Any time I am able to connect personally to a film, a novel, a poem, a piece of music, a work of Art or anything loosely related, it helps me to envision the circumstances and inspiration the artist had felt whilst creating their particular art. For Bukowski, I imagine the dancing clouds of smoke smothering the dripping alleyways and alcoholic dreams that sit stagnant within the languid stillness of his ordinary madness and maniac ramblings. For Nick Drake, I imagine an empty floor of his bedroom or the autumnal grace of the trees swaying to a gentle breeze. This visualization does not have to be merely physical; it can also be an emotional visualization. This can be the moment at which you are finally able to walk beside the footsteps the artist had taken. And with this abstraction, I wander closely to the stagnant rainfall of England’s shores and I look through the eyes of Mark Hollis as he sits in his own boat that drifts in his own personal world. Boxed-in and framed within 8 recordings of quiet beauty, Mark Hollis emerged again from the ashes of Talk Talk to record an album that is as personal and mournful yet blissfully caught in repose as any album can get.
Mark Hollis creates a frequent intensity that stifles the listener at first, and like an enthralling painting, quietly clutches your interest in a way that draws you in completely. Listening to Mark Hollis’ self-titled helps separate you from the chaos of your own life, and for a moment houses you into a desolate shed away from the everyday disorder of life. In that respect, the similarity between [i]Mark Hollis and Pink Moon
is uncanny in that they both are beacons of calmness. The only difference between the two is that Hollis mends folk, silence, free-jazz into emotionally raw song-writing. Then again, much of the album’s success is owing to Hollis’ wonderful voice that undulates softly and comforts the listener, almost blanketing the still atmosphere with a cloak of comfort. “Colour of Spring” opens with a few blank seconds of silence, and the use of silence is perfected by Hollis who paints his songs with wonderful detail and subtlety. This almost poetic subtlety is reinforced in Hollis’ cryptic lyrics “And yet I'll gaze/The colour of spring/Immerse in that one moment/Left in love with everything/Soar the bridges/That I burnt before/One song among us all”
. Each hollow silence only intensifies the emotion of Hollis’ song. The simple piano melody of “Colour of Spring” allows Hollis to fluctuate his voice in a manner that seems so personal and mournful. It is this that makes the self-titled one of the most intimate and personal records made. Listening to the record feels like one is intruding into the deepest depths of a person’s emotions, and to be given that opportunity makes the record so indelible and distinctive.
Almost immediately after the subtle strokes of piano of “Colour of Spring”, Hollis displays his sublime ability to inject minimalism into an interesting concoction in “Watershed”, where the atmosphere is dripping with life and emanating moods of Spring, yet the arrangements of the instruments are composed in a way that gives every instrument a chance to breathe. This facet is present in much of the album and the harmonious blend of every croon of the horns and every subtle strum of the guitar is weaved so that none of the instruments intrude on one another. Hollis does this with such precision that it is not noticeable at first. In “Westward Bound”, the ever-present jazz influences are able to be demonstrated to their greatest degree and the slight hum of Hollis’ beautiful voice anchors some of the songs when they begin to cave inward into moments of tedium. These moments are the exception rather than the rule. The importance of Hollis’ voice cannot be overstated to the success of the album for the listener. If not appreciated, the bleak and grey of the album’s atmosphere would wallow flat and hollow, without the operatic croon of Mark Hollis’ voice to lift it into a more elevating echelon.
Much of the music, it seems, is divided between the so-called post-rock dirge and the fluid Jazz. The best example to encapsulate the latter would be “The Gift”, which grooves with bobbing rhythm. Easily the most instrumentally full song on Mark Hollis, it demonstrates an added facet, proving that Mark Hollis can handle multiple dimensions to his song-writing. “A New Jerusalem” ends the record as it began – with a moment of tranquility and peacefulness that has me envisioning a cold grey waterfront, tip-toeing the fringe between the sea and the pavement. Ending the record with fitting moments of silence, Mark Hollis ends with a dead moment of closure. Mark Hollis sits conjuring up music in the grey hours of morning you can take walks through, in your nonchalant leisure, against the fleeting cars running past. I could see Mark now, kneeling at the side of his bed, closing his eyes and humming distant melodies out of his window. That’s the images I conjure, that is the place where I connect and walk through the world he has created. And such an image is more than enough to put a smile on my face.