Sense of Distance (EP)

by Robert Leslie

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about

A rush as usual - here I am on the night before I leave for the tropics, radiator refuses to work so I've pulled two jumpers on, and for hours now I've been trying to get the masters for these bloody songs right. My overhead light's blown out and I'm out of candles so I'm probably destroying my eyes right about now.

It's been a very exasperating thing, working on this little compilation. It's just five songs, but Christ, the indecision! Let me tell you the story. Way back in March, after spending two months in Morocco writing a decidedly shoddy novel, I enthusiastically rubbed my hands and decided that with the book done I'd better toss off a new album or two. I had big ideas for this album. It would be, like, totally honest and heartfelt but with, you know, like, GRIT this time around - idea was it'd be some sort of sinister, disorienting Radiohead-style journey through a series of bad dreams I'd been having around that time, disjointed and digital-sounding. I'd been playing with synthesizers for quite a while and I figured I was about ready to show everyone my Warp Records influences and prematurely alienate my fans. So between April and May I rented an apartment in Madrid, spent about a month writing new material, and promptly decided to scrap nearly all of it. One song from that period has survived in acoustic form, it's called "Slip in Silence, Slink Away," the last track on this EP. In June I found myself back at the drawing board in Amsterdam. Then a number of things happened and music didn't seem like the most important thing for a while. I must've started writing the beginnings of "October Song" around that time, although it clearly wasn't called that, yet. July, August, travelling through Eastern Europe by firetruck with German friends, camping out by rivers and fields, small mistrustful villages with attractions ranging from goat skeletons to ice cream cones at thirty cents a scoop... the Slovakia rainbow gathering, Prague, and a creeping realisation that this music writing business was really getting neglected rather too much. I started writing a lot of songs in Prague. I had plenty of time because I was making too much money and too few friends. "Sailor Song" was written in Prague, as was most of "October Song," and a whole load of others that you might get to hear some day. Soon enough I found myself back in Amsterdam again, where I realised that most of what I'd written was already outdated. I figured I'd better just stick to the plan regardless and write new material as I went along. I spent three weeks doing two recordings of songs with the full production extravaganza - synthesizers, drum machines, all that. I spent so much time working on them that my ears went numb; before long I could no longer work out what exactly I'd made, whether it was any good or not. Who would've thought it could be so hard to be the next Thom Yorke? Inconceivable. I sent one of the songs to a few friends of mine and told them to please be honest. They certainly were. I decided I'd better scrap my electric ambitions and after a week or two of moping resigned myself to doing an acoustic album. I wrote about eight or nine more songs after that, of which only "So Far" and "And Then Came Another Day" survive. Believe me, the others were rubbish, you're not missing much.

Which brings us to this stunted little collection! Sad little orphan songs! I brought them closer together by recording them all in one afternoon, as per the "So Long!" tradition - it wasn't raining this time, sadly, but it was very cold. Well, and here I am now, sleep-deprived and somewhat jittery, wondering if my ears might still be playing tricks on me (YOU try fiddling with parametric EQs for four hours straight on three cups of coffee and no sleep!).

Well, all the same, ladies and gents, I present to you with great pride, my latest recording,

"Sense of Distance"!

credits

released November 20, 2012

Songs written, performed, and recorded by Robert Leslie. Album artwork by Robert Leslie. Robert Leslie by Robert Leslie's Mum and Dad, and the Dutch education system, and Robert Leslie's peerless peers, and the cultural heritage of humanity, and the gulf stream, etc.

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Track Name: October Song
The raincoat's in the basement
The wash is on the line
But still we're running replays
Of all the days we've left behind

I guess we've come full circle
I guess that it was time
To see you leave without me
And take off on a different line

And now you cry, now you grin
Now you're out and now you're in
And now you're on your own
Hanging out the window in the autumn cold
Tell me does it have to be like this,
have we really got that old?
Hell, I thought we were on a roll

The light comes in the window
The cups steam on the floor
It's just like in the movies
But afterwards there's always more

I want to tell you secrets
I want for you to know
The things I thought about you
Before we had to pack and go

And now you cry, now you grin
Now you're out and now you're in
And now you're on your own
Hanging out the window in the autumn cold
Tell me does it have to be like this,
have we really got that old?
Hell, I thought we were on a roll

I don't know what I'm saying
Or whom I'm talking to
'Cause if you ever hear this
It's bound to be a different you.

So I've been writing postcards
And picking up new songs
I'll spare you all the details
Suffice to say I get along

And now you cry, now you grin
Now you're out and now you're in
And now you're on your own
Hanging out the window in the autumn cold
Tell me does it have to be like this,
have we really got that old?
Hell, I thought we were on a roll
Track Name: Sailor Song
Curtains in the morning
Curtains in the breeze
Hours I've been watching them
So silent, such a tease

Shadows in the garden
Sparrows on the line
Forehead to the windowpane
You held me from behind

Then tearing out the pages
Hitching back out east
Raining on the concrete station
Singing in the grease

Holding all the answers
Holding all the time
I felt so certain of myself
The day we said goodbye

Shadows on the cornfields
Flickers in the shacks
I listen to the whale song blowing
From the railroad tracks

A snow globe in an earthquake
A ruin in the air
I can't forget a single thing
Each little thing is there

I think about the windowpane
I think about the breeze
I'm writing letters to myself
And sleeping 'neath the trees

No reason to be somewhere else
No reason to be here
No reason much for reasons
But then that was always clear

But I won't say the bigger words
For you I'll leave them out
'Cause I know you've got your matchstick bridge
To take into account
Not so hard to keep from speaking
When there's never time to breathe
When we live above the deep and love
Like sailors out on shore leave

I've gone back to the city
I'm counting down the days
Sometimes I wake up and think
The feeling's gone away

I've rented an apartment
I've built myself a fort
I thought I'd find another way
It's harder than I thought

If I could make you disappear
I'm not sure if I'd try
If this is how we're gonna live
I want to feel alive

So I'll keep on writing little notes
And I'll drop them in the sea
And if you won't let me in with you
I'll take you out with me

And you won't hear the bigger words
For you I'll leave them out
'Cause I know you've got your matchstick bridge
To take into account
Not so hard to keep from speaking
When there's never time to breathe
When we live above the deep and love
Like sailors out on shore leave
Track Name: So Far
So far
It hasn't got too late
I've gone it pretty straight
I've exercised my right
and left behind the open bar
On the whole I've been all right so far

So far
Been harmless as a laugh
No flaming aftermath
Left open all the shutters
Never swept away the shards
I've kept the scene from changing much so far

So burn this night
Never flounder, never fight
Bottled up a thousand stares
Settled on a thousand eyes
Burn the streets and burn the skies
Until you have no notion where
You've ended up so far

So far
Left open all my tabs
I took all kinds of stabs
I listen to the city sounds
The motorbikes and cars
I haven't gotten anywhere so far

So far
I've watched the sky collapse
I've watched the hours lapse
I've languished in the feathers
And I've lumbered through the tar
But nothing yet has stuck to me so far

So burn this night
Never flounder, never fight
Bottled up a thousand stares
Settled on a thousand eyes
Burn the streets and burn the skies
Until you have no notion where
You've ended up so far
Track Name: And Then Came Another Day
They tore apart the streets today
You edge along the cracks
Sand is falling off your shoes
It's time you headed back

You're losing all your sympathy
Your prosody of fleece
Come the black dog, see you barking
Fearful of the beast

You kissed her on her bike last night
You watched her wheel away
You talked about her lovers
And then came another day

Guess you had a thousand wishes
Guess you wished too much
Guess you kept them to yourself
And guess who's out of luck

But oh, what a moon we have now the clouds are gone
Leaning on the balustrade, waiting for the dawn
Oh, what a moon we have now the skies are clear
Making like a refugee, sleeping in the mirror

You led her through the gallery
You said you were all right
All your heroes there with you
Dressed in black and white

You walked her to the waterfront
You buttoned up her coat
And later when you'd said goodbye
You threw away the note

And oh, what a moon we have now the clouds are gone
Leaning on the balustrade, waiting for the dawn
Oh, what a moon we have now the skies are clear
Making like a refugee, sleeping in the mirror

You ask a lot of questions
But you're running out of time
Let it out or let it in
But don't expect a sign

Go running for the ocean, now
Go running for the hills
But don't you wait for time to tell
It isn't standing still

And oh, what a moon we have now the clouds are gone
Leaning on the balustrade, waiting for the dawn
Oh, what a moon we have now the skies are clear
Making like a refugee, sleeping in the mirror
Track Name: Slip in Silence, Sink Away
I ride a train too fast to sin
Feel it flimsy in my pocket
A necklace with a cross of tin
That homeless Rusty gave to me
Coat your lips with chocolate cream
Eyes are sinking in their sockets
Every morning the same old dream
And sunrise that I never see

I noticed your latest photograph
Hanging in your fenced-off thicket
In my dreams you tend to laugh
Always stealing, never sinned
Rusty asks you for a dime
But guess who's paying for his ticket
Sense of distance, sense of time
I lost them in the subway wind

Flags are smeared across your cheeks
Windows open till I shiver
Wish you'd drown inside your sheets
Slip in silence, sink away
Misty clouds are rushing by
Moon has shrunken to a sliver
Time to whisper, time to bide
Call it shovel, call it spade

Gasp for water, gasp for breath
Umbrellas one by one catch fire
Just a footstep short of death
You suck the moisture from my shoes
And so we make another tie
By cross of tin, by force of sigh
Rusty never thought things through
Oh, I wish I could escape from you.