This is an excerpt from a writer who is sometimes described as cyberpunk but really has a more pschedelic and experimental flavour. For more Noon resources try Fuchsia`s Noon Page.
Jeff Noon - Needle in the Groove
First 5 chapters
the nightclub/a stonecold zombie with a look of shock on its face, the kind that happens when nocturnals get caught in the daylight/check that feeling/something about turned-off neon always does it for me, turns on the sadness, gets me thinking about where all the shine goes to/like it should've been raining, like it should've always been raining
what the hell
just this guy, you know, standing alone on ian curtis boulevard/sunday morning frozen, just gone nine/and even the moon has been left behind by the night, so careless, looking like a stain of bleach/like a close-up photo of how my head is feeling/oh please, I could do with some doghair right now/something wet to get the heart in tune, to keep my finger from shaking on the door buzzer/until this low-pitch squawk gets back to me
-Who is it?
-I'm here to see donna
-who is it?
-it's elliot, look...
-who is it?
oh shit, the door's got nasty bouncer attitude/I only met this donna last night and I'm pretty sure she never mentioned a password
-who is it?
-shut the fuck up will yer, I'm thinking
-who is it?
I press my lips closer to the grille
-the bass player
the door slides open, smooth as yer like/and I have maybe five seconds to get myself and the big case through before it closes again/closes like a bad-breath mouth around me/some kinda foyer, shuttered cloakroom to the left, ticket booth to the right/suddenly warm, like the building has a pulsebeat/and no one around so I walk ahead, through into blank space
club zuum/the dancefloor, shining away into the distance/ heat-shivering
and dirty/with my shoes sticking to the spillage so much, feels like I can carry on walking, right up the walls, make out like a fly for the day/around the circle of the floor, where a couple of old ladies are cleaning up the plastic glasses, the cans, the swill, the vomit, the debris/I give the bomb squad a wave, and they look up and smile, and wave back, like a mirage/the club has that glazed ozone feel/molecules of evaporated sweat and perfume/the thousand-and-one come-ons still lingering, sticky ghosts of young desperate sex
-where's the studio? I shout over
the women point me towards some steps/down/where a lone stiletto lies discarded, as though cinderella has turned sluttish/a regular trash palace/ along a corridor now/deserted/past offices all empty of life/maybe I got the wrong day or something
holy shit/what am I doing here? somebody tell me
just tracking down the traces/the sizzle and the traces of a stranger's smile when this big, old domestic cat saunters out of one of the offices/a mangy, battle-scarred affair, all black and tattered fur/the flea magnet looks at me, like I'm a fool to even be here/and then waddles off down the corridor, flicking its tail like it owns the world
well what the hell/I follow/into another doorway
some fat guy, standing near a kitchen counter, eating a breakfast burger
-what the fuck do you want?
-downstairs! down the fuckin' stairs!
hey, nice people/I walk back into the corridor, thinking it's maybe time to leave/no, really/when I see the cat again, sitting on its backside right next to a door/a wooden door this one, looks like a broom cupboard/open it/and there you go, more stairs, leading further downwards/into darkness/I look around for a light switch, find one/but it doesn't work/of course it doesn't
this is getting stupid
the old cat's looking at me/one eye is glued together with a clog of scum/the other's giving me this real voodoo manic stare
ok, cat/let's get to it
holding the case behind me, I follow the creature downwards/feeling for each step in turn/musty, cloying air/the damp on the walls meets the sweat on my skin/the drink being squeezed out of me/and down, and further down
some other kind of door at the bottom/no answer to my knocking/louder now, and still nothing/and then swing the door open, letting the cat nip through my legs/I follow it through, into a recording suite/empty/a glass partition shows a room beyond/darkness/near darkness/people/another door leads to them/I push it open
just standing there, holding the bass/ looking through
heavy on the download
oh yeah, I play the bass/the bass plays me/the four-stringed, thick-bellied electrified monster, you know, the one that eats all other noises alive
and I've gone walking down these four strings most every hour of every day, of every year and every busted heartbeat, just trying to get along to where the last riff kisses the dark/the subsonic groove, we call it
dub culture/midnight's vibration/something to reach for
some throat, some bottom, some neck and some deep clutch of riverpulse/gets you hot just strapping yourself into the thing/and the more you play, the hotter it gets, the slicker the slide/and all for nothing much because none of the songs you discover, ever come anywhere near to what you hear in your dreams
and I guess all that follows is about me taking a chance on the journey of the bass/and finally getting to reach the end of it/the end of the last tune, and what I find down there, in the grooves of the soul/and how come the music is always that one step beyond all the love you play it with/and how the bass ain't got four strings at all
just when you think you're getting the grip of it
how it's got these other strings, invisible like/below the low, and deepcore/you gotta dive down underload to get a finger on them/and watch yourself doing it, watch yourself
those strings can pull you under, believe me
ah shit/believe me please
a room of smoke/with tiny lights glistening, red and green/instrument control patterns/figures in the gloom
somebody speaks/turns on a lamp/the scene gets focused
three of them/two women, one man, seems like/and there I am, all eyes upon me
-you made it then?
it's the voice/the smile/the one I've been following since last night/donna, that's all I know/just this girl who came up to me after the gig, said she liked what I was doing with the beat and that she had a thing of her own going on, and maybe I could put some flavour to it
-just about, I answer
and who wouldn't/who wouldn't follow/round about nineteen, twenty at the most/check the style/the twisted nest of the hair-do/the tight, capped tee-shirt/the tattoo on her arm, a playing card/and the dark dazzle of the skin/oh yeah, she's black/kinda black/ with the deep pool of the eyes/the big bold mouth, smeared with purple/all things about her filled to the brim/and so easy with the smile, it was there even when it wasn't/but now it was, most definitely/and it's aimed right at me
-what yer looking at? she asks
-who the fuck's this? says the other woman
-tommy, isn't it? asks donna
ah shit, this girl is doing me down
come on then, elliot/don't be shy
-yeah, fuck you as well
and then step right into it/the studio, cramped to the walls with stuff/amps and mics and recording equipment/one entire wall, floor to ceiling, is vinyl records/the whole shebang wreathed in smoke/no outlet/ok, I've had a few thousand spliffs here and there, all down the line/but this is serious fog stew/gets me dizzy, just by breathing
now the woman who's invited me, this donna, she's leaning against an amp, smoking one of these rollmop constructions/smiles through the hit, and I smile right back when she holds out the joint to me
-what? she says/you don't want any?
-not right now
-what's wrong with yer?
-tell yer what/I wouldn't mind a drink
now that gets her funny somehow/gets her looking around at the other two, with a feeling I can't catch a hold of
-got this, she says handing me a bottle of juice, like orange juice
-a drink I'm after
-it's sunday morning, she says
-yeah/and you're at the dope already
-fuck me, says the other woman/we got one here
-that you have/and what of it?
donna does the intros
the second woman, the one who just spoke up/introduced as the dj, given the name jody/she's sitting lonely behind a turntable deck, examining the grooves of a twelve-inch single/I get to see her frown one more time, that's it/except/oh but the way she's running her fingers over the vinyl surface, as though tracing/searching/buried treasure
now the guy/he's lying on a small couchbed affair, holding a pair of drumsticks/just tapping out some off-planet rhythm of his own/like, erm, the drummer I guess
donna nods towards him
-and this is 2spot, she says
2spot/well there yer go/neat black shirt, buttoned high to the neck/pale skin, drawn along the cheeks/high, dense sweep of blond hair greased back into a flattop quiff/sideburns sharpened, right down the groove of the bones/toughnut style, but something a little bit fluffed about him, you know/a touch of the flowers/too sweet a smell, and a softness around him/like never a day's work has been done/and maybe I've seen him around, maybe playing the drums somewhere, I don't know/whatever, something coded passes/just in the brief nod he gives me/just that
and then donna points out the cat, curled atop an amplifier
-and this is gallagher, she says
-noel, or liam?
-paul, she says/and that's the whole crew
meanwhile, the smoke's really getting at me, bringing back stuff I don't really need/so I take a swig of the juice offered/just to cool the throat of memories/and then donna says
yeah, what do you think of that, as a name?
-well I can see the glamour
looking at mad jody as I say this/and then at donna
-and I can see the damage
the singer smiles deeply at the drummer/and then turns to jody
-there you go/he loves it/told you so/I told you it was a good name
now this jody woman, she looks up at me, right at me/not a trace of expression
-you're late, she says/supposed to be here at nine
-it's what? I reply/twenty past?
-how would it be, if you turned up twenty minutes late/for a gig/how would that be?
-I got lost
-how would it be if you got lost?
fuckin' passwords and all that
-you get lost, on the way to a gig? would that be good?
-that wouldn't happen/fuckin' hell/what's wrong with yer?
-Yeah, come on jody, says donna/give him a chance
-you can fuck off as well
-oh, says jody/the guy's got problems
-I'm getting pissed off, that's all
so this jody stands up then/and for the first time I realise just what a specimen she is/a touch older than the other two, almost my age/but weird with it/I mean, there's weird and weird, right/but jody was off the edge of normal and right along some/nothing to do with how she dressed, because that was scruff central, with a touch of couldn't-give-a-monkey's-tutu hippie shit/but her face, her whole manner, every last vein spoke of jitter, of flex, of what the fuck/body pinched shut, and so thin, the skin stretched taut over wire/black hair scraped to fit the skull, knife-edge whisper/and two of the coldest eyes that ever did view the world, I swear/they were eyes detuned, right through zero, and into the minus
reminds me of a bathroom mirror I once knew, the one I had to veil/turn to the wall/the peeling silver skin on the back of it/and that too, eventually, I could not dare approach
-you been here before? she asks
-what, down here?
-the zuum club?
-you don't like dance music?
-dance music, that's what you do?
-the next step, you know what I'm saying?
-fine/the next step/whatever
-how old are you?
-twenty-four, and you don't like dance music?
-ah, been off the scene a little/you know, out of it
-oh yeah, how far?
-how fuckin' far have you been out?
-look/maybe I should go/eh?
-you backing out? says donna
-just wanna know what the score is, that's all/I mean, you want a bass player/I am a bass player/I play the fuckin' bass
-five or six bands, he's in, says donna/right this moment
-five, six or seven bands, by the way
-nothing serious though, says donna/pub bands
-ooh, he's played in bands before, says jody, with a darkside sneer/now us, you see, we ain't played in any bands but this/this is a pure band
-no bands but this? how many gigs?
-together how long?
-together three months
-oh fuck me, a buncha babies/this really isn't what I'm after, my friends
-just listen to us, says donna/that's all we want
I mean, tell me please, what would you do/come on, just to get the thing over and done and outa there/get myself some air, some proper juice inside me/some lube/some breakfast at the very least/so I give the nod, and
-right, says jody/scorched out for love/let's do it
the drummer gets up from the lounger/this is a guy who hasn't said one word to me/not one single word the whole time, not even to the other two/he gets up and just kinda slides into position behind the drumkit, sticks at the ready
well then, here we are/down to the wire - crack it open, says jody
and the drummer hits the skin/down hard
scorched out for love, original mix
down hard/creeping patterns/snares and rimshots, like a fall of rain/the held crackle of a cymbal/bass drum coming on the third beat/caught in a loop/rhythm dancer/drums, and nothing but, until donna dares to sing this downtime lament
waiting for the world to learn
the contours of your skin
I wonder what colours you'll turn
when the world burns
I was expecting some impassioned outburst/but her voice has a calmness to it/degrees of control, almost on the edge of becoming something else/she sounds lost, uncaring/stretching out the words/bruised with hidden knowledge
drums and voice/a flat chant
jody comes in on the second verse/working a shimmer from the turntables/fingers dragging plastic, holding it/releasing/holding/releasing/building a noise/a caress of stolen notes surrounding the song, tightly bound/by the end of the verse she's managed to twist the feel entirely/making it tremble, succumb
and then explode/she must've hit a switch somewhere/turned on some pre-recorded kaleidoscope/this sudden howl from stretched strings/vinyl pops and screeches/machines crying and scratching fire, right up the nerve scale/until the sheer blade of it gets stuck tight in the darkness, shoots right back at me/into the chorus, with donna allowing a slice of emotion to cut through
that's the way of the world my friend
when a world comes to an end
we throw it all away
to start again
and down/ further down
not slow, but like poison to the beat/jody juggles another disc onto the decks/incisions of bootleg guitar, choked off/real familiar, scraped from the grooves like magic/it's the deep-down motherlode, it really is/a ton of work to be done, for sure/but donna's singing, all that slow tragic honey dripping out, word by word, dropped between the beats/and the dj's crazy tactics on the samples and scratches/I mean, if this is three months' work, I'm amazed
but mostly, oh most of all, the drumming/ this 2spot guy can play/you hear him now, splicing the third verse open with scattershot blasts/and down/down flat funky/holding/holding/making some splinter, making some blow
deep jesus in the groove/have I been waiting for this/like all my life, seems that way/through all the cul-de-sac affairs, the dead-end gigs/the slimeball singers and the junkyard songs/the lousy-arse contracts/all the drugs and the booze and the subhuman blues/all the thrash-happy merchants of the traps and the kit/all that shit/at last, at last/some proper goddamn loving on the skins at last, for me to drop the bass injection
listen to it/off-kilter cuts from the shine of a cymbal/alive with sparks/and a criminal tension that jody's scratching caught, and threw back/down in the cellar, on the other side of town, just this tripwire of sound/twisted space/and all the flavours of noise/gliding away
and throughout the whole song/that stupid cat/gallagher his name/that scruffball just slept on/top of the amp, like soaking up the music, every last ounce
one last funky fuck flow-down falling and gone
crackle of silence
Copyright © 2000 by Jeff Noon. Excerpted by permission of Transworld Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.