'Pygmalion' is the debut EP from M E A T. Released through Fatigue Records on the 7th May 2021. The record will be available on all the digital blah blah platforms, and[!], as a gloriously physical 12" vinyl with album art work by the bands very own Jimmy 'Howlin Hands' Barker. Tattoo artists' Howlin Hands, Oski and Lou Andrews of the group also produced a collaborative one-off hand printed cover design for a rare test pressing of the EP. This was won by some lucky git through a competition the band held on their 'gram.
The record starts in a dream. The first sleep cycle. But whose dream are we in and are our dreams ever truly our own? These questions will repeat throughout. The ominous synths rising up like sirens around us do nothing to make us feel at home in this new, strange environment we have found ourselves in. Something starts to throb deep inside. Eye movement becomes more rapid. Leave your slippers at the door my friend, you're on Fish Island now, I hope you've renewed your tetanus jabs recently. You’re now entering the electric abattoir where dreams become M E A T. Synths turn to mince and the cleaver brushes each tender string as the drums begin.
"the king in my heaven, the god among men, the space between us, the golden chair,
the search for sanctuary in a lovers' arms"
Although there are many film versions of Pygmalion adapted from the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play - from Educating Rita to My Fair Lady - about an upper-class man trying to teach a poor little cockney flower to 'speak proper'. "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the class war so fuck off!" The name Pygmalion, in this instance, is a classical reference to Ovid's Metamorphoses, the story of a Cypriot king and sculptor who carved a woman (Galatea) from ivory and fell in love with his creation. I asked poet, singer and lead guitar player Zilcho Hamblin to explain why they chose Pygmalion as the title of their EP
"I found Ovid's Pygmalion during lockdown, while reading Metamorphoses. I took away the feeling of a labour of love, the process of your work becoming a physical being"
For me, the record is broken up into 2 distinct cycles. The first cycle is the sinister dream sequence of 'Somnium' and 'Seek from Within'. Two songs full of power and portent. There is an epic quality to the sound, a vastness to the windswept sonic landscape around us, a loneliness that breeds discomfort. This feeling of space, is only cut down, in parts, by the abrupt interjections of tight crisp rhythmic sections accompanied by a more casual spoken delivery. Disjointedly pushing us from the great beyond to a small room with no apparent explanation for such a tangible shift - as is the way of the narrative mechanics in dreams.
Seek from Within, the second track, continues to push this empty feeling further. But now I find myself on a heaving boat lost at sea, the hulk rising and falling up from within my stomach, the endless, landless horizon never relinquishing hope or respite from feelings of insignificance and nausea. What are we puny humans when lost on the waves of crashing cymbal? I ask Zilcho about the influence of dreams on his creative process
"Mostly dreaming comes into the lyrics. I tend to hit the typewriter first thing in the morning, so I often notice lines creeping in from my dreams. It's an interesting way to write."
left to right; Howlin Hands, Lou Andrews, Conso White, Zilcho Hamblin & Oski.
With the third track 'Circles' [whose music video is also released today], our cycle begins again. But in a different place. The vinyl record crackles and spins on the turntable. Each repetition of the cycle seemingly the same but with the needle ending up in a different groove with every revolution. The sound never the same again but still connected by unseen tendons, as our story progresses and continues to turn in Circles.
Into a dream that at first feels real. Maybe it's the morning and we have woken up next to the one we love. The familiar smell of their hair seems true enough, and brings us some harmonious moment of comfort. A sense of stillness. The soft purr of their exhaling breath ripples. Asleep and blissfully unaware. We trace our finger in circles on the bare flesh of their chest as their body crumbles to marble dust and we remember we are only dreaming. We remember, they are gone.
The record overflows with raw emotions and lived moments that are all too human, as Zilcho explains
"Circles came from a deep place of grief. The loss of a relationship and looking back at this through a speculum pointed straight at my heart... writing it is a bit of haze for me.”
Continuing on through the tracks of the EP, as with any body of music, we begin to pick up upon and become more aware of the external influences and references that have formed the band. The sculptor's hand[s] that have united these musicians in a shared love, and probably inspired them to learn their craft and play in and create their own band in the first place. I hear an echo of the soft growl of Swans' Michael Gera in Zilcho's vocal delivery, his penchant for the epic and filmic, with long driving sections through expanding soundscapes. Repetitive but meaty guitar hooks punching through. I feel the jaggedly, intelligent rhythms of Steve Albini's Shellac, dismantling basic patterns with chopped-up drums and spikey guitars. I sense the spooky disquiet of Slint, with bass lines that creep their way through the songs drawing out discord with the off beats of Conso White's drums. The rhythm section plays a game to see how far they can push away from the rules of rhythm before the song collapses. I hear the smooth old crooner that comes through Nick Cave at times, when doing his impression of a drunk hotel lobby pianist in a vacant hotel. I hear all of this, but uniquely heard through the distinct and unique M E A T grinder. The band wears their influences boldly, and proudly like medallions of flesh around their necks. Tributes and trophies claimed from other sonic warriors in the battlefield and made their own.
I asked Zilcho to talk about this claiming of influence in his own words
"I think taking your influences boldly is a great way to go, as long as you make them your own and bring a new feel or flavour in. This only furthers the preservation of the greats and if something sticks with you in your mind and wanna work with it - do it!”
In the 4th track 'Lullaby' featuring a duet with Daisy Tortuga, a grateful touch of female relief in the sausage fest of M E A T. The vocal melody line has been recycled directly from the raw clay of Current 93 & Nick Cave's version of 'All the Pretty Little Horses', then reshaped by the sculptor's hands. Like the use of a ‘sample’ so common in other genres of music.
Lullaby is an off-kilter love story, half set [to me] amongst grey buskers on a cold day under a bridge by the Seine in Paris, and half set in the gaudy white plastic surrounds of a pay-by-the-minute church in a Las Vegas suburb, a shotgun wedding turns to black flies under the heat of the midday desert sun.
In the Vicious Collective Manifesto, we say "Learn from history; steal from the best, plagiarise the worst. It is not where you take your idea from but where you take them to." The words that make the statement in the manifesto are themselves stolen from Jim Jarmusch amongst others. This is the circle of art and creation. Nothing is new, and so why pretend it ever is - was - or will be. We are both the sculptor and the sculpted. Pygmalion and Galatea. Music maker and music lover. All we can do it keep on making, shaping and creating, pushing our art forward with our own authentic truth. Stepping into the shoes of those whose stories we have loved to listen to before us and continuing walking the path - the artist life, but now, with the agency to make our own choices. Collectively we find solidarity through a shared vision of something greater than ourselves.
"the search for sanctuary in a lovers' arms"
"We are Pygmalion and Pygmalion 9our record) is Galatea, hahah does that make sense? The record is our sculpture brought to life"
It's all very confusing, and it doesn't really matter. What matter's is that it's a great record. One that you should buy, listen to and cherish.
A labour of love.
I asked Zilcho if meat was murder and he said
“meat most certainly is murder! But the name is inspired by the fact that we are all meat or flesh, something which unites all mankind”
Yeah mate, until the cyborgs and robot dogs take over that is.
The fully instrumental Outro brings us back to somnium, where we started, but this time wholly different.
Forever changed by our journey through the wondrously complex world of M E A T.
The final line lingers as the needle skips off the edge back into the warm abyss of the morning and the dawn chorus
“A love half Loved”
Click Here to purchase Pygmalion by M E A T through Fatigue Records.
Words by Conrad Armstrong.