Wyrd Question Daze : Mortality Tables (Mat Smith)


Mortality Tables was established by Mat Smith during a breakfast conversation at the Fork Deli, Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury on 19 November 2019; and, like the most serious of art, Mortality Tables began as a joke.

Specifically, it was a dry observation by my friend about the Latin inscription on a tote bag I was holding. The observation was followed by my cynical explanation of the arcane magick of the insurance actuary: “It’s all mortality tables and shit like that.”

The first Mortality Tables Product was started that morning. It is called Forktalk. It is an ongoing conversation between two people. Sometimes it’s in person. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s in one location. Sometimes it’s somewhere else. Sometimes we document in. More often than not, we don’t.

A conversation involves a series of responses; it is a collaborative performance achieved through communication. Mortality Tables is intended as a space for collaboration: we manufacture conceptual ideas, which we ask others to respond to. Sometimes they ignore us. Sometimes they say no. Sometimes they say yes. Whoever responds is free to approach the idea however they want. During that process, they may ask for feedback. None is offered. There are no rules. There is nothing more than the idea and the response.

Our most recent Mortality Tables Product was ‘Two Meditations For Freya’ with the sound artist Goodparley. It was a sound response to anxiety. The next is an illustration by Savage Pencil in response to a concept involving a photograph of Charles Ives and a copy of a US mortality table from 1874. Another is a sound manipulation responding to the degradation of memory.

GOODPARLEY

‘Two Meditations For Freya’


On 10 January 2022, my youngest daughter found herself too scared to sleep. She was never a great sleeper as a baby and toddler, and now, as a teenager, often struggles to relax enough for bed.

This night was different, however. She seemed to be gripped by an intense and unrelenting panic which she could not explain. In context, she had been receiving weekly cognitive behavioural therapy treatment for anxiety and depression through CHUMS, a Bedfordshire charity focused on helping young people cope with mental health issues. She’d had one of her weekly sessions earlier that day and it seemed to have triggered something inside her, but she could not – or perhaps would not – articulate it.

In an effort to help her, I offered to stay in her room so that she could feel safe and reassured enough to drift off. As she tossed and turned, I decided to practice some guided meditation in the midnight darkness of her room. She eventually fell asleep while listening to the rhythm of my breath. For the next week, we practiced short meditations together every night just before bed, and she slept better every night that week.

Around that time I was working with Oli Richards as he prepared his album ‘Meditations Vol. 1’ for release by Wormhole World. The album collected five improvised guitar ‘meditations’, each one recorded in the first few minutes after he woke up in the morning. Oli had begun releasing these pieces in November 2021, and I had been struck by their beauty and simplicity. I began seeing them as brief moments of acute stillness in which to detach from the world, and support my own meditation practice.

I approached Oli with the story of how Freya couldn’t sleep and asked if he’d consider recording an improvisation for her, to support the meditations she and I were doing together. His recordings were made on 10 February 2022 at his home in Cardiff. They were originally released through Oli’s Bandcamp page later the same day.

All proceeds from this release will go to CHUMS. CHUMS provides mental health and emotional wellbeing support for children, young people and their families. chums.uk.com

Where did you come from and where are you going?

Geographically, I am on train that came from somewhere and which is going to somewhere else.

Creatively, I had no destination in mind and now I think I’ve at least found a reliable map, and some people to help me read it.

Metaphorically, I came from nowhere and I’m still going nowhere.

Temporally, I came from younger and am heading to older.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

Sound.
Art.
Words.
Insurance.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell

Taste. The Sidecar cocktail I drank at Harry’s Bar in Paris, 23 May 2016. It was my first visit to Harry’s and my choice of drink was very considered. Nothing had tasted better before and nothing has tasted better since.

Touch. The feeling of cool air on my skin early in the morning when I open the kitchen window. It makes me feel alive and able to face the day.

Sound. I am very occupied with the sound of my cats. They seem to occupy a delicate soundworld all of their own – their purring; the gentle sound of their paws walking across the floor; the light scratching of their claws at a door to be let in; the quiet sound of their washing.

Sight. The first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline from a yellow cab on the highway out of JFK through Queens. That view never failed to take my breath away, no matter how familiar it got.

Smell. A strong shot of espresso. To me, it is the smell of latent potential and of vital energies about to be released.

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

When I was about four years old, I had a dream that I made friends with a family of hippopotamuses that lived in a secret complex underneath our local swimming pool. I had tea and sandwiches with them. They were very polite and welcoming, though I don’t remember any conversation. After a while, they guided me back to their front door and I swam back to the surface of the pool.

I think about that dream strangely regularly. It always comes into my head whenever I’m in one of those odd, in-between and generally solitary moments, usually on a station platform when it’s still dark and things feel vaguely surreal. I sometimes think I’ve been trying to recapture that feeling of being accepted, and part of something, my whole life.

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

When I was younger, the notion that the world seemed to get smaller as you got older never made much sense to me. I figured that, as you got older, you saw more of the world and thus it became a bigger, richer place. I now see that’s not true.

Earlier this year I was in a message exchange with a sound artist about a project of his that had no obvious relationship to my life. And then, through the questions I was asking, so many things he was telling me had some sort of connection to me, my identity and my personal history. Maybe I knew that subconsciously and so the questions I asked him were always going to reveal those connections. I don’t know.

I both savour and am terrified of these types of coincidences. I once arrived at a meeting some eighty miles from the house I grew up in, and which I moved out of at the end of the 1990s. I struck up a conversation with someone else who was waiting in the lobby. He lives in the house that backs onto the one I grew up in. The more that kind of thing happens, the less surprising it is.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

Ideas come to me when I am in motion: on a train, walking through a city, travelling through a landscape.

The times when I’m moving between places are when I feel most free, liberated and energised. The place itself rarely provides the impetus; it’s the movement through, and between, places that provides the stimulus.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

I recently visited Bled in Slovenia and took an early morning walk around the lake, before it was occupied by joggers, cyclists and other tourists. The sun was not yet fully risen and the water was still, bar a few lone swimmers causing gentle ripples on the surface.

I am easily inspired by nature, but that brief period of solitude – marvelling at the distant mountains and their spiky pine tree-clad slopes, watching small fish at the edge of the water, hearing the distant sound of a bell being rung in the tower at St. Martina from where I was stood on the westernmost edge of the lake – had a transformative effect on me. It was as powerful and centring as any meditation practice and gave me a sense of calm purpose and order amid the noisy chaos of my thoughts.

Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke.

I accidentally drank a bottle of Invisible ink last night.
I’m now in hospital waiting to be seen.

Wyrd Question Daze : Goodparley (Oli Richards)


Hey there, I’m Oli and I record and release experimental ambient music as Goodparley. I also play bass in the art-rock band Silent Forum. I’ll be releasing my next album on Wormhole World Records on 5th August and Silent Forum are currently putting finishing touches to LP2. My new record on Wormhole World is volume two of a series which began earlier this year, titled Meditations. Each track is a fully improvised guitar meditation. Most of the tracks involve looping of improvised layers but two acoustic tracks on Vol. 2 are just one layer of improvised guitar work. You can listen to/buy the record here:

TwitterInstagramSpotifyBandcamp

Where did you come from and where are you going?

I came from raiding my Dad’s CD collection at age 14. Lots of post-punk. Early love for Joy Division (I was an intense teenager), Siouxsie, Echo & the Bunnymen. It was then pop-punk and emo, which has never really left. I played in a scrappy pop-punk band for a few teenage years and then an art-rock band that I still play in today. Obsessions with post-rock (all waves), jazz, classical, dance music and, eventually, ambient and drone followed.

I’m going to a balance of bringing the new Silent Forum record to life on stage whilst twiddling knobs and making ambient sounds in my room. I’ll be in London soon and hope to share more of these drones with open-eared people. I’m writing the score for a BBC-funded documentary film right now and hope to work with more filmmakers in the future.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

Mostly the practice of being grateful and trying to be present in all that I do. Looking after myself and spending more time with myself than before, but still seeing friends I’m very lucky to have. Moving to London is on the mind and getting to know my partner’s friends and family better. All of this whilst re-engaging with the band for LP 2 and my Goodparley project when I’m settled in the big city. Day to day I think about sleeping the right amount, breathing deeply, and trying to let loose/relax (a hard thing to try to do). I’m also about to begin a Masters degree, training to leave my office job and become a psychotherapist.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell

Taste: fresh raspberries oh my god
Touch: hair
Sound: birdsong
Sight: natural greens and where they can be found
Smell: Sure aerosol deodorant that I wore as a teenager, brings back a lot of memories/impressions

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

I recently had a vivid dream which felt like it went on throughout an entire sleep. I dreamed that I was falling out of an aeroplane. People were trying to pull me back in, but eventually realised they couldn’t so strapped an oxygen mask around my face and covered me in suncream: “He might get too close to the sun”.

The dream then took me through various “lives”, which I experienced in sequential order. During the first life there was a lot of conflict, strange animals and creatures doing battle and me stuck trying to find out what to do. I knew that this was part of my fall from the sky to the ground and that I had to act a certain way to survive the fall.

I lived about 8 different lives in all and each life had less conflict and more positivity and adventure than the one preceding it. As each life went past, I began to lose focus on the fall from the sky that my physical body was experiencing and began to lose myself in whatever situation/life I found myself in. By the end of the dream, I had forgotten all about the fall and had realised that these different lives were endless – I would continue living different lives in order forever and I would never die.

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

I experience deja-vu a lot, maybe the regular amount. And I specifically find the second layer of deja-vu uncanny – the “woah I’m having deja-vu about a thing I’ve had deja-vu about before…”

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

I need to feel quite safe and comfortable to fully express myself and sometimes this can take a long time. It is mostly down to the people I’m sharing space with. In some places I also don’t feel the need to express myself too much, and I quite like these places these days.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

The Marginalia recordings by Masakatsu Takagi. He lives in the mountains in Japan and has released 6 albums of collected piano improvisations. He sits at his piano and plays in exchange with the sounds of his surroundings. I’ve probably listened to these recordings more than any other music this year, they are very grounding and an obvious inspiration for my Meditation series. 

Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke

Eek – well a lot of these answers have been quite intense so how about this one.

Recently I went to an air bnb with some good friends. I followed the sat nav to the middle of nowhere (mid-Wales) and promptly lost signal. I arrived at an air bnb and saw my friends’ shoes in the locked house. They must have gone out for a walk. Fine. I go for a walk myself and return an hour later, still no friends – very out of character!

They’ve heated the hot tub at least so I get down to my birthday suit, put on my trunks and get in the tub. It is after about 30 minutes of tub time that I realise I was travelling to a farm and this Airbnb is definitely not a farm…

I get out the tub and get in my car still wet. I drive 30 seconds up the road and promptly find said farm, with my concerned friends in the correct hot tub. “Wow he already has his trunks on, he’s prepared!” “Yes, and you may notice I’m actually already sodden….” I’d been in a strangers hot-tub for half an hour in the middle of nowhere… I suppose shoes are really all quite similar!

The Ephemeral Man’s Salve Mix for Art of Beatz


The Ephemeral Man crafted a mix for Art of Beatz on Vancouver co-op radio which was broadcast on 7.7.22. I present here for you two versions of the mix: the broadcast version which includes some nice words from the host Kuma (much appreciated!), but which interrupts the beginning and the end of the mix, and a clean upload of the full 1hr mix on The Ephemeral Man’s Mixcloud.

If you’d like The Ephemeral Man to craft a mix for your radio show, podcast, blog, etc, you can inquire by dropping him a line at wyrd.daze@gmail.com

1 Elyvilon – A Great Stirring
2 Leftfield – 6/8 War
3 Dogs versus Shadows – Fish Nor Flesh Nor Flesh
4 The Chemical Brothers – It Doesn’t Matter
5 Test Card – Every Mile Is Two In Winter
6 Portishead – The Rip
7 Fen Walker – Within the Dark Country
8 Collins – The Clocks
9 Radiohead – Bloom [Blawan RMX]
10 The Incidental Crack – Belting
11 Polypores – Crystal Shop
12 Talvin Singh – Butterfly
13 The Sound of Science –Black Hole (Sagittarius A Star)
14 Erang – Leaving The Vale Of Wind At Night
15 Demdike Stare – Trapped Dervish
16 Underworld – Jumbo (Everything, Everything Live)
17 Imperfect Stranger – Bird of Prey
18 Broadcast & The Focus Group – What I Saw
19 Keith Seatman – Aunt Mary’s Mania
20 Fogweaver – Farther West than West

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 + Ghosts & Goblins


Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 all PDF issues of the zine + Ephemeral Man mixes

Ghosts & Goblins: Games, Dungeon synth & Fantasy

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