Idea Fire Company Postcards (Swill Radio, 2013)
“Travel, indeed, struck him as being a waste of time, since he believed that the imagination could provide a more-than-adequate substitute for the vulgar reality of actual experience.” – J.-K. Huysmans, Against Nature
“To this day there is something illusionistic and illusory about the relationship of time and space as we experience it in traveling, which is why whenever we come home from elsewhere we never feel quite sure if we have really been abroad.” – W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz
“And you forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the hacienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old almanac. Now that’s finished. You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.
“The hacienda must be built.” – Gilles Ivain (Ivan Chtcheglov), “Formula for a New City”
“The River Izumi/Floods the plain of Mika./Did I ever meet her?/Why do I long for her?” -Fujiwara No Go-Kanesuke
“Why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to perceive one moment of reality? Is Mount Everest more real than New York? Isn’t New York real? I mean, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, it would blow your brains out. I mean, isn’t there just as much reality to be perceived in a cigar store as there is on Mount Everest? What do you think?” – Wallace Shawn, My Dinner with André
“I hate reality, and if I could have my way, everything I captured on screen would be fake — the buildings, the trees, the grass, even the horizon.” -John Waters, Shock Value
“The ferry utters/a last white phrase; and human lips/A last black one, heavy with welcome/To loss. Thoughts leave the pitiless city;/Yes ships themselves are iron and have no pity;/While men have hearts and sides that strain and rust./Iron thoughts sail from iron cities in the dust,/Yet soft as doves the thoughts that fly back home.” – Malcolm Lowry, “Iron Cities”
“He clambers up onto the seat, lays his head against her knee. Gently, she slips a cushion under his head. The train comes uncertainly to a halt. There is no station, no signal, no one is walking about or meeting anyone. The plains are utterly still, unmoving. In the next compartment someone moves about and speaks indistinctly, in a low vague voice.” – Ingmar Bergman, The Silence
“You see – every cloud/has a silver lining/and sometimes paradise/around your corner lies…/in Amazona everything is nice/little one—come here and take my hand/I’ll try to help you there –/I’ll take you there/Amazona’s/getting closer/soon you’ll see/journey’s over/we’re almost there!” –Bryan Ferry, “Amazona”
“There’s something in this hotel that troubles and intrigues me. I can’t quite make out what it is. I don’t really try. Others might say it has something to do with old desires, the dreams one has as a child.” – Marguerite Duras, Destroy, She Said
“IFCO presents Postcards. Imaginary impressions of places we have never been and do not exist except in the mind. Blurry memories of childhood travel reels and National Geographics. Sailor’s tales. Adult fantasies of the past still waiting to be realized.” – The Idea Fire Company, Postcards
With their new LP, Postcards, The Idea Fire Company invites you on a trip around the world. That much is evident. Perhaps more important, however, is that IFCO invites the listener into their world. A world reflected in this imaginary journey.
At the end of Stranded we heard the lonely puff of a cigarette at sunrise. Beauty School, on which I actually play, is too conceptually associated with my own misguided and failed career ideas to carry much of an idea of “hope” for me. As The Island of Taste drew to a close we heard the despairing bells of doomsday itself. Music from the Impossible Salon, for all of its romantic remove, portrayed a decay so severe that sadness reigned supreme. These are the Idea Fire Company LPs since the release of the stark, ambiguous, and magical Anti-Natural record, which contained within its sleeve “The Manifesto of the Anti-Naturals,” marking a turning point of sorts for the group. And now Postcards, the group’s eighth LP and fourteenth or fifteenth or sixteenth release, depending on how you count cassettes and CDs and split releases and the like. There is something special at play here, something that started to emerge on Music from the Impossible Salon and continues to grow. That special thing, as far as I can hear it, is a resurgence of stubborn, inviting optimism.
Postcards is a statement of flight, both metaphorical and musical, the end product of an altogether admirable indulgence in tangible whimsy.
The wonderful thing about this construction is that the focus, while ostensibly concerned with “the rest of the world,” is in reality a portrait of the most private things imaginable. The concerns are both within and without. I can see the afternoon light filter into the house through the smoke of Scott’s Dunhills, I can smell the wine being poured, I can hear Karla’s laughter as the pair happens upon a particularly amusing idea.
The vast majority of the Idea Fire Company catalog finds Scott Foust and Karla Borecky augmented by any number and combination of their friends and associates. However, like Anti-Natural and Music from the Impossible Salon, Postcards is a duo record. Without the distraction of guests, IFCO is allowed to function solely according to their own ideals.
The results are extraordinary. The fact that I heard the pieces as they were in development, then again when they were released on cassette, then played a number of them live, then had a test pressing of the LP for months, and then was still thrilled and surprised when I held the completed package in my hands and played it as it exists now should display something of the fantastic transportational capabilities of this record.
While the elements themselves may not surprise fans of IFCO’s previous records – Karla’s wonderfully evocative piano playing, Scott’s queasy and atmospheric trombone playing, the otherworldly synthesizers and perfectly-placed snatches of radio static, let alone the inclusion of “Port Lligat” (die-hard fans will smile knowingly to themselves) – the overall picture serves to remind us that records can, at their best, offer us a fully realized narrative, a glimpse of emotional possibilities, a call to more energetically inhabit the potential of our own imaginations and experiences.
I am sitting in an airplane in the sky. Great tides of air throw the plane this way and that. Despite all practical knowledge to the contrary, there is a very real feeling that the tides of air might hurdle the craft many thousands of feet to the ground. At first I feel panic, imagining what it might feel like to fall that far inside that metal shell. As my fantasy of doom plays out I feel sadness, and then, as I continue to dwell on it, I eventually feel calm. I let myself and my worries to go the air. My nerves, which have drawn taught every muscle in my body, furrowed my brow, and electrified my anxieties, slowly relax, and though the air jostles my body up and down and sideways, a soft smile spreads across my face. I take comfort in the fact that I have no control. Whatever will be will be, and no amount of worrying in the middle of the air will change that. I realize that this plane trip itself, and in fact all travel, is neither real nor imagined, how at the very least it could be as easily as it could not be. I think of the image on the cover of Anti-Natural, the lamp broken by the weight of snow, and I think of the terrible comet salt that will inevitably cover us all and freeze all the worry and ecstasy out of us. And then the fury of the tides of air in the sky subsides. The plane is set straight again. The journey continues in a comparatively drab and predictable manner, and I arrive at my destination safely. But the memories and sensations of danger, wonder, and comfort linger, never to fade.
And so Postcards, the latest LP by the Idea Fire Company….
I would ask the reader to forgive my blatant nepotism in writing this piece, and furthermore ask that the reader go a step further and attach the literal meaning of the word to this situation. While we may share no blood, I consider Scott and Karla family, and it is in that spirit of irrevocable love that this is written.