Charles Plymell & Bill Nace – ‘Apocalypse Rose’

Posted by on March 16, 2016

apocalypse rose

First published in the mid-1960s, the eponymous poem from Charles Plymell’s debut collection Apocalypse Rose — originally printed with an introduction by his psychedelic travelling companion and former roomate, Allan Ginsberg — is a short but evocative instance of his work, and ample indication of why he was entangled with so many of the poets and artists typically imagined at the core of the beat movement. Other than his famous exploits with Neal Cassady and Ginsberg, Plymell has published prolifically over the years; on his own with wife and collaborator Pamela Beach, and later via their Cherry Valley Editions imprint, founded and named after their adopted home in upstate New York.

The whole short sequence is characteristically a refined but passionate conduit into Plymell and Ginsberg’s multivalent San Francisco, a still mutant, potentially undetermined space at the time. For their edition, Lenka Lente — in keeping with their distinctive pairings of text and sound — have published Plymell’s poem with a 15-minute soundtrack courtesy of Massachusetts-based guitarist Bill Nace. Nace, who runs Open Mouth Records and may ring bells thanks to his Body/Head project with Kim Gordon, turned in something like the perfect accompaniment.

From Plymell’s first lines…

“The Juke-box begins its song: / Futuristic mirage blossoms / dimensions of accelerated fortune tellers / Leaving his coffee,  / the boy from nowhere / dials any combination of numbers / on the telephone, / smiles under the beat / of NOWHERE TO HIDE.”

Nace easily evokes the language and context for Plymell and his work, leading with a  restrained guitar and drum loop before he shifts into a more mossy bed of glowing, but similarly arranged field recordings. Different source sounds cycle rhythmically, mapping tones in reflection of the sharp contrasts in Plymell’s writing. The text speaks with a particularly colorful angst, one that hangs well in front of the more unsettled trance of Nace’s audio. Thanks in part to the uniform aspects of the latter, the weight and rhythm of Plymell’s own writing is genuinely accentuated when read with the accompaniment.

Order Apocalypse Rose from Lenka Lente — though based in Paris, this and many of their titles other titles are published in both French and English.