Momus is "the David Bowie of the art-pop underground" (The Guardian), an artist and writer whose work takes place in songs, fiction, performative lectures and tours. Mail Momus if you have something in mind for a performance, residency, commission.
Momus will perform his David Bowie tribute cabaret, Dybbuk, in Cardiff on June 10th:
Friday 10th June 2016
Dybbuk: Momus sings David Bowie
On Glyptothek, recorded in his adopted city of Osaka during the rainy season, Momus has ransacked his colourful pile of Japanese folk 45s for samples and wrapped a series of cautionary tales for the internet age around the thunder of Shinto festival drums, the keening wail of rural flutes, the tinny riffing of massed shamisens, the clacking of summery claves, and the wild backing vocals of kimono-clad village maidens. The results sound like a Unesco World Heritage site incongruously taken over by the ghosts of Hilaire Belloc, Cocteau, Kafka, Jarry, Kantor, Petronius, DH Lawrence, Bolan and Bowie. Or an ethnomusicology department overrun by iPhone-wielding Etruscans. Or the muscular Greek statues at the Munich Glyptothek come back to life, snapping righteous nude selfies.
"Very impressive", said Frontiers magazine. "Glyptothek is at once hilarious, heartbreaking and a bit scary, but sadly, it's not likely to drag him out of obscurity."
The LP is now shipping via American Patchwork and streaming from various sites. Order in physical or digital formats here. Lyrics and videos can be found here.
In early 2016 Momus published Black Letts Diary 1979, a journal of his first year at Aberdeen University, in the form of a free PDF. There's a short introduction to the diary here. The first diary was followed by a 1980 journal, Somewhere there are people like me, and then by a further episode covering the eventful years 1981-1982, The Bertie Wooster of Alienation.
Popppappp is Momus's latest novel to be published online by experimental publishing house Fiktion. Two designers are being held hostage in Syria by a religious group formed around the lyrics of Sark E. Myth, the singer in post-punk group The Foul. To pass the time and sustain morale our cowardly heroes discuss the design history of classic products, reminisce about favourite typefaces, and debate how best to postpone their probable execution. Meanwhile the Kameraderie is erasing the mastertapes of Fleetwood Mac albums and preparing for an apocalypse heralded by the appearance of the ghastly Spider Comet and a rat regent called Nikki Danjo.
Herr F (Everything Living Forever is Screaming Forever) is the fourth Momus novel, now available online in various formats, in both English and German. Published by Fiktion, an experimental online publishing initiative associated with Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt and financed by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes, the novel is a take on the Faust myth and on German-language experimental fiction. The cover you see here is by Hagen Verleger, a designer who is also a character in the story.
Reviewing the novel, Berlin newspaper Taz compared Herr F to Scottish author James Hogg's Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and noted how the book fuses "clever melancholy, Kafka, Klee and Freud together in a fantastic melange and adds high cultural references and abstruse ideas. But behind all the scoffing defiance there wafts something dark, too, which is probably why Momus adapted this sombre German material."
Turpsycore is the 2015 album from Momus, named after Terpsichore, the ancient Greek muse of delight and dancing. Released on March 3rd in a limited edition of 500 CDs, the album is a triple disc set: TURPSY features new Momus material, DYBBUK is covers of David Bowie songs, and HARVARD features Howard Devoto covers. Preview the Momus material in this YouTube playlist:
The sleeve artwork for Turpsycore is by Hagen Verleger, the Berlin-based graphic designer. It has been nominated by the German Design Council for the 2016 German Design Award. You can order the record from Darla.
UnAmerica is Momus' 2014 satirical novel about the USA, published by Penny-Ante Editions of Los Angeles. This "picaresque sea adventure and clyster for the republic" proposes a world in which America has forfeited God's love by becoming "a machine for creating unpleasant people".
"Short, funny, and full of ideas," wrote Julian Gough in The Guardian, "UnAmerica might be the most entertaining (and readable) experimental art novel of the last few years".
"Momus has done a workmanlike job of grounding age-old utopian desires into a modern, ironic framework," wrote Maxi Kim in The Quietus . "If Momus' words are at all divinely inspired we have to take heart in the sociopolitical insight that the new age of Enlightenment will not begin from the familiar landmass we know as North America."
Dennis Sweeney wrote in Entropy: "The approach is that of a latter-day White Noise; if DeLillo inserted advertising slogans in the middle of the occasional paragraph." Henry Wessells in Endless Bookshelf said: "The terrain of UnAmerica is all too recognizably twenty-first century America: what Momus is telling us is that we are living in a world where the South Won."
Read more about UnAmerica here and order it on Amazon US or UK.
UnAmerica has also been translated into French by Marie Surgers and appeared on Serpent a Plumes in September 2015. "Bounding from one surrealistic situation to the next," said Le Monde in its review, "the author forbids himself no experiment. The result is a deliciously iconoclastic book." Magic agreed: "Often very funny and very inspired, this novel, which appears light and whacky, is much more profound than it seems. It paints a vitriolic portrait of contemporary America and its neoliberalism."
During 2013 Momus created a series of 18 one-hour radiophonic programmes for Newcastle radio station BasicFM entitled Hearspool. Mesmeric, evocative, made in the tradition of German neue hoerspiel, the programmes resumed in 2016 and can be heard on demand:
Hearspool 1: George Apollo
Hearspool 2: A Humble Gardener
Hearspool 3: Come-Along Judy
Hearspool 4: Noise Is A Monster
Hearspool 5: Fat People
Hearspool 6: The Miracle of Pie
Hearspool 7: Kakistocracy
Hearspool 8: Venice
Hearspool 9: Obsession
Hearspool 10: Adorno
Hearspool 11: My Father
Hearspool 12: A Strange Emotion
Hearspool 13: Frank
Hearspool 14: Ink and Velvet
Hearspool 15: The Great Reversal
Hearspool 16: A Hewed Man
Hearspool 17: The Overman
Hearspool 18: A Weeping Willow
Hearspool 19: Obscene Drawings
Hearspool 20: Coco Chanel
Hearspool 21: My Secret Deeds
Hearspool 22: Half-Baked Lazarus
Momus and ex-Orange Juice bass player David McClymont released their first collaborative album in early spring 2013 and then, at the end of the year, recorded a new record together. You can preview MomusMcClymont Two in this handy YouTube playlist.
Darla has now released MomusMcClymont Two in physical and digital formats. Order the record here or on iTunes and Spotify.
The 2013 long-playing release from Momus was called Bambi. It was released on October 1st and is available from Darla in physical CD and digital download formats or on Spotify.
Returning to the primal, acoustic, hot-to-tape, handmade and homemade sound of his first cassette recordings, this experimental direction saw Momus reaching for eclectic references from Eno to Afropop, styles from minimalism to wabi sabi, and inspirations from vaudevillian George Chirgwin to Swiss author Max Frisch.
"Consistently creative, inventive music that has never once lost its spark," said Rolling Stone. "Intricate, subtle stuff, which might have eternal value were it not loaded with catchphrases and tech-lingo that will render it charmingly dated in milliseconds." You can preview the album with this YouTube playlist:
MOMUSMCCLYMONT is the first album Momus made in collaboration with David McClymont, ex-Orange Juice. Momus in Osaka worked on backing tracks sent by David in Melbourne, Australia. The album (AMPATCH013) was released in February 2013 via American Patchwork / Darla. The sleeve is by Gea Philes. You can order the record here and preview the tracks via this YouTube playlist:
Sunbutler is a follow-up to Momus and Joe Howe's 2008 collaboration Joemus. Below is the Sunbutler songstream in YouTube playlist format. Physical and digital releases are now available via Darla. The lyrics are here.
In August 2012 Japanese companies Studio Warp and Nu Things teamed up to release a limited edition (300 copies) CD and DVD package entitled Momus in Samoa (Remodel 06). The audio disk contains an instrumental composition entitled Samoa Sonata, and the DVD features a visual piece called The Conductor accompanied by the sonata.
Bibliotek, the 2012 album from Momus, is now out and can be ordered in CD and digital formats from Darla. Lyrics, videos and credits for the album are on this page. You can hear a podcast discussing some of the record's themes here. You can also sample the record in the form of a YouTube playlist:
In May 2011 Momus completed his 2011 album, Thunderclown, a croony-crackly affair cooked up in close collaboration with Stockholm vinyl-charmer John Henriksson. Limited edition vinyl releases of the material are still available from John's label Tona Serenad. On July 12th 2011 Darla exclusively released the twelve-song Thunderclown album worldwide on CD and digital; order here. The the record can be sampled as a YouTube playlist:
"To say Currie's whole career has been building to Thunderclown is over-egging it," enthused Drowned In Sound, "but followers or anyone curious about his back catalogue will do somersaults when they hear what he's done here. In short, he's retched up the most blackly romantic masochism a human being can stomach and set it to a Tom & Jerry soundtrack. Henriksson's creaks and circus noises, so beautiful on his own releases, add a necessary veneer of cuteness, and make Thunderclown sound like Darren Hayman at a steam fair. The Thunderclown album is one clever little pantomime, as listenable as it is anarchic and with so much bile under its surface it's a wonder the case hasn't got ulcers."
"The naive, yet blissful sentimentality evoked from the minimal post-war era music (tape hiss, distortions and all) is offset by the clever, hyper-conscious complexities of the album's lyrical themes, creating a work that is immediately distinct and entirely original. The result is something you'd find yourself listening to alone on Christmas deliriously drunk and disillusioned, taking solace in long-vanished nostalgia... a last-minute contender for my album of the year," wrote Bigger Splashes.
The 2010 album from Momus was Hypnoprism, released by labels American Patchwork and Analogue Baroque.
"Hypnoprism is not filled with sexual controversy," said PopMatters, "but well-crafted eclecticism where nothing seems out of place... These days, we need more artists taking chances, and Currie comes off here as the king of taking chances, in a nice, intriguingly creative package." Mojo magazine called it "oddly bloodless electropop with hints of low-budget bossa nova. But Currie's lyrics lift the proceedings onto a different level as he examines human flaws, foibles and mortality." "Typically it's the waspishly whispered words that entertain, rather than the occasionally desultory music," said the reviewer at UnCut, adding: "Nick Currie's musical career now looks like a long detour on his way to his destiny as discreetly subversive international Man Of Letters." And Mark Fisher in The Wire said: "It's a 21st century lounge music, which draws all manner of material into its studied insouciance: 1980s electronica (Sylvian & Sakamoto's 1982 masterpiece "Bamboo Music" is referenced on "Bubble Music"); post-punk (the album includes a cover of Josef K's "Adoration"); "Everything Stops For Tea"-style pre-war skit-pop (as used on "Is There Sex In Marriage?"). The highlight is "Datapanik", a sardonically tender meditation on how a computer crash now means the loss of irretrievable memory objects."
Hypnoprism features on its cover Diamond Eye, a painting by New York-based Japanese artist Misaki Kawai. Design is by James Goggin of Practise. The record can also be ordered via iTunes or as direct digital downloads from Darla, or Amazon (physical), as well as from the labels themselves.
The "hypnoprism" of the title is YouTube, a sort of hypnotic musical prism, the source of much of the inspiration for this album, and even some of the sounds. Hypnotised by watching his favourite music videos on YouTube, Momus made songs aspiring to the same qualities -- that mysterious catnip which makes you want to play a pop song over and over, and commit it to memory -- then immediately made videos for them and posted them. As a result, the whole album is available as a YouTube playlist:
There are notes on the composition of the record in the back pages of Zuihitsu, here.
Sternberg has published The Book of Japans, Momus' new book of speculative fiction for the Solution series. The story is simple. Twelve idiots -- possibly conspirators, possibly visionaries, possibly liars, or possibly the most privileged and valuable future-witnesses the world has ever seen -- have found a way to the future of Japan. It's a messy business, involving crawling into a calving cow, and, after the initial twelve idiotic visits, nobody has been able to reproduce the feat. A commission of enquiry is established, and the idiots duly give accounts of their voyages to a panel of Japan experts who try -- not without exasperation -- to match the extraordinarily idiotic things they're hearing with known facts, likely scenarios and extrapolated outcomes.
Amongst other things, the book makes a case for the rehabilitation of the idea of the "far". We live in a time when difference and distance have been eroded and eradicated by globalisation, the internet and cheap jet travel. This "book of Japans" will try to restore a sense of wonder -- along with a plethora of imagination-triggering inaccuracies, well-founded rumours, clouds of interference and globs of barn ectoplasm -- by taking the reader on a trip not just through space but time.
Published by Sternberg Press in late 2009, The Book of Scotlands is a series of delirious speculations about the future of Momus' motherland. Commissioned by German editor Ingo Niermann and modelled on his book Umbauland, The Book of Scotlands was well-received in Scotland.
"I don't think I am over-stating it," wrote Gerry Hassan, "to say that The Book of Scotlands will be read and reread, studied and assessed centuries from now for what it says about early 21st century Scotland". And Pat Kane in the Scottish Review of Books said: "The Book of Scotlands is a considerate, deeply generous take on the life of this country and its possible futures."
The Book of Scotlands was one of sixteen titles shortlisted for the Scottish Arts Council's SMIT Book Awards 2010.
The Book of Jokes is Momus' first novel. Commissioned originally by french publisher La Volte, it was published first in English in September 2009, followed in October by the french edition Le Livre des Blagues, and later in Spanish as El Libro de las Bromas.
"Make no mistake," wrote Huw Nesbitt in The Quietus, "The Book of Jokes is not mere tatty pornography. Its target here is authority, not your own personal sense of decency. It is a piece of moral philosophising that takes aim at hypocrisy and fires at will with the deftness of Flann O'Brien's tongue and B.S. Johnson's imagination… After nearly three decades of languishing in relative obscurity, Momus - an artist once better known for aping Brel, Bowie and Gainsbourg - has come to the forefront and written not just one of the most entertaining books of the last twelve months, but two; the other being The Book of Scotlands."
"Most of the book's story lines orbit around taboos, including scatology, pedophilia, bestiality and talking, chess-playing penises," said the Los Angeles Times. "One of the book's central conflicts poses the question of whether two men can be each others' uncles, which can be answered only with some of the most lurid, labyrinthine incest in literature."
"The Book of Jokes is not a collection of punchlines or tension-building schemes," wrote Adam Novy in Dossier Journal, "it's a flexible and sensitive solution to the problem of how to invigorate conventions like the novel using overlooked materials. Momus is a slyly articulate stylist with a lovely flair for syntax and the lexical."
The 2008 album from Momus was Joemus.
Culturedeluxe called it "the best album from Momus in years, a brilliant, hallucinatory Nintendo arcade gloop of analogue pop and retro lounge as performed by two Space Invaders posing as human beings". "A great precis of where Momus's current musical fascinations lie", wrote Prefix magazine.
A collaboration with skweee-funking Scot Joe Howe, Joemus is available in the UK and Europe from Cherry Red and in the US from Darla. Other Momus releases are listed on this page. Six albums Momus released on the Creation label are available as free downloads from ubu.com.
Pretty much from its inception, Momus has used the web to communicate. From 1995 to 2003 the Momus website entertained visitors with frequently-updated content: monthly essays, daily photos, accounts of Momus albums, some portraits of Momus, collections of podcasts, a CV, audio clips and tour diaries. Then, from January 2004 until February 2010, a LiveJournal blog called Click Opera took over, adding Web 2.0 functionality and a lively comments section.
In February 2010, for a series of reasons outlined here and here and in this radio interview, Momus completed the Click Opera project and came back to iMomus.com, bringing a touch of blog influence back to the old Web 1.0 site in the form of a new yellow notebook column called Zuihitsu. This was replaced later in 2010 by the Tumblr blog Mrs Tsk, which is relayed here on the right.
Meanwhile, news and status tweets from Momusworld can be found at wolon, the Twitter feed of Momus' faithful personal digital assistant, Maria Wolonski.Contact: To invite Momus to lecture, perform or sing, drop him a line at email@example.com.
This column is an automatic relay of the Momus Tumblr page Mrs Tsk *. Running here before was a blog called Zuihitsu.