Hey internet fans. I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s nothing better than a ‘semi-regular feature’. You know what i’m talking about, right? A series of online posts, strapped with a BIG TITLE and good intentions, that crops up from time to time without warning or reason, often appearing in a big CLUMP, before the author forgets it exists, or gets bored, and the feature disappears into the nether regions of the world’s wide web.
Well … we, at Lost Map, pride ourselves on being the masters of the ‘semi-regular feature’. So, without further ado, here’s a new semi-regular feature on the Lost Map website entitled TRACK-BY-TRACK, in which we ask the artists to give a brief description of an album they have released with us.
Back in November 2017, Lost Map released KILLMENS, the stunning third album from John B. McKenna, aka MONOGANON. It’s an immersive listen, with cryptic lyrics that twist and turn unexpectedly, in much the same way as the music wanders within its own sonic maze. This was an album that I (Pictish Trail) had been listening to for about a year before it came out - and I had the pleasure of touring with John at the end of 2017, listening to him perform the songs live each night. He is one of my favourite song-writers and, on KILLMENS, manages to distill my favourite aspects of his craft. The songs are epic, in places - really big, ambitious and accessible, but without sacrificing any of the small details that make his sound so distinct. There’s something new there, every time I listen - and it keeps me going back and back and back to it.
So, make yourself a cuppa, and listen to the album whilst having a read of John's song descriptions, below. We believe the best way to listen to the album is on vinyl, which we pressed up on translucent teal-blue LP, and comes with a download code and accompanying magazine filled with exclusive artwork and stories. You can purchase it from our webshop, here. If you don’t have a copy to hand, or just wanna listen digitally for the time being, you can listen on the Spotify player we’ve got above.
Okay, without further ado … here is KILLMENS …
‘Black Hole’ was written a week after I had the incredible luck of surviving an armed robbery in 2012 at a club I used to work at (no-one got injured physically). The experience was obviously terrifying – I received counselling after it – but I also had a sort of out-of-body experience. As I lay on the ground at the request of the gunman, I felt as if I was a dog told to lie down, and when I felt like I was going to be overwhelmed with fear a quote drifted into my mind from a George Harrison documentary, “I need to prepare to let go.” The sound-world of this song feels similar to that weird self-comfort mechanism. I also takes inspiration from a graphic novel called ‘Black Hole’ by Charles Burns.
When I first moved to Sweden I started at a Swedish for immigrants course to learn the language. I met a Greek man called George who worked as a turntable repair man at a shop called Hifi Skåne. With every visit it became quite common for the conversation to turn to life, love and work – and naturally as the youngest I was often being given advice whether I wanted it or not. I continued to visit and started to become interested in this dynamic, and if somehow I was in denial about not wanting their advice. The song is a sort of mosaic of these ideas.
I wrote this song when I was working at a restaurant called Stereo in Glasgow. I was young, neurotic and fluctuating between teenage narcissism and self-distant nihilism. The lyrics for the chorus appeared in my head while I waited tables. I guess the lyrics could sound quite stroppy but I like to think that without this ventilation then the protagonist would be consumed by neurosis and denial – the song acting as a cathartic acceptance of fallibility and paving the way for accountability; with any statements of intent being drenched in my naive perspective from that age.
Kissing is quite self-explanatory I think maybe it is the most normal song I’ve written. We started playing this live ages ago and we thought it would be funny to do an extended “casino band introducing the band members” trope. Turns out audiences really enjoy tropes like this and this moment of a sarcastic trope becoming the most entertaining part of the set inspired a lot of the Monoganon Video Performances – where I introduced the audience to my virtual backing band on the screen.
Another song about dynamics in male friendships. It is a song about being complicit to avoid having hard conversations. It is about being either unaware of your own prejudices or being in denial of your own prejudices. The friendships having acted as a light that illuminates aspects of yourself that you should really work against.
GOING BACK COMING HOME
I began writing this song on a three-stringed balalaika. Initially just as a sort of open-stringed rhythm that I played to challenge my brain. I think I was listening to a lot of Deerhoof and Julian Lynch at the time. Thematically, its a longing for everything but having to choose one thing. When I wrote it I had recently had a break-up and wasn't sure if I should stay around in Malmö or go back to Scotland.
This is one song that I can’t really say I “wrote”. I composed, arranged and recorded most of the song then sang some nonsense over it. However, I have a feeling that the lyrics are the most sincere I've ever made. I possibly put too much faith in Freud but I believe my subconscious guided my throat and tongue to be brutally honest. It’s like a very critical séance with my subconscious. I’m quite offended by what it wrote about me actually.
PUSHING AND PULLING
This song is about a dynamic in relationships; specifically a struggle to maintain a relationship where compromise has become a point of contention on both sides.
LIFE IN PICTURES
I've written a few songs that try to see the world from nature’s point of view, with humanity gone. This song is post-human but also unifying humanity to nature and matter. Instead of seeing the end of humans as the death of life, I'm just observing all matter as "life” – and being very unsympathetic to human achievement. The song takes its name from a picture book by Alasdair Gray.
The lyrics are direct transcriptions of nightmares I’ve had about spiders over the years. I am a self-diagnosed arachnaphobe but now I’m trying to accept them. In my dreams the spiders are quite omnipotent and impressive in some way. They are massive, as big as a stadium, or really, really fast. The most recent dream I had of spiders they got into a wound in my leg but instead of focusing on this horror I'm choosing to see the spiders as something that could heal me, not in a spider silk has healing properties sort of way, but that the tiny harmless spider is blocking my path to getting where I want to be in life.