words by trevor elkin
“Complexity theory reveals that when a system is not linking its differentiated parts, when it is not moving to maximise complexity, it moves either to chaos or rigidity”
– Daniel Siegel
The world feels like it’s on the edge of something, preparing for change – into what? Sensitively attuned to this fragile, transitory state, ‘Self Architect’, the debut album by London-based H.Grimace, questions how we got ourselves here in the first place. How and when did we stop listening and honouring our differences? It unpacks the social pressures to do with image, work, power and also explores our lost connection to the land.
Vocally driven by Hannah Gledhill’s exacting tone and reflective lyrics, H.Grimace twist guitar-led post-punk familiarity into unfamiliar shapes. The visceral energy it releases creates conflicting feelings of powerlessness, social anxiety and potency in equal measure. Underneath it all, there is a sincere call for transparency and self-awareness: instead of returning to old values when things get difficult, we need to re-examine them, acknowledging all our messiness and ambiguity and move forward. Collaborating with poet Vivienne Griffin, ‘2.1 Woman’ confronts patriarchal-driven expectations of women to continually create perfect versions of themselves, while ‘Call It Out’ gives courage to look around and “name something you think should be said but are afraid to say”. ‘Land/Body’ points out the irony of preserving places of natural beauty while at the same time destroying our general environment in the name of progress and uniformity; eventually, both nature and its diversity will become something only the few appreciate.
Stream ‘Self-Architect’, in full below, and read Gledhill’s thoughts on today’s pressures, honest work and being, knowing and expressing yourself fully.
What was the best part of your day yesterday?
I watched a film called The Love Witch which is about a modern day witch, it came out last year, gorgeous to watch and totally silly but it was just what I needed.
Who do you think might be today’s ‘witches’?
Well in terms of performance and musicians I feel many of the artists on Sacred Bones records have elements of mysticism about them. Certainly some of the female artists I find quite compelling, there is a rawness about them that can be brutal and yet quite intimate. The two I guess I’m thinking of are Pharmakon and Jenny Hval. Also a friend of mine, Eartheater has a wonderful uncharted quality in her work that is quite bewitching and wild. I like these things, especially in female performers, it’s refreshing .
Do you have any rituals or routines?
We always have a tin when rehearsing, small pleasures.
What else energises you?
I’m energised by art, guitar bands (I don’t know why so much more with guitars, I just love them). Good food.
What was the last random act of kindness you saw/received?
I was visiting a relative who had been diagnosed with cancer today and although the NHS is being squeezed of any life it has left and perhaps there is mismanagement in there, overall it’s a beautiful system and thank god the public has got somewhere they can seek advice and care. Overall they are doing bloody hard work and dealing with the things we dread.
What do you think we worry too much about?
We, well I don’t know, death, getting old, losing family, Trump… but actually, the two things I hear people talk about the most are money and Facebook.
Do you think social media like Facebook brings out the best or the worst in people – or maybe a bit of both?
I’m not seeing it bring the best out in people, I’m seeing it bring out a lot of neurosis. Some people can really put on a show, but it’s hard to see what they are actually doing. What’s that expression….“a whole lot of smoke and mirrors”.
Narcissism and celebrity worship – is this what we’re becoming as a society, what’s the answer?
I must admit the level of narcissism does worry me but I think it’s more to do with the availability of technology set up to “express” ourselves publicly. It’s in a specific format, profile, status, timeline, it’s reductionist and with the worst bits. I don’t think the answer is to not take selfies but to be honest about our motivations. There’s a film called Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky) where there is a room where people can go to make their inner most dreams come true. One had a sick brother, but his most inner wish was to be rich and not to help his brother… so he killed himself. Morbid, but perhaps insightful in realising our real qualities! It’s hard to present the real you, so I guess the pasteurised one is what we get.
The internet’s other function is hothousing alternative news, of course – what’s your favourite conspiracy theory/urban myth?
That Courtney killed Kurt, I’m not convinced.
What was the last, most helpful criticism you received?
Viv Albertine (The Slits) gave me a good nugget of advice once when I was feeling the uphill struggle of being in a band, she said the key to success is to keep going, if you keep making music it’s more likely to improve and continue to do well. The other one, by one of my best mates: stop complaining!
Her autobiography is compelling. Full of life’s strength and her honesty and self-awareness. Have you read it?
I read her book, absolutely and I thought it was brilliant, very honest indeed. And she’s the same in person like the conversation above there is no glamorisation of her identity she just gets on with it. I wrote a song kind of in homage to her and a particular part of that book called ‘immaterial girl’.
Would you like to write a book yourself?
I think if you’re going to write a book you need to be so focused and determined. For me a song is the right length to focus myself as there is so much else to do.
What book has influenced you most?
I read ‘Straw Dogs’ by John Grey whilst making the last record. It’s a critique on what it is to be a human/animal, I hope some of that went into the record.
For you, is it a ‘human’ or ‘animal’ drive/thing to make music?
I think so, I’m not sure how animalistic I am in expressing myself I think it’s quite cerebral for me but there is feeling and I find it the only thing where I get out of myself and really explore things that I didn’t experience just making art, it’s all encompassing.
‘Self Architect’ is out now, via Opposite Number