There is nothing in recent memory, and not much more in distant memory, with which I can compare I Can Hear Your Heart, the new book/CD project by ex-Arab Strap half Aidan Moffat. The halfway point on a 28-mile journey between Jock Scot's My Personal Culloden and Peter Wyngarde's When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head? Krapp's Last Tape, or early, scratchy Sebadoh re-scripted by a recalcitrant Peter Spence character?
The CD is not a long one; it packs its 24 tracks, including introductory instructions, into a dark (lamp)shade over 36 minutes, and ten of those are devoted to the straight narration of a short story, the compelling "Hilary And Back," a random and only partially psychogeographic stroll from his flat which ends up involving pyjama bottoms, blonde wigs, fucked-up mid-nineties mobile 'phones, a party which momentarily feels like paradise since he can fully reinvent himself within its unknowingly welcoming walls, and the struggle for a bus fare back home to warm and comforting bedsheets. There is a brief short story entitled "Poop" which you have to read before listening to the CD since it sets the scene for the dissolute plot of unfulfilled partnerships, dodgy sexual liaisons, midnight chucking outs, the mighty trek back home ("I Will Walk" is Edwin Starr's "25 Miles" as a young Duncan Thaw might have understood it), the search for blame (invariably within himself), meditations on how Danny and Sandy from Grease might have ended up. Most of it finds Moffat intoning his fatalistic remembrances over the kind of soundtrack cut-ups familiar from his work as Lucky (or L.) Pierre with particularly jagged moments of punctum; a sudden, terrifying rant of hatred over numbing Throbbing Gristle sequencers, a mid-album break wherein Moffat reads his poem "All The Love You Need" which might pass as this age's equivalent to Tom Robinson's "Power In The Darkness," a Dorothy Parker poem, wisps of wordless breezes of a past which may or may not have been his...and when the recitation which gives the album its title floats in and out of earshot, an improbable transcendence is achieved.
And somewhere in the album's latter stages, there materialises a stately rendition of the chorus from Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" set for harmonium and/or accordion which Moffat delivers vulnerably but decisively; here is where the inevitable Iv*r C*tl*r comparisons will doubtless come into play but in fact Moffat turns the song's original fervent cry into a slowly forward-moving hymn seeking the kind of deliverance which doesn't presuppose forfeiture of a future. And "Poop" must certainly be read before the CD (subtitled "Loop") is listened to - and even when you do listen to it, Moffat recommends that you do so in bed, with headphones and preferably a hangover - if for no other reason than to appreciate fully the hilarious "4Sex" skits which dot the album's passage, although since it explains the entire story one would be foolish to skip it. At this admittedly early stage, the year's most intriguing record.