of halloween. The man died I think, and they knocked down his beautiful house and replaced it with an awful quasi-modern house. Though the song is basically about my grandmother.

Porn On Vinyl’s second album Old Folks Home is on Bandcamp and will come out on physical format soon on Long Lost Records. Here is an interview from last summer.

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5 responses to “Lo-Fi Friday #1: Porn On Vinyl

  1. Is there a lyric sheet yet?
    P.S. want to steal ‘centre of the spiralling outwards’ from you

  2. He sent the lyrics to be, upon request, but I wasn’t sure if putting the whole thing up was sound. Hopefully there will be with the tape.

  3. Pingback: Lo-Fi Friday #2: Cloud Nothings, Sea Pinks, Girls Names | Those Geese Were Stupefied

  4. Pingback: The Year. 15-11 | Those Geese Were Stupefied

  5. Pingback: A study of DIY culture and its ideologies pertaining to the creation of art « KILL FOR SALAD

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