Offerings – The Late David Turpin
by David Turpin
Offerings (2008-2020) is a collection of my favourite songs from twelve years of making music. Never having had anything resembling a ‘hit’, I’m not sure what to call a compilation like this. Maybe it’s enough to say that I’ve always tried to record with people I like and respect, and to make music that is sexy, sad and sympathetic to animals. These, I think, are the times I got it mostly right.
Offerings is available on Bandcamp for one day only here.
I tend to work from ideas rather than feelings, but this is one of the times when a song originated in emotion. That makes it difficult to explain, but on one level it’s about the way love reduces us to the kind of simple states we associate with animals, and on another it’s about how — even though we are constantly at war with our own bodies — you ultimately can’t love a human if you don’t love hair.
The Bone Dance (2009)
This was the first time I thought it might be actually possible for me to make something that sounded like a ‘pop song’. People make such a palaver about finding their individual special purpose. Perhaps the purpose of our fleshy lives is simply to give our skeletons something to hold up? I made this with my friend Derek Dodd, with whom I’ve written for many years.
This was inspired by William Golding’s The Inheritors, in which he describes the rise of Cro-Magnon man from the perspective of Neanderthals. In Golding’s cosmogony, although the Cro-Magnons become the dominant species, they also represent the coming of evil because they can exploit nature. I think we are seeing that played out in our world now: the present day as the consequence of an unfortunate evolutionary fork in ancient history.
The Red Elk (2009)
This is about an encounter with nature, and how a human-centered worldview tends to characterise congress with nature as perverse or ‘pagan’. This was the first time I recorded with Cathy Davey, which was very exciting for me as I’d enjoyed her music for some years.
The Hotel (Strands Remix) (2014)
The first song I recorded for my album We Belong Dead. I don’t really know what it’s about, and sometimes that’s for the best. This remix was made by Stephen Shannon, who has co-produced my music since I started recording. He’s always been very patient, as I can be a real pain in the hoop.
Pony Tears (2008)
A cheery number constructed around a series of samples from Jackson Browne’s song ‘These Days’, as sung by Nico. I love Nico very much — especially the album Desertshore — and I can’t help but feel she might have been amused on some inscrutable level. I re-recorded the vocal because I fudged the male pronouns on the original and, really, who has time for that?
Like Bird and Beast (feat. Cathy Davey) (2013)
This song came about when I was listening to field recordings of donkeys, and What Did You Expect?, a 1973 album by the gay folk-singer Michael Cohen. And it transpired that the donkeys were in tune with the music, which struck me as serendipitous because both donkey-calls and Michael Cohen are very affecting to me. I returned to Michael Cohen a lot later when I recorded a version of his song ‘Couldn’t Do Without’ for my most recent album, Romances.
Which Way the Wind (feat. Jaime Nanci and Bear Worship) (2019)
This was the first song written for Romances, which ended up becoming a collaborative record sung by ten different men. The lead vocal here is by Jaime Nanci, and the song is about dating culture, or ‘looking for love’. Sometimes you find it, sometimes you find its opposite. You could end up married, or strangled in a back seat. Who knows which way it’s going to go?
The Man Suit (2013)
This is addressed to an ‘Anthony’, although I don’t actually know anybody by that name. I’ve always liked songs with proper names in them, but it strikes me that it’s usually a possessive move made by a male singer to ‘claim’ a woman. You get a lot of ‘My Sharonas’; you don’t get that many ‘My Anthonys’. But us boys like to be objectified too, you know?
Concubine (feat. Elephant) (2019)
This was the longest I ever worked on an individual song. It kind of inched forward bit-by-bit for a couple of years, until Elephant came and sang on it, and that made sense of it at last. The title and the ‘History will make us wives’ line are taken from Frank Herbert’s Dune, in which the concubines of royal figures are comforted by the thought that posterity will view them differently. Sometimes hindsight confers legitimacy on relationships that are not respected in their participants’ lifetimes.
For Romances, I worked with a co-producer named Ross Fortune, who is possibly better known as Benny Smiles. I kind of rediscovered a love for synths working with Ross, and I think you can hear that on this song. The vocal is by D. McCabe, who formerly recorded as Jon Dots, and who I firmly believe is some kind of unheralded genius.
The Arrow of a Sleeping Heart (feat. Samyel) (2020)
This is my favourite song from Romances. I loved working with the singer, Samyel, because he is bilingual and sings in French and English. My French is pretty dreadful, but I think it’s very important to work with music in other languages. It forces you to consider the voice in a different way. And Samyel has always been a very good sport about me calling on him to embody all the clichés of the ‘romantic Frenchman’.
The Ballad of Essential Difference (2013)
This is about intimacy between a human and an animal, and what might be gained and lost in that transaction. I seem to write a lot of songs about ‘bestiality’, and obviously I don’t mean it in a literal sense. I admired Colleen Glenney Boggs’ book Animalia Americana, about what she calls the ‘strategic ambivalence between who is considered human and what is considered animal’. In that sense, the history of civilisation is a history of ‘bestiality’, because we are in a constant process of negotiation of what is human and what is ‘less than human’. What is the essential difference that makes a human ‘more’ than an animal? I don’t believe there is one.
Offerings is available from thelatedavidturpin.bandcamp.com on May 1, 2020, for one day only.