The Shimmer Shiver That Knows All

With Gliding and Hiding, Malka Spigel has made one of the most beautiful new/old albums of the decade

Malka Spigel (Image: Facebook)

If you listen to me once this year, make Gliding and Hiding by Malka Spigel a part of your life. 

Me? I am the chalk outline around the shadow of an eyelash, at best, fighting to find the grace between Be and Being, Do and Doing. I wage a quiet, intense yet lazy war with the weighty foe known as Dualism, that is, when we transfer the immediacy of experience into the moldy files of interpretation and then place those soggy, blotted files into the rotting cabinets of memory, ha. So why should you listen to me? But if you listen to a single thing I have to say in 2022, I ask you to make Gliding and Hiding, the new/oldish release by Israel-via-Amsterdam-via-Brussels-via-Brighton Post Punk SuperGenius Malka Spigel, a part of your life. 

Project a perfectly imperfect cloud on the spray of a waterfall; this is Gliding and Hiding. Remember lying on your back on that very early summer evening when you were young and for a few months you did not fear death, and you surrendered yourself to the star-shower of the Milky Way, unfolding a million years into the past, horizon to horizon before your eyes? (“This,” you said, “This is proof of time travel: We are seeing the infinite past!” Today, you would know just to shut up and bathe in the experience.) This sensation — and the reflection of the experience, via age and the shadow of mortality — is Gliding and Hiding (this album is the Milky Way + the stones on our parents’ gravestones, hummmm, set to music.) Imagine the strangest and most beautiful record you ever heard, something which sounds like the Cocteau Twins falling in love with Stereolab, or Stereolab falling in love with “Outdoor Miner” and insisting it be played in a “Hallogallo” loop, ha, this is Gliding and Hiding; it is baby blanket blue, it is funeral shroud silkopalescence, it is marigold gold and Skylab silver, it is the white sands of the surface of the moon and the the pauses in the “In Event of Moon Disaster “speech. Uh-huh. 

Malka Spiegel Gliding and Hiding, Swim 2022

Gliding and Hiding is a new old record, built out of elements of two extant Malka Spigel projects. Half of it is the 2014 Gliding EP, and the other half of the album is made up of (significantly reworked/graced up) tracks from Spigel’s 1994 mini-album, Hide. Oh just listen to it, this shimmering, melodic, angsty dream, created by Malka Spigel, and we note that it contains one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve heard all decade, a spun-sugar/spacerock/shimmyloop slice of heaven called “Besof Hayom.” 

Malka Spigel emerged in the public eye as the bassist and occasional singer in Minimal Compact, an Israeli-via-many places Post Punk band who sounded like someone had swallowed Joy Division and the Passions and spat out Kaleidoscope-era Banshees cut with a serious dose of The Ultra Minimalism that also effected Nick Cave and Scott Walker (ha); but I first became familiar with Spigel when she began a long and extraordinarily fruitful and fascinating life and art collaboration with Wire’s Colin Newman. As Immersion, Githead, under her own name, and Nanocluster (who made 2021’s best album, Nanocluster Vol. I), Spigel and Newman are on a continual investigation to find the place between chimes and improvisation, the Ultra Simple and the In the Moment, the space-age funk and the shimmer that spirals endlessly. 

I spoke to Malka Spigel about the startling, hypnotic, and beautiful edge-dream of Gliding and Hiding; her work as a photographer; and other topics relating life, language, and art. 

 

A handful of songs on Gliding and Hiding – including two of the very best tracks, “Besof Hayom” and “Hacol Zaram Beyachad” – are sung in Hebrew. How different is it singing in Hebrew and English? On this album, you seem to use Hebrew for the more exotically beautiful, elegiac tracks.

Hebrew feels like something from my childhood, this is when I was exposed to it more. So when I sing in Hebrew, it’s more of the child-like person in me. I am not entirely conscious of this, though. I am much more comfortable expressing myself in English, so my lyrics in Hebrew are very simple, they have a child-like quality about them. None of this is calculated, though. It just comes out. 

 

How do you contrast the 1994 version of “Besof Hayom” with the one you recorded in 2021 for this album? 

I only sang this song very infrequently, so it was very emotional to re-approach it. I was thinking about my mum, who, because she passed away in the very early stages of the pandemic, I couldn’t be there. It kind of speaks about – oh, it’s so hard to put into words – it’s as if you could feel when you die – experiencing something beyond the ground level. The magical feeling when you disconnect from all the crap of life. Some kind of beautiful lightness. 

I felt emotionally very strong when I sang it. Almost to the point where it was difficult to sing it without crying. 

 

You and Colin are involved, together, in multiple projects — Immersion, Nanocluster, Githead, your own records — and Wire’s work, especially in the last 15 years, often resembles the work you do together. There seems to be a somewhat unified sound to your work. 

It’s true, we work in the same way. We create something and we build on it and build it up, but you have a sense of self-identity regarding something when it is a Malka record. And Colin is fairly strict about trying not to listen to my opinions when it comes to Wire records, because he wants to retain an independence and separation when it comes to Wire, otherwise, perhaps, it could become too similar. 

 

You, Colin, and Wire all seem to welcome re-approaching material. It reminds me that in other disciplines, there’s nothing odd about that. A renaissance painter may have done multiple versions of The Annunciation, and a classical performer does this, too, records multiple versions of the same piece. 

I experience it with photography all the time, especially since I am a bit OCD. There are certain things I see again and again, and I always click. I can go on the same walking route, day after day, and I have to take a picture of a certain thing. 

 

AUDIO: Malka Spiegel feat. Colin Newman “I Just Want”

Do you see your work as a photographer as a similar or different discipline from your work as a musician? 

Artistically it seems similar to me. I come from Lomography [an artform that uses antique lenses, film, cameras, and developing techniques, resulting in something that is a dramatic contrast from modern digital photography]. In 1993 we saw a documentary on the BBC on Lomography, and I immediately thought, that’s me! Basically, an Austrian student went to St. Petersburg in the early 1980s, and discovered that a factory that made telescopes also made a compact camera for the masses, a chunky, heavy little thing, and they discovered that the lens did quite weird stuff – like vignetting. And they started using a technique called cross-processing where you use a slide film but process it as if it was a print film, and you get some very odd colors. And they invented these Ten Rules of Lomography, which is half-joking…you don’t think, you don’t plan, you just click. And it was so similar to the way I play music. Before your brain gets engaged, you just do it. So for me, it’s the same. Though it’s not really rules, especially when applied to music. It’s the opposite of rules. It’s no rules. You just do what you feel. You do it so quickly you don’t even have time to think. There’s not a lot I can say about it, apart from there are no rules. And it suits me very well both visually and for music. Of course, you do think – when you create records, there’s a point where you step back and go, ‘Is this working?’ or ‘What can we take in or out to make it better or take it further?’ – but the moment you do it, you just do it. 

 

At this point, I realize that the way Spigel is describing her approach to Lomography and her music seems to align with something I had read that very day by Zen master Danin Katagiri about an approach to Zazen mediation: “The important point is that we shouldn’t be obsessed or bogged down with the results that we see, feel, and experience. All results, whether good, evil or neutral, must be completely accepted…We are changing day after day, so whatever results come up, we have to take responsibility for them and accept them…results come up whether we like it or not, but these things are just within us. Nothing is given by others outside of us. These things are given by ourselves… If we see something we have to correct, we should just correct it. If we correct it and then believe we are correct, immediately we are off balance again. Then we have to correct again. Always there is something happening. This is zazen…The important thing is to accept completely those things that happen. If you see something you have to correct, correct it. If there is nothing to do, just do nothing.”

I summed up some of this, badly, for Spigel. 

I totally agree. I can hear music and I can tell that people were thinking too much about the result. It takes the magic out of the music, I think. 

 

You and Colin are creating this body of work that is graceful but full of sparks and stars. Grace and beauty but with the edge of engagement and tension…maybe the edge comes from this spontaneity, what you learn from Lomography, this idea of creating something beautiful without intention?

With Wire, Colin writes a song, and they play it. But with Minimal Compact, we always started together from nowhere. And that’s how I like to make music with people. To just play. And that’s kind of magical. 

 

 

 

 

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Tim Sommer

Tim Sommer is a musician, record producer, former Atlantic Records A&R representative, WNYO DJ, MTV News correspondent, VH1 VJ, and founding member of the band Hugo Largo. He is the author of Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish and has written for publications such as Trouser Press, the Observer and The Village Voice. Learn more at Tim Sommer Writing.

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