With new album from baroque romantics Belly Of Paris due out on Friday 4th November, we caught up with them to find out what influences their engagingly eclectic sound. Peste is an album set to use plague as a metaphor for Trump, Brexit, war, global warming, the refugee crises and more, so the influences they shared had something of an end of the world theme running through them.
FILM The Seventh Seal
The famous scene from this film is the knight playing chess with Death, but the most interesting part of it for me are the Flagellants; a doomsday cult who try to atone for their sins through self-harm – whipping themselves from one plague-ridden village to another. There’s a nihilism about this that’s very valid today. Though he’s repellent, I can understand why some people are voting for a demagogue like Trump. He’s an end-of-days, kill-or-cure solution to the problems they don’t fully understand and aren’t willing to become educated about. Rather than changing it’s simpler to trigger the end – like cold war spies with cyanide pills between their teeth. He’s leading everyone to Jonestown for an easy answer. The Flagellants only had their god to worry about.
ART Hilma Af Klint
Hilma Af Klint was a painter at the turn of the 20th century. She saw visions, she tried to link the spirit world with automatic writing and she produced a massive body of mystical modernist paintings that still have a hypnotic immediacy. The Seventh Seal tells us to embrace death in the face of hideousness, Klint’s paintings seem to suggest
we can be transported away from it. I find them really optimistic.
MUSIC Jaques Brel A L’Olympia
There was no more intense live performer than Jacques Brel. He poured out everything onstage and this album is him at his absolute peak. It’s breathtaking in its sheer emotional release – but part of the magic is that you can’t tell how much is real and how much performative. He’s unshackled and knowingly overwrought. He embodied the last days of Rome or Berlin at the end of World War II. All emotions are heightened to hysteria. Everyone is at breaking point.
Image by Dalal AlSindi @iusedtogetartsy on Instagram
ART – Dalal AlSindi
Dalal is a Bahraini artist who creates these mesmeric, contorted anatomies. They’re tortuous and visceral…medieval. Her drawings scream out from the page but the faces themselves are missing or muffled or masked. They have no agency or power. They’re in the inferno. As soon as I saw her work I thought it would fit perfectly with the record. She came up with the figure on the the front cover. It’s on my wall at home.
LITERATURE The Kill by Emile Zola
Greed and dominance, it’s not even about the money any more for them. It’s about being able to assert power. It’s Putin wanting Crimea on his tombstone or Farage’s obsession with independence. It’s about inserting themselves into the narrative. Everyone sees how fleeting influence can be nowadays so they want to leave a permanent mark on history and they don’t care if it’s respect or infamy. This book is about that. A man who goes into Paris and just brutalizes it. I’m horrified and compelled by this stuff.
MUSIC Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Despite all this end of world imagery Peste is supposed to be an optimistic album (I know, I know…) I’ve become a big believer in lancing the boil and not letting things fester: in relationships, bands, elections with small-handed demagogues. Awful things need to be brought to a head before they can get better. Carrie & Lowell is the most honest and poetic album I’ve heard in many a year despite the enormous loss that inspired it. If I could write that simply and beautifully I’d be a happy man.