Nashville, Tennessee in 1922 — change is afoot: from the ground floor of an old working men’s club, a literary movement is building momentum; poetry resounds around the space, and the pitter patter of heated discussion fills the room. These are The Fugitives — a group of poets who became influential teachers of literature, schooling writers to break away from traditional narrative confines.
By turning their backs on conventional storytelling, these literary outlaws evoked the image of the runaway. Fleeing the confines of society and running from the custodial-sentencing powers of the judiciary, this fugitive is beloved by authors the world over. The appeal is seductive, a desire to be free, to live a life without interference from the law, or any grand order… in utopian bliss. Running from border to border, switching from horseback to foot, from automobile to railway, down highways and through mountains, the fugitive resides in myriad settings. Finding a perfect soundtrack to accompany our adventure was never going to be easy.
In this month’s Vision, Futurespace Magazine takes to the outer edges of Switzerland for a conceptual photo story that conjures up the castaway spirit. Armed with a camera in one hand and an iPod in the other, we masterminded a musical selection to soundtrack our runaways’ retreat from society. We envisage the outlaw as earthy and naturalistic so a playlist that captured this essence was vital. Our chosen artists experiment freely with their instruments, playing expressively and even experimentally; suggesting the necessary quicksilver prowess required when on the road.
Keaton Henson is the ultimate castaway musician, an artist who, it’s said, finds more comfort in his own company than that of others. Having released his debut on bandcamp.com, he was plucked from obscurity by a London management company who begged to work with him. You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are is a highlight from Henson’s first record, Dear — its raw, passionate edge and biting lyrics rally our playlist with a deft kickstart.
Low came in as a natural second, with their broken but lilting take on American indie rock melding seamlessly with the abstraction of Henson’s voice. Plastic Cup, from tenth album The Invisible Way, might be a warm, somewhat stifling embrace for diehard fans of their slowcore despondency but it slots in well with our castaway sensibility. Undoubtedly bitter about the society they were forced to leave, our outlaw couple find inspiration in the lyric, “maybe you should go out and write your own damn song…and move on”.
Nashville girl Caitlin Rose has risen from country star to indie hero and, upon signing with Domino in the UK, the singer laid down two spellbinding covers of Arctic Monkeys tracks as a special Record Store Day release. Here Alex Turner’s Piledriver Waltz gets a touch of Tennessee swing in the hands of Rose.
Dave Gerard doesn’t really represent the castaway ideal, in fact this Hertfordshire native couldn’t be further from it. Firmly entrenched in London’s folk scene, he’s released two EPs to date — steadily building a fan base with each. Hesitate’s duelling banjos give it the right tension and tenacity for our soundtrack. A song tipping its hat to human instinct, it tells the tale of two lovers in a broken relationship and their struggle to get things back to how they were before. And for our stranded twosome, alone and on the run, a re-assertion of binding unity is crucial to their journey.
Rhye is perhaps the newest act on this playlist, having risen to acclaim only in the last year — their sun-drenched music ties in neatly with the traveller ethos. The California-based duo captures the grandiose with Open, which aches with feeling and slots in well at a pivotal point in our soundtrack — the precise moment when tone becomes established. The Place is the only R&B track in our selection but Inc. don’t typify other R&B acts – having signed with UK indie label 4AD a number of years ago, although 2013 record No World boasts slow jams that fit well with the zeitgeist. The smooth, soulful yet unmistakably punchy The Place is a track to really drift away to.
King Krule is this lost generation’s outlaw — an undiscovered talent whose south London base provides inspiration, and houses the studio, for his output. Rising to prominence after debut single Out Getting Ribs, Krule is a teller of deep, broken stories of pain and trauma. On 363N63, a nod to his night bus home, his no-wave stylings with a dubstep tinge hark back to adolescence. As you muse on the past, the car winds through the mountains – you’re elevated to a new level of self-discovery and lost to the midnight sun. Trapped in the midnight city, Krule is important to our playlist as his London roots provide context to the fugitive mindset.
And from this point our romantic image of the fugitives takes a turn – the tension that mounted through the first eight tracks sublimates at the crescendo; it’s time to shift gears. Halls’ Sanctuary is a race of buzzing beats and broken synths, as the schizophrenic production takes us towards the outer limits of the desperate runaway dreamscape. This segues into a track by The St. Petersburg Choral Assembly, a collective of music students, past and present, from St Petersburg Conservatory who specialise in Russian choral music. On hearing Quiet Melody a sweeping, elegiac tone fills the canvas; feelings of loneliness emerge as the desire for love, lust and human contact grips the heart.
Suddenly Sigur Ros’ Meo Blóonasir wakes us from our isolation — the scene switches to the cut and run of the chase as Interpol closes in on our outlaws. The pace quickens, hearts race and the car weaves its way through woodland as they try to shake off the cops. It’s down to Explosions In The Sky to take over — First Breath After Coma builds from a slow crescendo up to a mesh of twisting guitars, pounding drums and thick compression. This is the ultimate soundtrack band; using their home state of Texas as a backdrop, they capture narrative with perfect precision. Further…faster, the song peaks at a blistering three full minutes of intense passion that rips slowly away as the fugitives outrun the law.
Broken Social Scene’s somnambulant yet playful take on Puff The Magic Dragon serenades the morning after — having dispensed of the car, our forested heroes emerge from their dug-out to gather wood and plan the ultimate getaway, one that will provide respite from their castaway existence. The final coda sees the outlaws pushing the raft out to sea, safe in the knowledge that there will be a better world out there for them. Fittingly The Symphonic Orchestra’s take on Simon & Garfunkel’s So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright suggests a mood of hope and positivity as the adventure spirit morphs into a fading, tattered image; confined to the recesses of imagination.
Nashville 1922: The author’s work is done. The Fugitives file out of the working men’s club, safe in the knowledge that their legacy will be preserved in time.
The Futurespace Magazine mixtape can be listened to via this Spotify playlist.