SERGE WEEK: Video Vault, Episode 11: Connan Mockasin

Our guest blogger and author of Histoire de Melody Nelson, Darran Anderson, wraps up Serge Week with his contribution to our Video Vault series. For more on Darran and the book, follow him on Twitter: @33_melody.


One of the strangest and lesser-known of the albums influenced by Histoire de Melody Nelson is my favourite one – Forever Dolphin Love by Connan Mockasin. I’ve been interested in psychedelic music since finding a copy of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in the attic at an impressionable age. And this album is stepped in that very fragile dreamlike almost-childhood, almost-tipping-into-madness atmosphere. Unlike a lot of contemporary psychedelic groups, it’s not a pastiche and it doesn’t try too hard, which is its beauty really. It has a subdued woozy sound and it’s melancholic. It’s like something you’d hear just at the point of falling into a deep sleep or getting sucked into the k-hole. Some music has the strange effect of making you nostalgic for a time or place you’ve never experienced; I get that feeling from listening to this. Maybe I did somehow hear it as a child; it seems like the soundtrack that starts when, as a kid, the dentist puts the gas-mask on you and tells you to breathe in and count down from ten and you get to about eight and the world mists away and you backstroke off into oblivion. The song above, “It’s Choade My Dear,” is the most obviously Melody Nelson-inspired. If you know Gainsbourg’s album, you’ll hear the traces, whether they’re there intentionally or by osmosis is incidental.


Another influence is the Dunedin sound, an earlier music scene in Connan’s native New Zealand and particularly The Chills and their early songs “The Great Escape,” “Whole Weird World” and “Pink Frost” (above). The latter is a masterpiece and a song I will never tire of. I’ve talked to Kiwi friends about this and I think there’s something about growing up on a rain-lashed rock in the sea that makes you susceptible to music like this. You spend a lot of time in downpours, dreaming. It’s the other side of the planet but there’s an affinity there. Maybe everyone thinks like that.

The song I intended to write about before some spirit took over was Connan Mockasin’s “Faking Jazz Together.” It starts off as a frozen spider’s web of a song and then falls off the planet. The video reminds me of those films that hypnotise and give you the creeps at the same time; The Wicker Man, Fanny and Alexander, the riverboat scene in The Night of the Hunter. There’s a sinister, dangerous element to fairytales, as the other Brothers Grimm Freud and Jung knew well, and in a way that’s precisely what this and Histoire de Melody Nelson is. We never really lose our attraction to that darkness, to what might happen out of sight in the woods, even if we consciously think we do.

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