Locks On Our Doors, Not On Our Hearts is a new piece by Australian artist Tarquin Manek, devised in collaboration with poet Martina Quake of Canvey Island, UK. It was originally commissioned for the Ears Have Ears programme on FBI Radio, Sydney, and recorded on Valentine’s Day, 2016, at M.E.S.S. (Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio), utilising EMS VCS3, Oberheim OB-Xa and ARP 2600 in combination with cheap, contemporary consumer electronics.
It is, to all intents and purposes, a short, cautionary story about love. It is also a folk-tale, a science fiction, a suicide note. Last chapter and worse. Unusually for a long-form spoken word piece, it is immediate in its impact, and lasting in its effect.
Our narrator is damaged and unreliable: Quake’s voice, digitally processed into a flat, AI affectlessness, conveys this all too well. Is this the vernacular poetry of the Uncanny Valley, or is it just that loss makes robots – numb and listless not-quite-humans – of us all? Full of disorienting stuck-key repetitions, surreal enjambment and bittersweet wordplay, mischievous turns of plot and phrase, Locks revels in the space between the spontaneous and the programmed (what is a poem if not a programme?). It’s part Tales Of The Unexpected, part Susan Howe, part Ruth Rendell, part HAL (or Holly).
Manek’s music is widescreen but understated…a becalmed landscape populated by distant drones, just-out-of-focus field recordings, and phased, minimalistic, Rhodes-style keys. A sort of sombre, lunar jazz. Space-age bachelor pad music, maybe, for a bachelor at the edge of space and the end of his tether. Just as Quake’s words are cumulative in their tragedy, so the music grows more agitated and turbulent, at certain points harking back to the mind-violent psycho-acoustics of Manek’s 2015 Blackest Ever Black LP, Tarquin Magnet, and his work in F ingers with Samuel Karmel and Carla dal Forno. Even in instrumental form, the music manages to suggest all the suppressed madness, heartbreak and paranormal resonances of Quake’s writing.