Initially known for her work with Marc Almond, Anni Hogan has been part of many other collaborations over the years. Her most recent solo album released as Anni Hogan, Lost in Blue, was produced by David Ball (Soft Cell) and featured appearances from such artists as Lydia Lunch, Wolfgang Flür (ex-Kraftwerk), Gavin Friday (Virgin Prunes), Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club, Cramps, Bad Seeds) and Richard Strange (Doctors of Madness).
But with 2020’s Honeysuckle Burials, released under her full name – Ann Margaret Hogan, she presented more intimate and atmospheric solo compositions of piano and field recordings. Hogan continued along these lines with her newly released album, Funeral Cargo. This time around, she drew inspiration from her birthplace in Oxton, on The Wirral, where Vikings crossing the sea from Ireland settled around 902AD. It is where Hogan currently resides. – Chaos Control
In Spring 2020 descending into the depths in my lockdown submarine, I submerged myself in local history and mystery taking many short drives and long walks traversing album refuges and discovering musical arteries.
My coastal home is Wallasey and the next town along the coast turning North East is Birkenhead where a huge sprawling overgrown cemetery Flaybrick rests next to 100 acres of heathered heath on the Pagan infused landscape of Bidston Hill. Flaybrick Cemetery is a regular haunt and early 2020 it became a calming muse as I began creating ideas for Funeral. Forgotten Prelude was composed in response to the overgrown beauty and tranquility of final resting places. Death was all around with Covid invading the shores and I found peace walking amongst the old graves. Many fallen angels, some with broken wings, lay abandoned next to graves now tended and inhabited by the burgeoning wildlife. Champion trees populate the paths and all the birds vie for prize positions. I recorded Flaybrick atmospheres daily, birdsong, weather and the prevailing silences entrenched in the stones. I was particularly moved by any extra details of the final passings of all these local strangers. Many war graves from both world wars relay last moments of sunken ships and planes shot down. A docker who had been attacked a hundred years ago and whose head injuries caused a momentary lapse into mayhem was hanged in prison but allowed to rest with the family he did not remember murdering. Forgotten Prelude was composed improvising bluesy sets as I revisited all the tombstone atmospheres on piano in headphones late at night in the quiet hours reminiscent of Flaybrick’s own subdued sentiments.
The Wirral Peninsula is located on the North West Coast here, slipped between the hills and valleys of North Wales and the wider cityscape of Liverpool and surrounded by 2 rivers, the River Mersey and the River Dee meeting and flowing into the Irish Sea.
Historically around 1000AD Vikings landed from Ireland. These Norse-Irish settlers lived and prospered on the Peninsular and there are many artifacts, rock carvings and names and areas of Norse life immersed in the region. As I traversed various historical routes on the Wirral particularly connected to Viking history, myths and historical artifacts combined to inspire my music.
Bidston Hill mentioned in the Domesday Book but dates back to the Stone Age is 100 acres of heath covered in purple and pink heathers shining brightly with a huge tapestry of gorse flashing spring yellows. Bidston Hill nests above Flaybrick Cemetery and is home to Pagan myths and legends and celebrates an abundance of conservation paradise. Between the Hill and the tombstones many Funeral pieces were initially stirred. Viking rock carvings, a moon and sun Goddess, wolves and a stunning horse near full size all occupy the Hill in Pagan prospect, disappearing and reappearing as the mosses and sandstones react to the Wirral weather. I made many field recordings on Bidston, all the rock carvings and their mysteries, crows and ravens calling, these sonic deliberations allowed me to find Fragile Elements, a repetitive meditation equating to the fragility of the past, memories carved and slowly dispersing into memorial rock.
My local empty docks on limited duties in lockdown allowed for flourishing nature and I spent a lot of time walking around the hidden passages on the harbour, home to Seacombe Ferry, one of the famous ‘Ferry Across the Mersey’ departures, as celebrated in the famous song. The title track came to me directly after rushing down to the docks late at night and recording the fog horns after hearing them from home clearly sounding across the river. Their melancholic cries seeping out exposed on a thick foggy night on my local Alfred Dock. As the fog horns signalled their Mersey River’s misty mourning moorings, I contemplated death. I imagined a river of Covid bodies, ancient Viking river burials, watery graves consuming the music and I felt the need to express these dissonant complex emotions as I listened to the horns thru the lighted full moon. Once back in my Studio Blue, I listened in my headphones to the fog horns and the tidal waves lapping the river banks and the ghostly nuances of the docks in lockdown, the need to set fire to these feelings of remorse and let go into the darkness brought a brooding blues conspiring dark chordal mutterings, heavy on the bass notes. I played the piano strings at the opening almost as a blues guitar releasing the past furies and opening the chords to a heavy bombardment of emotional outpouring, an improvised arc of restrained reaction, setting fire when musically appropriate. Funeral Cargo encouraged my desire to interpret folklore around death and letting go of the past and this atmosphere frequented the piece in full.
My love for nature, a personal obsession persisted throughout the making of my album and I often recorded the birds and insects in my garden, on the docks, along the cemetery walks and on all my local walks exploring the river banks bloated with migrating water birds. Egrets, Herons a plethora of geese ducks and all sorts of waders and warblers. Lockdown ensured hyper flora and fauna activity and humans safely locked away for a time allowed for real time nature replenishing. I found endless inspiration in this new normal and made every sunrise and sunset a point of interest for my album musings. Returns Part 1 is a direct correlation to this natural activity, I felt the need to ebb and flow with full melodiousness on the piano syncing my soul to the birds and bees in Spring as they thrived in their new normal, a wider wilder less human habitat and nature returning.
Wolfswalzer was written after spending time with my old friend and collaborator Wolfgang Flür (ex Kraftwerk). Wolfgang had played a show in Leeds and my wife and I visited for an overnight stay and the next morning we had a long breakfast with Wolfgang and his wife Zuhal. I was feeling quite nostalgic as Leeds was my original musical stomping ground where it all began, DJing and my adventures with Marc and the Mambas, Soft Cell and so much more. After the drive home I literally went straight to the piano and composed Wolfswalzer, an instant celebration, a little ‘jazz’ waltz, not a strict waltz but it is in ¾ so I felt it as a waltz. It’s about friendship, coffee, cake, music and friends always taking the infrequent opportunity of enjoying these little things together. I felt inspired by the continuation of love and music as opposed to any clinging disparity. I wanted to express how I feel about my past music alliances and I wanted the love to come through, so Wolfswalzer was a good vehicle to express these feelings and I named it with kind regard to my Dusseldorf friendly legend and now Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as one of the original Fab 4 Kraftwerk lineup.
Along the waterfront near me, I walked every sunrise either turning left towards Meols which was long ago a Viking sea port, or right towards Birkenhead, cruising through Secombe ferry terminal eventually arriving at the 400 year old Birkenhead Priory, where monks first ferried people across the River Mersey to Liverpool. The Priory ruins closed in lockdown claimed by seagulls and others as home. All along the waterfront I could capture history and nature in notional recordings, serving simply to temper my compositional codings, allowing me to frequent the past and present and explore and interpret my imagingings on my baby grand piano. Impromptu came from these sunrise locations and from the contrasting traits of ancient history and local nature embodying my work.
Mesto became a minimal chordal meditation which came from walking through Flaybrick Cemetery on a rain soaked afternoon. The quietness eroded only by the droplets hitting the paths and gravestones. A short woodland walk pathway cut through and centred between Spring released greens, ivy, bushes and grasses, almost hiding the death beds now covered in primroses, hyacinths, bluebells and so many more I have no names for. I immersed in all this gifted beauty, the cloudburst romancing my heart and allowing a few cracks to administer during musical relaying of these rain soaked emotions when dry and warmed up in the studio later.
My final piano on Funeral Cargo returned once more to the wonders of nature returning as humans regressed. Returns Part 2 completes side B as Returns Part 1 completed side A. Both return to my natural ponderings and more whimsical nature of my compositions as opposed to the perhaps more considered more focused historical elements that impacted alongside. I wanted to present these contrasting factors finally as the lasting impression, I’m almost riding the waves of the river or the clouds with the birds but a sense of movement was important in this piece, the constant flow of life through time presenting past and present as one timeless counterpoint, unspoken longings, the drifting nature of life as everything eventually returns.
On a Different Note:
- Track-by-Track // Hattie Cooke – Bliss Land
- Young Widows – Into The Funeral Home / Photos
- Review Vault – Aeronautix, Funeral Club, Fitful
- Blog Archives // January 2021 (Pt. 6)
- Guest Mix #2 by J Moss (The Modern Folk Music of America)