J Spaceman and John Coxon Announce Instrumental For William Eggleston Film

Spiritualized’s J Spaceman and John Coxon announce Music for William Eggleston’s Stranded in Canton, an instrumental score of Eggleston’s 1970s art film, out October 18th via Fat Possum.

In 2015, Spaceman, Coxon, and friends performed a new original score live at a special film screening at the Barbican Gallery in London. The recording sat on a shelf for 10 years, and will finally be unveiled through this release. In addition, Spaceman and Coxon will perform the work in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Eggleston’s hometown of Memphis, on the invitation of the photographer’s son Winston Eggleston.

Stranded in Canton is a black-and-white film portrait of Memphis in 1974, shot in bars and on street corners, showing Eggleston’s friends carousing, playing music and firing pistols into the night sky. It is raw, greasy, Quaalude-y and hot. Jagged and intimate, the film is a handheld window into a different world; “Hogarth on Beale Street” as writer Richard Williams describes it in the album’s liner notes.

“With Memphis, I grew up with and I fell in love with that whole part of the world and the music that came from there,” explains Spaceman. “Memphis is infused with this magic, then this dreadful poverty as well. There’s a strangeness to it. It’s a place where I never felt comfortable. When I was making Ladies and Gentlemen, I went out and did some work with Jim Dickinson because, much as I wanted to have him help me with my record, I just wanted to go and meet the man. He was always a bit like Dr. John, a walking encyclopedia with knowledge of all the music of that area, all the blues musicians and all the stuff that doesn’t get written about. So, the Eggleston film is a spying hole into that world. Jim Dickinson even plays in the movie, Furry Lewis plays in the movie too, but there’s also an unhinged craziness. It feels dangerous.”

Restored and re-edited by Eggleston in collaboration with the author Robert Gordon, the 77-minute film was screened in 2015 as part of Doug Aitken’s Station to Station, a 30-day arts festival in London and Aitken recruited J Spaceman to provide a live score.

For the screening, Spaceman  brought along guitarists Coxon and Tony “Doggen” Foster, and drummer Rupert Clervaux, who has played both with Spiritualized and with Coxon’s project Spring Heel Jack. Using a pedal, Spaceman could control the volume of the film while cueing the band to play against certain sequences, usually those in which an indistinct ranting seemed to be going on. He and Coxon also prepared a set of instrumental pieces that could have been off-cuts from Exile on Main Street: a variety of after-hours drone-boogies using distorted arpeggios, scrubbed chords, and moaning slide figures.

This project wasn’t your typical live score to film. Spaceman elaborates, “There was a fashion at the time where people were putting on gigs with movies without the sound, for bands to jam over and I hate the idea of jamming. We wanted to do something that was more structured, songs that sat alongside the film but loose enough to allow for improvisation. It kind of worked straight away. And the spoken word parts of the film almost became like vocals to the music.”

The tones Spaceman and Coxon came up with mirror the ragged nature of the film perfectly. Riffs written under flickering light bulbs, hypnotic tremolo, boozy romances, some barroom boogie, the blues, and hoping the bottle won’t let you down tonight. The characters of Stranded in Canton dance around the music, living their best Memphis lives by any means necessary.

Stranded in Canton Tracklist

1. I was stranded in Canton

2. Last week I took a trip

3. It’s not gospel

4. What train blues

5. I don’t know what I can possibly do

6. Mother’s milk

7. Back Up William

8. Everybody in their life at one time or another

9. Love for the asking

10. Credits roll

J Spaceman & John Coxon Tour Dates

Wed. Nov. 20 – London, UK @ EartH

Wed. Dec. 4 – New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge

Sat. Dec. 7 – Memphis, TN @ Crosstown Theater (WYXR)

Mon. Dec. 9 – Los Angeles, CA @ Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Foreverxx