Recent, Spoken Word

I Trawl The Megahertz

I said ‘Your daddy loves you.’ I said ‘Your daddy loves you very much...He just doesn’t want to live with us anymore.’

It’s been a good one year since Prefab Sprout reissued I Trawl the Megahertz. But its original release eventuated way back. Almost 17 years. Hovering around the Internet to find the reviews of the album, three results pop up as the most relevant. One of which by Chris Jones at BBC has now been archived (Archivng is primarily a process of collecting portions of the world wide web to ensure the information is safe and preserved in an archive for future researchers, historians, and the public.) and is no longer updated, even after the reissue, another one by Guy Collier at thedigitalfix, looks old and an in-depth review by Sam Sodomsky at Pitchfork published on March 23, 2019 after the reissue. All of which found their commonground in agreeing the novelty of the project.

I Trawl The Megahertz is a beautiful musical ecstasy, originally released as a Paddy McAloon solo project in May 2003, but one must also understand it is a personal and melancholic one as well. “McAloon recently suffered a temporary blindness that left him house-bound. Finding solace in shortwave radio transmissions he began recording and transcribing the snippets of conversation and ephemera. The result is I Trawl The Megahertz: a nine track project so personal and removed from his previous work that it’s been released under his own name. wrote Chris Jones of BBC

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McAloon was rendered almost blind for a period in 1999 due to detached retinas. “The surgery was successful, but it forced McAloon, then in his forties, to find new ways to do his job. In recovery, he was unable to sit upright or lean forward, and so he spent much of his time supine. Unable to read or look at screens, he turned to audiobooks and radio broadcasts for inspiration. Disjointed sentences stuck in his head—“I’m 49 and divorced,” “Your daddy loves you very much; he just doesn’t want to live with us anymore”—and they started forming a loose narrative. Soon, he began hearing a sad, gorgeous melody accompanying it: flugelhorns, clarinets, cellos. When he was fully recovered, he brought the idea to life as a 22-minute spoken word and orchestral piece called I Trawl the Megahertz’ narrated by an American stockbroker named Yvonne Connors.” said Sam Sodomsky of Pitchfork. 

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Throughout the opening track, a 22 minutes long orchestral rendition, Yvonne Connors speaks softly in a spoken word manner. Combining intones memoir as a form of poetry with anecdotes and stories, mostly inspired by the phone-ins and documentaries, taken from the radio shows McAloon had been listening to and acquiring samples from, she propagates the whimsical world of McAloon’s resistance. Her wordplays are heartfelt, mostly wistful and “as bitter as all the best tales of loss” wrote Independent. The Line, “I said ‘Your daddy loves you.’ I said ‘Your daddy loves you very much…He just doesn’t want to live with us anymore.'” is as harrowing as something could get.

The album consists of two movements. The first track, which blends Icelandic sorcery with an overwhelmingly gloomy noir intuition that take you to the heart of darkness and an eight-part accompaniment, a bit brighter than the opener. McAloon explained the title song was 22 minutes long because it is “the length you’ll get on an Atari.” He later explained the length of the song to watching a film:

“It should probably have been shorter, I know that, that opening track. On the other hand I thought it’s a little bit like going to see a film. You wouldn’t want to do it all the time, you wouldn’t want to see the same film all the time, but while you’re there you’ll give it your attention and you won’t think in the middle of it you’ll go and do something else. You’ll watch the film and then you put it away. That was my idea with Megahertz. So I knew at the outset that it might have a limited appeal to people, because nowadays you can’t give them more than a couple of minutes in one song.”

In the album’s liner notes, McAloon said the song “seems to be a portrait of a woman who is trying to make sense of her life by reviewing selected memories. She is like someone with their hand on a radio dial, turning into distant stations, listening to fragments of different broadcasts. I say ‘seems to’ because a degree of vagueness suits my purpose and reflects the tentative way in which ‘Megahertz’ was written.”

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I Trawl The Megahertz is a harrowing reminder of the healing power of music underneath the downright hardship and so are the wordplays of Yvonne Connors. When hard times like the news of 14 deaths and riots in Delhi, India is as heartbreaking as it could have been, “Forgive me, I am sleepwalking” and “I am living in a lullaby.” seem to help outgrow the pain felt in “Trains are late, doctors are breaking bad news.”

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