These Walls of Mine
For people who aren’t familiar with his work, Peter [I feel like after listening to this album so many times it’s OK for me to call him Peter] at the tender age of 25 has already made a number of albums, both on his own and with other musicians such as Efterklang and Nils Frahm. This offering isn’t particularly ambient, or classical as much of his other work is, but it is certainly experimental. It playfully explores several different styles, from spoken word to gospel and blues, to “flowing” lyrics – which is almost rapping but not quite. Peter describes the process of making this album as a fairly random one – some of the pieces on it were never really intended to be on a record, but were posted on his blog alongside various writings and pictures as a sort of creative release for what was happening in his life at that time. The themes are as wide ranging as the musical styles, from the philosophical to the mundane.
“The bicycles are covered with snow / And it looks fucking beautiful.” These are the opening lines that will greet you on Inside Out There, the first track on These Walls of Mine. I quote them here to give you some impression of the sort of random thought patterns and meticulously observed details you can expect throughout the record. Track 2, Freya, is a true story about a “truly magical cat” who sadly goes missing, and I’m not ashamed to say that as a cat owner myself it brought a tear to my eye. At this point in the album you really don’t know what to expect next – but alongside this quirkery can be found moments of astounding beauty. Track 3, I’ve Tried is spellbinding. A sort of looped drum track collapses into a lovely synth and reverbed vocal interlude, before coming back in with the addition of superb strings. If this is Peter Broderick when he’s just messing around… He seems to be a writer and musician who is absolutely on top of his game – a true craftsman of his art. It might sound a bit geeky, but as I tend to listen to most things on headphones I really notice excellent stereo work, and this album abounds with it.
The next track, Proposed Solution to the Mystery of the Soul, features gospel style vocal layers and bursts of percussion that sound like a cross between a one-man-band and the door of a hippie shop swinging shut. The tune sounds timeless, like it has always been there, just waiting for Peter to release it. This leads us into another of my favourite tracks from the album – and there are a few – When I Blank I Blank. This is one of the tracks containing ‘user generated content’ to make use of the appropriate web terminology. Peter got readers of his blog to fill in the blanks of the sentence, and here he reads them out. The music on this track made me think of Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in The Bush of Ghosts, but dropping some of the funk and picking up some more soul along the way. Then comes perhaps the strangest part of the album, which are the eponymous tracks These Walls of Mine I and II. The same text is at first read out without any musical accompaniment, and then in the following track put to music. A staccato piano riff and heavy beat compliment the words, along with the beautiful string arrangements which can almost be taken for granted.
The track I Do This is another one of my favourites. A hesitant acoustic guitar picks out a gentle lullaby of a riff, and is accompanied by Peter reading out messages from people who responded to his blog. It is so beautiful, but as well as that it contains many philosophical points about why we create, why we feel the need to reach out to and connect with other people. “I do this ‘cause I wanna like me. And I do this ‘cause I want you to like me.” – heart-breaking. His voice is very soothing and just really nice to listen to. The words are compelling, and the way he seems to be having a conversation with himself within the track makes it something truly very special.
I remember when I was young my dad used to listen to some fairly odd experimental and minimalist stuff, like Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass, for example. This album reminded me of that childhood memory of hearing something you don’t really understand, and don’t conventionally recognise as music as such, but still find it fascinating and want to hear what is going to happen next. However, These Walls of Mine isn’t just an experimental piece of work – the music is also really interesting and listenable in its own right. I think that this record was probably made with people like me in mind. I am a great fan of the bizarre, and of random elements of internet culture [usually involving cats or hamsters]. Peter Broderick comes across as an incredibly interesting and thoughtful person, with a lovely voice and an innate musical talent. I occasionally say of singers that I like, I could listen to them reading the phone book out. The thing with Peter Broderick is, I can imagine him ACTUALLY doing this, and it being fucking great. If it turns out that he’s just taking the piss with this album to see if people will fall for it, then so be it – I’ve fallen for it. But somehow, I don’t think he is. All told, this is a peculiar yet joyous experiment, and it has captured my imagination and made me seek out more of Peter’s songs.
Posted: Fri 31 August 2012