This Iggy Pop article was written by Daniel Luscombe. Edited by Adam Skirving.
Fusing together the instrumental music of German electronic artist Alva Noto and indie duo Tarwater with American singer Iggy Pop reading Walt Whitman poems reads as one of the more ‘out-there’ collaborations this side of Lou Reed and Metallica, but ‘Leaves of Grass’ remains a surprisingly accessible EP.
In a way, this is like Iggy Pop’s homecoming record. He’s no stranger to Berlin’s culture and creative output, having resided there with David Bowie in the 70’s. It is where Alva Noto and Tarwater are both based. The 21st-century industrial Berlin-tinged sounds are touched with the voice of the former hellraiser turned wiley raconteur, whose spoken voice seems perfectly made for the kind of storytelling one would expect when sitting around the campfire.
The music wouldn’t sound out of place on an episode of Breaking Bad (which conveniently is lathered with Walt Whitman references) and Pop’s chewy voice makes him sound as though he’s trudging through the wilderness or contemplating life and loneliness on a tourbus during a miserable European winter.
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The words of American poet Walt Whitman deal with love, sex, age, death and resurrection. ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ features minimal percussion and spacious textures and lyrics like “I dare not withdraw till I deposit what is so long accumulated within me” are read with typical Iggy Pop lust.
‘To The Garden The World’ fuses rhythmic pulses with haunting drones and the title track sounds like you’re in the desert, complete with bendy strings (that Breaking Bad setting comes to mind again) with lines like “such verses from my body which is right, for we are one” as though some kind of inner peace has been made with a past, destructive life.
The music of Noto and Tarwater crafts away in the background, without attempting to steal the limelight, and you’re drawn into its elements and even colours as it gracefully swirls around the lyrics.
The EP comes to an abrupt end with the poets name being the final words uttered. While the words on the whole of ‘Leaves of Grass’ are not Iggy Pop’s, he articulates them so convincingly, with the potential to leave the listener feeling as though they’ve been let in on a load of secrets which leave you feeling strangely satisfied.
‘Leaves of Grass’ is out now on vinyl only, via Morr Music