Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Close to Silence - Part 3 - Mark Hollis/Talk Talk

Mark Hollis was the lead singer of Talk Talk a band who never quite got the success at home as they did abroad and whose reputation seems to have grown since breaking up. This has less to do with the big hits of It's my Life and Life's What You Make It but more to do with their 2 final lps Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock.

Stretching the idea of a band to its limits the last 2 lps feature a collection of musicians improvising sounds which are then stitched together. The whole things has echoes of experimental abstract, ambient and jazz ( a word that usually has me running for the hills) as well as the more usual rock pop structures and often all in the same song . The lps are about mood more than traditional song structure helped by the fact that it is one hell of a struggle to pick out what Mark Hollis is singing and the words tend to bleed into each other with the voice becoming more of a instrument.

The bands most successful lp was the Colour of Spring and is a bit of a cross roads between the pop of the first 2 lps and the experimental of the last 2. It contains a couple of signposts of what was to come, most of all in the haunting Chameleon Day

Things got even more minimalist on Mark Hollis's only solo lp. It feels like the musical equivalent of walking into a room to find someone quietly talking to themselves, it is uncomfortably private and personal

The lp even finishes with 2 mins of silence , not for a hidden track to be tagged on the end but I guess just to get you to sit and think about what you have just heard

Since this release mark Hollis has disappeared from view. i'm not sure if this is a Kate Bush like gestation period between lps or he has taken his sound as far as it can go ... silence

As a reminder here they are at their glorious pop best



  1. Maligned and misunderstood, I have been a devoted fan of Mark Hollis from the very beginning.
    You are right on the mark regarding The Colour of Spring. The first time I heard it I knew things were changing. Many of the songs begin as if you put the needle down about 1 minute in. The overall "groove" of the album is more contemplative than Talk Talk of It's My Life.

    When Spirit of Eden came out I was completely entranced by the lack of pop or rock song form. I immediately fit the tracks into playlists that included David Sylvian and Mick Karn and Bill Nelson. I think Spirit of Eden is the launching pad for Post Rock. Everytime I hear Radiohead or Boards of Canada I think, yeah Mark Hollis has already been here.

    Hollis' solo album is beautiful. Watershed can make you cry. I believe him when he says he chose his family over the music industry and I think he has a strength of conviction in the work he has produced to be able to satisfied with that decision.

  2. Hi Echo

    youre rigth it is only bnow that mark hoolis's solo lp is being highlighted as an influence (it is started to pop up in lost classic lists etc)


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