SB takes the 433 New Brighton-Liverpool bus every day for four years through one of the Mersey Tunnels. With no bridges
between these two built up areas, a tunnel is the most direct way across the river, which is precisely the way the Admiralty wanted
In the studio in the early 1990’s, Frank Zappa covers John Cage’s landmark length of silence 4’33". Someone that SB knows claims not to like Zappa’s version and William Fetterman goes as far as to doubt its “authenticity”. That’s when it all starts to get complicated, which is exactly what Cage wanted.
Radio signals are limited under the river and the constant roar of the 433 makes easy listening difficult. iPods are turned up high and Metro sentences are read and re-read. The Tunnel is just a means of getting from A to B, which is what most users need.
Some mobile phone networks powerfully break through, enabling their customers to carry on regardless. For SB, this lessens the experience of the Tunnel. It may not be Journey To The Centre Of The Earth nor 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but it’s certainly not travelling on terra firma either.
The late 1980’s Siberian expedition drills deep into the earth’s crust and carefully lowers a heat-resistant microphone, hoping to detect subtle plate movements. The subsequent recording is the much-distributed and debated audio file ‘sounds of hell’.
SB times the journey through the Kingsway Tunnel each day, averaging it out at 2’33", and dreams up a collection of new tracks of that exact length to be listened to while travelling through the Tunnel at 40mph. He produces 433 CDs that are given away free of charge at the Tunnel toll booths in early 2008.
The artists, musicians and writers drawn together here consider the 2'33" spent travelling throught the Kingsway Tunnel, the trapped voices and out of body experiences. Yes, engineering and, yes, commonplace, but also a taming of the land, a reflection of shifting industrial and residential patterns between Liverpool and Wirral and a means of getting from one borough to the next without using the F word.
We begin the chase with the Repo-Man esque Tazzle, from It's Murder Beams, negotiated via MySpace, a 40mph chase that will end with Pete Wylie and Jeff Young's krautrock funfair twizzle fading us out into the daylight again, out into a different Merseyside, which is what SB wanted.
We'd sink beneath the river and hold our breath, starblind, home of death
Stan Kelly's I wish I was back in Liverpool mentions the Kingsway (known as the Wallasey Tunnel), a song here reworked into 2'33" by McGowan and Draper, with tape distortion by Monaghan. SB notes that his version of The Stranglers' London Lady also mentions the Mersey Tunnel and, curiously, clocks in at 2'33".
SB invited the artist Wibke Hott to form an impromptu choir with tunnel administrative and engineering staff. The track more than just a tunnel, written from scratch and recorded in around two hours, may yet become the Tunnels' Ferry 'Cross The Mersey (the F word).
Humans in space and time.
James Chinneck takes an adult voice saying are we nearly there yet? and stretches it to 2'33" and elsewhere records a harrowing claustrophic victim trapped in some of the thin metal air vents that run the length of the road surface.
Some seven years earlier, Caroline Kraabel and Phil Hargreaves had explored numerous architectural environments across Liverpool, reaching the Kingsway Tunnel unaware of how much it itself would add to the recording. See the Where We Were website for further details.
Early recordings for this CD, made in an empty tunnel, had to be scrapped due to the overly loud background noises, tiny sounds that had travelled the lenght of the tunnel up and around the curved ceiling like Bond in a pipeline.
SB recalls a story of the Tunnel once being closed to enable the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to perform a free concert. Such was the interest that the crowds gew beyond safety limits. Cultural claustrophobia. Escape. Escape the city.
Mark Pilkington similarly filmed and recorded in the Queensway, (excerpts here), reworking the audio exclusively into a 2'33" version for this compilation and together with Patrica McDonald and Chad Eby, Mark forms a trilogy of shoal-like underwater collages, darting and nipping off in subtle and dynamic directions. SB reminds himself, these are to be listened to in the TUnnel. Headphone works, specific to the Wirral-Liverpool join.
Motorbikes travel free. The pseudonym'd artist Ocean Viva Silver speeds by SB and the rest, on the back of her boyfriend's vespa, a minichanneltunnel to launch this year of ..........
The 433 bus is held up in traffic. SB gazes out of the window and recalls a video he once saw, a young man standing on the Wirral promenade, on top of the speakers' stone, holding his young baby in one hand and a microphone in the other, uttering a remarkable ode to perspective - not spatial perspective with Liverpool's all too familiar landmarks in the background, but more knowing whether something is in perpective or not. Which, as SB thought, is more than half the battle. Two worlds colliding.
The vocal section in the fade out to Inspiral Carpets' Two Worlds Collide is ambiguous - it might say "that's amazing in my mind" but it might also say "guess that makes me a bad man" or then again "been so lazy in my life". All a matter of planting thoughts and letting the mind do the work.
Claire Potter's character is lying prone on a wooden floor, the feeling of comfort or dread of being much nearer the surface of your prison ceiling.
In the older of the two tunnels, buses would have to drive right down the centre as they were too tall to drive along the shallower part of the
The piano in the background seeps through. Water does seep into the Kingsway we are told but - safely - from the bottom up. Not what you'd expect, adds SB.
The Kingsway Tunnel, when empty, is remarkably warm and humid, a Botanical Garden. SB notices two men in hi-vis jackets walking through the tunnel, releasing jets of disconcerting water from the hydrants set every 200 yards along. Cleaning the interior causes huge bursts of damp steam. Stallone in day break - which one of this group would be the hero? Can you really explode yourself up to the surface through all that mud?
A.P.a.t.T. are on the same bus as SB.
Sex Education know their stuff. And we enter the electronic section of the tunnel, the hi-tech vision from Roger Cliffe-Thompson's Giganticus.
allows member only access
vehicle speed controlled by infra red
a no hands experience
as cars wash n’wax on the move
walls 3 miles of tv advertising
with breaks for Under Mersey views
with haute cuisine
and couture shops
While its use by Talk Sport to precede traffic news is deplorably obvious, Kraftwerk's Autobahn is, none the less, the bench mark for driving music. Released a couple of years after the Kingsway tunnel was opened, its legacy lives on in Sex Education's literally driving piece and the last 2'33" of It's Murder Beams' call me animal. Werner and Gintas shift it up a gear as our cities strangle themselves with cranes and the various regenerates seek salvation in the under-Metropolis.
u n c l e j i m present the reverby caption, an instrumental for the non-peak bus journeys; lanes to yourself, long stretches ahead, a kind of sub-Route 66, cruising with artificial light and a couple of minutes to be neither on the Wirral (working or living or shopping) nor in Liverpool (ibid).
SB notes the sign at the Kingsway entrance declaring it 2260m long. What was the furthest Evel Knievel jumped?
Chris Watson's underwater recordings remind us where we are. He works with a natural world untampered by grown-ups and with the Mersey before they started to burrow down into it, a time also reflected in Roger Cliffe-Thompson's mythical tales of the sub-Mersey, scarred sand banks and two worlds colliding.
In our land before recorded time
when tsunami tides battered unprotected shores
a lowly worm
we would term
Riftia pachyptila giganticus
on the Mersey floor.
SB first noticed taxi drivers switching radio stations when entering the tunnels, seeking local stations with greater signals. Becky Shaw's full length interview with the Liverpool Marine Radio and Electronics Society is included on the 'Bonus Tracks' section of this website and is recommended for a broader understanding of some of the other signalling and communication occuring in and around the Mersey.
dah, de de da-da
SB reads King George's immortal lines from the opening of the Queensway Tunnel - it is a deep pleasure for us, to come here today, to open for the use of men, a thoroughfare so great and so strange as this Mersey Tunnel, now made ready, by your labour.
In 2006 Pavel Büchler released a 334 edition 7" single consisting of 3'34" of silence gleamed from the lead-in/out grooves and transitions between tracks of ten John Cage records in his collection. Cruising alongside this near silence is Matt Wand with his collection of Ferrante & Teicher recordings. KEEP IN LANE - KEEP IN LANE echo the regular signs along the Tunnel; no overtaking, drive at the same speed alongside each other.
It started with the 433 bus and those daily chunks of 2'33" under the ground. It started with those two worlds.
Wylie and Young take a 2'33" track and add a fade out, sense of deja vu, fading us out into the daylight again, out into a different Merseyside, which is what SB wanted.
Upon leaving the Wirral side of the Kingsway, you're met by the Soviet Bloc style toll booths.
First major cultural landmark you encounter upon exiting the Liverpool side is a 40x10ft billboard mounted on the white wall of Crosshall Engineering's building.
It was on this billboard on 21 November 2005 that Bill Drummond launched his NO MUSIC DAY campaign, asking us to take one day out from adding a soundtrack to our lives.