I was initially prepared to review Running Me Down, the new solo CD from sound artist and writer Russell Walker (Charcoal Owls, The Teleporters) with an in-depth reading of the actual fiction piece of the same name that his infectiously deadpan voice relays over the course of five unique instrumental accompaniments. But this proved difficult, for when attempting to closely listen to his words my attention inevitably melted into simply perceiving all of the elements at once; plus, there’s no official original text or transcript provided, at least not with the digital download, so I’m inclined to believe that while Walker’s story is the focal point of this release, it is not its sole or even its primary artistic identity. The False Face Society has previously manifested as the trading-off collaborations of Walker’s fiction with backing from James Tranmer and Tom Scott, but here only the latter contributes to one entry in the pentalogy of ten-minute (give or take a few) parts; each of the others were provided by unique musicians as well.
Paul Watson’s dark, churning phonography soundscape that writhes beneath part one sets the stage well, imbuing the already slightly sinister mundanity of the narrator and Gideon’s conversation with a powerfully ominous undercurrent, before complementing a subtle volta in the text with its own jarring textural shift. We only descend deeper into the darkness after the two friends have a run-in with some “gits” and Gideon confesses that he expects his wife, Nina, to “stab him in [his] sleep” any day now, an alarming confession that does not seem to surprise the narrator at all. The character of Tox (spelling?) introduces a stronger element of social and political commentary as the rugby jersey-clad man’s man rambles about hating immigrants and which families in the presumably upper-middle class neighborhood are the “best,” even echoing the States’ own lame duck fuck with the weighty inclusion of the word “shithole.” Tom Hirst/Design a Wave’s skeletal but relatively conventional rhythmic electronica adds a curious contrast: where the previous track bolstered Walker’s speech both sonically and thematically, part two’s almost obscures it. Such a juxtaposition has its merits, I think, but I found myself liking this section the least simply because of the instrumental itself. It does, however, contain a fascinating turn: the nameless narrator, referred to only as “Toni’s boy,” refers to his own writing as his “sons,” an interesting choice of metaphor considering the author he frequently discusses with Gideon is named Toni Parsons, and at one point Gideon even makes a joke about the narrator being “on the same page as Parsons,” which to me seems like it might not be a joke at all. Perhaps this tear in the piece’s textual confines is what results in the intermittent abstract incoherence and singsong rhyming that permeate the remaining parts, a sort of structural or even ontological unraveling. Between confused verbal simultaneity and progressive dissolution of narrative detail, plot fragments and threads wind together out of linear order (e.g. an email from Nina is mentioned by the narrator in part two but does not actually appear until part four) and incessantly repeat, Walker’s voice flits between fidelity levels, and the story becomes a blurry ouroboros of both self-reference and temporal circularity. By the end, we still have no answers to the many questions and mysteries that have been raised, yet upon its conclusion there’s an undeniable sense of completeness.
“He talks a lot of sense, but no one wants to hear it.”