Melody and Melancholy
In an appreciation of Worcestershire goths, And Also The Trees, Eugene Thacker digs the 'unconditional sadness' which connects their music to a melancholy continnuum stretching back to the 17th century
As a student I was convinced I knew goth – it was Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and so on. That was until I heard And Also The Trees – by accident really, walking into my friend's room one late afternoon. What I heard was a lush, almost baroque sound made up of an eerie, swirling, mandolin-like guitar, breathy and sorrowful vocals, all punctuated by a tight rhythm section that managed to somehow move through the thick, shimmering chaos. The lyrics were reminiscent of Romantic poetry, evoking a haunting narrative of rural decay and lost landscapes. The song was 'Shaletown', from the album The Millpond Years, by a band I'd never heard of before. Looking at the CD, I saw that the band photos were right in line with the sound – skinny young lads looking like they had stepped right out of the 19th century, waistcoats and all, standing in front of the ruins of some estate, full of ennui and extremely world weary. Even their name – And Also The Trees – sounded like a line from a poem. Okay, now this is gothic, I thought. Not the gothic of carnival make up, frumpy black clothes, quirky pop jingles, and sprayed-out hair. Instead, this band seemed to refuse the entire modern world; they seemed to live in ruins and brooding melancholy. And they seemed to be enjoying it. It was strangely inspirational; it made you want to feel sad too, but not for any particular reason. This was a sadness hovering between a withering past and a refusal of the present. Their exhaustion and their sadness seemed unconditional. Their romanticism was unapologetic. ‘They look like they take themselves too seriously’, someone else in the room said. ‘Exactly...’ I replied, ‘that’s what’s so great about them...’
My reason for writing about And Also The Trees (hereafter AATT) is twofold. The first reason is, quite simply, as an appreciation. AATT is one of the few bands I still listen to to this day. Their career spans some 30 years, from their initial formation in 1979 in a Worcestershire village, to their most recent album, Hunter Not The Hunted (2012). They are one of those bands who has never stopped making music and evolving, all the while retaining that melancholic thread that is evident in all their songs. All the while, AATT have remained under the radar; for them there are no number one hits, no top ten albums, no reunion tours (I like to think they prefer it this way, though age teaches us to discover inspiration in resignation).
The second reason is to try to draw out some of the themes in AATT, which for me centre around the idea of melancholy and its relationship to melody, song and lyric. One of AATT’s gifts is to find different ways of allowing melancholy to shape, form and deform melody – often to the point where a song becomes so infused with this unconditional sadness that it must either take flight into a reverberant sky or huddle itself acoustically into a hushed world of delicate timbres and half-sung syllables. For me, listening to AATT ultimately takes us back into literary history, from the 17th century ‘cult of melancholia’ to the ‘dark romanticism’ of the 18th century.i Much of this material is completely forgotten today, or only occasionally taught to listless English majors as part of tedious literary surveys. But much of it is quite relevant, especially as we struggle to comprehend the uncanny, unhuman world in which we are embedded, and which seems continually occluded from our understanding. In the poetry of the Graveyard School, for instance, one can already detect a view of the world as irremediably unhuman, full of strange weather and shifting climates, ruins that seem to be full of promise and vitality, and memories that wither with the same certainty as the surrounding landscape. That consciousness was readily apparent to those poets writing in the 18th and 19th centuries, and I think the insight of AATT’s music is to have extended this awareness to our present day.
This attentiveness to melancholy in all its forms is what makes AATT stand out from their post-punk and gothic contemporaries. Typically, when it comes to music the gothic is understood either as a genre or a style, either as musical form or subcultural content, gloomy synths or tattered black lace dresses. This is all fine, but AATT are unique in that they understand the gothic in its literary context, in which the gothic is centrally concerned with an affective relation to mortality, finitude and temporality, a relation that can be described as melancholic. I would argue that melancholy – the kind of ‘unconditional sadness’ found in bands like AATT – this melancholy finds its fullest historical expression in the gothic sensibility of the 18th century, and particularly in the so-called Graveyard School of poetry of the period.
In literary history, ‘gothic’ as a term has had a wide range of uses.ii It usually refers to a type of fiction writing popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, of which Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and Matthew Lewis' The Monk (1796) are oft-cited examples. Many elements of the gothic novel have become the stuff of modern horror films – labyrinthine castles, gloomy cemeteries, tempestuous storms and dreaded hauntings. The gothic novel also typically contained a veritable litany of transgressive themes, from madness and suicide to sorcery and demonism. It was perhaps because of this that gothic novels were both critically disparaged and immensely popular.
However, the gothic novel drew heavily on the poetry of the preceding generation, and in particular on a loose grouping of poets that have come to be known as the Graveyard School. Historically the vogue for graveyard poetry was brief, exemplified by poems such as Thomas Parnell's ‘Night-Piece on Death’ (1721), Robert Blair's ‘The Grave’ (1743), Thomas Gray's ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ (1751), and Edward Young's epic The Complaint; or Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742). Because the setting of the poems tended to be among tombs, ruins and wintry landscapes, the name was given, and seems to have stuck. Reading the poems today can be difficult – not only because no one seems to read poetry these days, but also because many of the motifs have become the clichés of the horror genre and what we often think of as ‘goth’. But the Graveyard School is also part of a larger discourse in the 18th and early 19th century around the role of the aesthetic, particularly in the face of scientific progress, emerging industrialism, and an ongoing crisis in traditional religion.
Image: Gwenda Morgan, wood engraving for Gray's 'Elegy written in a Country Churchyard', Golden Cockerel Press, 1946
What both the gothic novel and the graveyard poets have in common is an ambivalence towards the legacy of the Enlightenment. I say ‘ambivalence’ here because critics of the period were perpetually divided on the value and relevance of the gothic sensibility. For some, the graveyard poets and gothic novelists signaled nothing less than an all-out critique of the over-reliance on human reason and the proprietary interiority of the individual, humanist subject, a critique launched through an aesthetics of excess and transgression. For others, the plethora of gloomy meditations on death and the supernatural were really ways of grappling with and even affirming religious experience outside of traditional religion; the terrors were there simply to teach, smuggling in religion through the back door. The truth probably lies somewhere inbetween; while such poems and novels do evoke a sense of an absolute and unhuman dread, often this is resolved through a chivalric code of righted wrongs (villains ousted, victims saved), or through the philosophical fiat of reason (illusions revealed, order restored).iii
Whether these works were essentially progressive or conservative is a debate that preoccupies scholars to this day. What many agreed on, however, was that the key to the gothic sensibility lay in the way that aesthetic form – and hence aesthetic experience – was constantly undermined by an affective content that remained continually in excess of it. Against the neoclassical emphasis on form, the gothic ululation of the formless; against the aesthetic obligation towards a unified whole, the gothic predilection towards the incomplete and fragmentary; against the neoclassical adherence to boundaries, the gothic fascination with transgression.
It is one thing to make claims of efficacy for a literary work – that it does this or it does that, that it is critical or that it undermines, that it reveals or illuminates, that it succeeds in communicating what cannot be put into words. But what is one to do with, for instance, a poem so weighed down in its affective content that it crumbles in on itself?
Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.iv
These lines are from the opening of John Dowland's poem ‘Flow My Tears’ (1596), and they express neither the constraint of later neoclassical aesthetics nor the exuberant adventure of the chivalric-gothic style. They express a sadness that seems without cause and without resolve; a melancholy that is almost depersonalised, seeping into the very environment.
Such a sadness has a rich cultural history, from its association with the bodily humors in Greek medicine, to the brooding tragic figures of Elizabethan drama. Against the backdrop of religious conservatism, melancholy during the Reformation blossomed into a fully-fledged ‘cult of melancholia’, and sentiments like those of Dowland's poem found their religious analogue in Thomas Browne:
Oblivion is not to be hired: The greater part must be content to be as through they had not been...The number of dead long exceedeth all that shall live...Every hour adds unto that current Arithmetique which scarce stands one moment...Since our longest sunne sets at right descensions, and makes but winter arches, and therefore it cannot be long before we lie down in darknesse, and have our light in ashes.v
Robert Burton, whose The Anatomy of Melancholy has remained a reference on the topic to this day, noted the ambivalence of melancholy when he referred to it not simply as sadness, but as a ‘pleasurable sadness.’vi
Image: Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621
It was this troubling aspect of melancholy – the way it continually threatened aesthetic form, consuming a text and causing it to crumble from within – it was this aspect that 18th century poets inherited. Melancholy was, for Enlightenment science, a strange condition – it was a despondency from which one has little or no desire to escape; it seemed to have all the contours of religious experience, except that it expressed a disenchantment with traditional religion; it seemed to be highly sensitive to external conditions and yet no real cause for it could be found, let alone a ‘cure’. The problem was ramified by the popularity of melancholy in the poetry, prose and drama of the period. If melancholy was a cultural and even a medical problem, then to write melancholic poetry was simply adding fuel to the fire. What Joseph Addison, writing in the Spectator, famously called ‘the Fairie way of Writing' threatened to unmoor the self from the world, and to blur the distinction between the real and the imagined, the boundary between reason and faith that constituted the underpinning of enlightenment philosophy.
On the one side the detractors of melancholy tended to view it as a medical condition, resulting in overwrought and uninspired poetry; on the other, the proponents of melancholy wanted to align it with the poetic imagination, making claims for its ability to raise the reader to almost religious heights. What both sides missed however, was the way in which melancholy tended to be characterised as an inner mental or psychological state – a feeling interior to a subject who would then externalise this feeling through poetic expression. But a survey of the poetry during the period shows a different picture. It shows poets who, while they do play into the stereotype of the poet-as-expressive-subject, also allow for the unhuman, impersonal world to seep through. James Thomson's poem ‘Winter’ (1726) provides one example of this turning-away from the human world:
Low, the Woods
Bow their hoar Head; and, ere the languid Sun
Faint from the West emits his Evening-Ray,
Earth's universal Face, deep-hid, and chill,
Is one wild dazzling Waste, that buries wide
The Works of Man.vii
This is not simply a shift towards nature-poetry, many of the graveyard poems rigorously refuse naturalistic realism in favor of specters and hauntings, and neither is it a glorification of nature as seen in and through the human subject – a hallmark of British Romantic poetry. Instead, the graveyard poets invert this model of the expressive subject, allowing the self to dissipate and disperse into the anonymity of the world, rather than acting as a super-charged channel for ‘Nature.’viii Many of the techniques are familiar – allegory, metaphor, personification – but the results are different, they are tragic rather than heroic. The graveyard poets sing the unhuman, they even sing the unhuman of the human, and this constitutes their melancholia.
This transformation of the human into the unhuman is seen in Thomas Wharton's The Pleasures of Melancholy (1747). Wharton begins with the requisite evocation of the Muses, though his are of a darker sort:
O lead me, queen sublime, to solemn glooms
Congenial with my soul; to cheerless shades,
To ruin'd seats, to twilight cells and bow'rs,
Where thoughtful Melancholy loves to muse... .ix
But the poem quickly moves from a depiction of melancholy as the inner thoughts of a subject, to melancholy as something akin to an impersonal, inorganic force, pulling the subject into the nocturnal environment around it:
While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
Save the lone screech-owl's notes, who builds his bow'r
Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
Invests some wasted tow'r.x
Wharton's poem not only evokes a melancholy of mortality and finitude, but it also shows us a strange vitalistic melancholy, encapsulated in the fruiting mold of the caves and the ivy overflowing the tower ruins. Everything – including the corpse, including the living body of the poet – everything becomes imbued with this impersonal sadness. This is literary personification, but in reverse.xi David Mallet's poem 'The Excursion' is emblematic of this kind of impersonal personification:
Night hears from where, wide-hovering in mid-sky,
She rules the sable hour: and calls her train
Of visionary fears; the shrouded ghost,
The dream distressful, and th'incumbent hag,
That rise to Fancy's eye in horrid forms,
While Reason slumbering lies.xii
Mallet, like many of poets of the supernatural, deals with the commonly found motifs of night, darkness, the tomb and spectral beings. In poems like these, melancholy is found everywhere, not simply in the brooding, depressed brain of the human subject writing the lines of poetry. Melancholy is environmental, melancholy is climatological, it is at once the night sky and the slow moving seconds of twilight, and it also infuses the spectral domain of fears and dreams, ghosts and demonic shapes – and the blurred line between them. In Mallet's poem, for instance, it is not always clear if we really are in the domain of the supernatural, or if the spectral and creaturely shapes are merely figments of an overactive imagination. And in a way it doesn't matter, since much of the poetry of this type relies on this confusion – at once horrific and pleasurable – between what is thought and what thinks through us. In the poetry of the supernatural, melancholia makes possible this pleasurable confusion.
This confusion – which Edmund Burke associated with the sublime – reaches a pitch in Robert Blair's poem ‘The Grave’, a poem that contains some of the most grotesque and ‘gothic’ imagery of the period:
Ah! how dark
Thy long-extended realms, and rueful wastes,
Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
Dark as was chaos ere the infant sun
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams
By glimm'ring through thy low-brow'd misty vaults,
Furr'd round with mouldy damps and ropy slime,
Lets fall a supernumerary horror...xiii
I've always been fascinated by Blair's almost awkward phrase ‘supernumerary horror’, but it makes a certain sense within this impersonal and chaotic world of mould, stone and slime. It is almost as if graveyard poetry allegorically performs the process of the corpse's decay, an awareness of the inorganic world within our very own living bodies. Blair's obsessive interest in the details of the sepulchr are more than merely the products of a morbid imagination; they serve to emphasise the impersonal materiality to which corpse, mist and stone are ultimately all subject.
This little detour into literary history is simply meant to suggest that there is another tradition of melancholy aside from that of the possessive and expressive individual of Romanticism.xiv That other tradition deals with a mood – ‘mood’ both in the usual sense of a state of mind or feeling, but also ‘mood’ in the environmental, ambient sense, mood as an impersonal, affective space. As such, this mood need not simply be the subjective expression of a depressed individual, but something that is more and less than the subjective individual, a mood that precedes and exceeds the subject.xv And it is this ‘mood’ that we can call melancholy. Melancholy in this sense is, first and foremost, unconditional. It is not the result of particular conditions or a reaction to particular events (there's plenty of this to go around, to be sure...). The sadness of melancholy is without cause or resolve; it is not just an expression of a personal sadness, but an impersonal sadness, a melancholy that is inseparable from the physical (and metaphysical) world – a sadness of the world.
Image: Album cover, And Also The Trees, 1984
This is the type of melancholy that I find evocative in a band like And Also The Trees. No band likes to be put into a box, and it's a mistake to simply label AATT as ‘goth’ since both their music and the goth subculture have drastically changed over time. But if AATT's music is gothic this is because they understand the term in its literary and poetic sense, as an anonymous melancholy, as an unconditional sadness. And it is a thread that is evident, though in different guises, in each of AATT's albums.xvi In their early works AATT map out a kind of melancholic, post-punk sound through instrumental sparseness and haunting lyrics, calling to mind Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Killing Joke (best exemplified by their inimitable song ‘Slow Pulse Boy’; one song from a demo tape contains the line ‘Green is the sea / And also the trees’).xvii Melancholy exudes from these albums by virtue of their subtractive quality, shards of sentences, fragments of melodies, rhythms that hit the ground running and then come full stop.
This shifts during the late 1980s and early 1990s, as AATT adopt a more lush, baroque sound, characterised by guitarist Justin Jones' reverberant, mandolin-like guitar, and vocalist Simon Huw Jones' fuller, almost breathless vocals. The lyrics in albums like The Millpond Years (1987) and Farewell to the Shade (1989) often evoke despondent, rural landscapes, and the almost archetypal figures lurking within them.xviii In the 1990s AATT's sound shifted again, this time away from the aesthetic of 19th century Romanticism and its evocations of ghostly, rural landscapes and towards an urban melancholy, producing albums that called to mind film noir, Bernard Hermann and Nick Cave. The sound is more raw, resulting in a kind of industrial crooning against a backdrop of fuzz and electricity. And, at the turn of the millennium AATT shifted yet again, with a more intimate sound, bringing in elements of jazz and chamber music with new instrumentation (evidenced in 2003's Further From The Truth and (Listen for) the Rag and Bone Man from 2007, the former of which contains the elegiac ‘Feeling Fine’). This emphasis on intimacy and solitude has recently been complimented by two acoustic albums, When The Rains Come (2009) and Driftwood (2011), both of which feature unplugged renditions of early AATT songs.xix
In his lyrics, Simon Huw Jones pays homage to the tradition of the gothic sensibility in poetry and its ability to glean emotional insights from seemingly innocuous details and everyday gestures (in one song Jones sings ‘His box of birds / Weighs him down / As he walks / Far from this town’; in another ‘Far from the lantern swaying / Summer dusk, your seaweed breath / Screams brine out of the bay’; and in another ‘Cathedral quiet and narcotic seas / In a mind of tide-mark memories...’). At times his lyrics turn to narrative, constructing impressionistic scenarios of mythical characters, objects and scenery, culled from a bowl of rotting fruit, a hand on the shoulder, the slow meandering sunlight across the walls.xx At other times the lyrics evoke unpopulated spaces, broken landscapes and empty rooms, filled only by dusty memories and a kind of wayward, delirious nostalgia.xxi All of this is complemented by the music, much of which is characterised by Justin Jones' guitar, be it the shimmering swaying of songs like ‘Mermen of the Lea’ and ‘L'Unica Strada’, the skeletal lyricism of ‘Sickness Divine’ and ‘Feeling Fine’, or the plaintiff and elegiac sound on the acoustic albums.
The most recent AATT album, Hunter Not the Hunted (2012) is a kind of summation of the band's ongoing musical reflection on melancholy.xxii The song I've been listening to over and over is ‘My Face is Here in the Wildfire’. For me it represents one of the most distilled expressions of what AATT are all about. It also whittles the song structure down to two basic elements, voice and guitar, word and melody, the lyric and the lyrical (returning to the ancient Greek notion of a song rendered to the accompaniment of a lyre). The lyrics themselves are abstract, an almost surrealist juxtaposition of an impersonal, anonymous face melding perfectly into the natural world: ‘My face is here in the maelstrom / My fossil bones jutting out into the night air / And the insects, sacred / Whirling through my green black life-riddled hair’. On paper the lyrics read like poetry – but it's still the written word. When sung, the words take on a new form – they are almost emptied of semantic content and themselves become lyrical form. For instance, when Jones sings the line ‘I can hear the rooks in their light sleep crow’ the last three words are spaced out – ‘light....sleep...crow’ – so that they become detached from the grammar of the sentence, almost stochastically released, like rain drops on a window when it begins to rain.
In moments like these AATT take up lyrical form and in essence weigh it down with melancholy, so much that the words break apart, becoming so many scattered remains, strangely tranquil in their non-human habitat. This is not a lyricism of an expressive, emotional subject, but a lyricism turned outwards into the world, a kind of inverted lyricism, weighed down and rendered inorganic through this special type of melancholy. And it is this that I find resonant with the tradition of the gothic and graveyard poetry. A band like AATT takes up graveyard poetry's turn towards melancholy as a unconditional sadness, and in so doing they produce something that is actually an inversion of the traditional notion of lyric, in the sense of a poem uttered by a single speaker, and expressing a state of mind or feeling that is constitutive of that individual subject. Lyric is, in this traditional sense, interiority and solitude. Instead, AATT, like the graveyard poets, offers the exteriority of a world that persists in spite of us, but also an exteriority that we discover is always within us. Likewise, the solitude of these melancholic songs is not the solitude of the individual or even of the lonely crowd, but the solitude of the world, glimpsed in the numerous pauses of silence on which the graveyard poets endlessly dwell. What results is a lyricism of the impersonal, of climate, cloud, moss, river, stone and ruins.
Eugene Thacker <thackere AT newschool.edu> is a New York based writer and the author of Horror of Philosophy (forthcoming from Zero Books). He teaches at The New School and is a scholar-in-residence at the Miskatonic University Colloquy for Shoggothic Atheology
And Also The Trees, Hunter Not The Hunted, 2012, http://www.andalsothetrees.co.uk
iThanks to Josephine Berry Slater and Mira Mattar for their helpful comments on this article.
The term 'dark romanticism' is used by G.R. Thompson in his anthology The Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism (Washington State University Press, 1974). Thompson uses the term to describe British poetry and prose in the period between Enlightenment neoclassicism and the emergence of Romanticism, and which is inclusive of both the Graveyard School of poets and the gothic novelists.
ii Innumerable student theses and scholarly books have been written on the literary gothic, and I will not attempt to summarise them here. Contemporary surveys include David Punter and Glennis Byron's The Gothic (Blackwell, 2004) and The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Literature, ed. Jerrod Hogle (Routledge, 2002). Earlier critical works that are still interesting include Montague Summers' The Gothic Quest – A History of the Gothic Novel and Mario Ppraz's famous study The Romantic Agony. From a perspective of cultural theory, see Fred Botting's many writings on the gothic, such as Limits of Terror: Technology, Bodies, Gothic (Manchester University Press, 2010).
iii One of the few voices to speak on behalf of the gothic sensibility was Richard Hurd, literary critic and bishop of Worcester. Hurd's Letters on Chivalry and Romance (1762) appeals not to the contemporary literature of his time, but to the earlier examples of Shakespeare, Ariosto and Milton. Against the neoclassical emphasis on form, symmetry and balance, Hurd argued for the influence of a medieval gothic sensibility characterised by more vigorous, chivalric codes of honor, adventure and a religious temperament. Hurd is conclusive in his analysis: '...you will find that the manner they paint, and the superstitions they adopt, are the more poetical for being Gothic.'
iv John Dowland, 'Flow My Tears', in The Lute Songs of John Dowland, ed. David Nadal (Dover, 1997), p. 58.
v Sir Thomas Browne, 'Urne Buriall; or, a Discourse of the Sephulchrall Urnes Lately Found in Norfolk', in The Religio Medici and Other Writings (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1945), p.135.
vi Though Burton's massive tome was ostensibly presented as a medical textbook – meaning that he, like the Hippocratic authors, viewed melancholy as a disease – much of it is a compendium of the different views on melancholy in literature, art and the sciences. Nevertheless, the title alone of the 1621 edition is enough to make one a little depressed: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up.
vii James Thomson, 'From The Seasons', in English Romantic Poetry and Prose, ed. Russell Noyes (Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 5.
viii While many of the key works of the Graveyard School pre-date the mainstream of British Romantic poetry, I would argue that this inversion of the subject continues, less as a 'school' and more as a tendency, even within Romanticism – for instance, in Bryon's poem 'Darkness', Shelley's 'To Night', and Keats' poems 'Ode to Melancholy' and 'After Dark Vapours.'
ix Thomas Warton, 'From The Pleasures of Melancholy', in English Romantic Poetry and Prose, ed. Russell Noyes (Oxford University Press, 1956), p.61.
xi This idea of depersonification invites a comparison with the notion of pathetic fallacy in literary criticism, especially as laid out by Romantic era critics like John Ruskin. Whereas pathetic fallacy may involve the attribution of human qualities to non-human things (or, as a variation, the attribution of animate qualities to inanimate things), I'm pushing here for an inversion, in which the human is discovered to be non-human, and so-called human affects such as melancholy are presented as properties of the world as such. Of course, in these sorts of discussions one never really gets away from the most basic fallacy, which is that it is ultimately human beings that make a claim at all, one way or another.
xii David Mallet, 'The Excursion', in The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, ed. Alexander Chalmers (J. Johnson et al., 1810), vol. XIV, p. 17.
xiii Robert Blair, 'The Grave', in English Romantic Poetry and Prose, ed. Russell Noyes (Oxford University Press, 1956), p.23.
xiv This is unfair, I know, since much of Coleridge and Wordsworth can be profitably read in this way (Blake is another case altogether). The problem is that the figure of the poet is often so over-determined in Romanticism that it occludes the myriad, non-human elements at play in their work; the graveyard poets happened upon their poetry, whereas the Romantics felt destined to write their poetry. For a counterargument, see Ron Broglio's book Technologies of the Picturesque (Bucknell University Press, 2008).
xv In a way, the ancient Greeks already intuited this. The texts in the Hippocratic Corpus talk about melancholia as a condition at once psychological and physical – as an imbalance in the bodily humors, a sense of being overwhelmed by 'sadness, fears, and despondencies' caused by an excess of black bile. For Greek medicine (and philosophy) balance was everything. If the substances of the body tipped to one side or the other – through diet, lifestyle, or simply obtrusive thoughts – then the result could be a form of sadness beyond respite.
xvi AATT were, for many years, a quartet, comprised of brothers Simon Huw Jones (vocals) and Justin Jones (guitar), with Steven Burrows (bass) and Nick Havas (drums). In recent years the AATT sound has been filled out by the addition of Ian Jenkins' wonderfully thick double bass playing, Paul Hill's delicate jazz drumming and Emer Brizzolara's precision on dulcimer and harmonium.
xvii Their 1983 debut And Also The Trees (produced by The Cure's Lol Tolhurst and which crashes in with the track 'So This is Silence') and their follow up Virus Meadow crystallises this combination of musical sparseness and stark, impressionistic lyrics. For me, AATT's debut album stands right alongside Bauhaus' In The Flat Field, The Cure's Seventeen Seconds, and Siouxsie and the Banshees' Spellbound as a classic of the post-punk, early goth sound.
xviii The opulent soundscapes of albums like these, along with Green is the Sea (1990) look askance to the mid to late ’80s sounds of The Cure, Siouxsie, and many of the 4AD projects, while also bringing in 'neoclassical' elements found in many darkwave bands associated with the Projekt label.
xix One can only appreciate these by comparison with their originals, as with the songs 'A Room Lives in Lucy' and 'Dialogue' – I long to hear acoustic versions of 'Slow Pulse Boy' and 'The Ship in Trouble'...
xx Cf. the songs 'Vincent Craine', 'Wooden Leg', 'The Legend of Mucklow'.
xxi Cf. 'Gone...Like the Swallows', 'The Street Organ', 'Mary of the Woods'.
xxii Songs such as 'Only', with its Spanish sounding guitar and rich textures of voice, dulcimer, and percussion, have all the drama of earlier albums like The Millpond Years, but it is a more muted drama that gradually contacts and expands, much like the expansive reverberations of Simon Huw Jones' trademark vocal style. Some songs, such as 'Burn Down This Town' look back to the lulling, waltz-like melodies of Green is the Sea, while 'Hunter Not the Hunted' adopts a more chamber music approach in its pared down instrumentation.