"Resuscitate Me!" by Katie Walters & Ace AmbroseReview
This review concerns something that manages simultaneously to be compassionate, passionate, challenging, exciting and accessible & above all a piece which demands (literally) our respect & above all our response.
Musician Ace Ambrose should I hope require little introduction to many readers of the magazine (you might like to check out "Jukebox Time Machine" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two'). Never one to slavishly embrace the mainstream (although her work should certainly appeal to it) if there are more interesting things to explore, Ace challenges listeners to up their games but always in the most positive way: this is an artist who exhorts rather than hectors. You get better results that way.
Working with Ace on this special project, namely "Resuscitate Me!" is poet Katie Walters: "an autistic and chronically ill performance poet with a soul full of stories that can't be contained."
Commissioned by Homotopia Arts LGBTQ Festival in Liverpool to create this piece, the duo confront the stark current issue that "when healthcare services are under extreme pressure, tough decisions are made about who is worth treating in ICU. Disabled people are more likely than nondisabled people to be considered low priority for care". Looking at the COVID-19 crisis through the eyes of queer disabled people, they reflect on the idea that if they catch the virus, there is too high a possibility that they might be denied access to scarce ventilators & left to die.
They consider how the crisis has exposed an attitude to disabled people which has always been under the surface of capitalist society and where certain groups are not considered as worthy of being cared for as others.
In their specific & precise project mission statement:
"We felt regarding the current crisis, it was important to spotlight the perspective of a community with an outspoken opinion about the realities of being queer and disabled during a pandemic. There's a real justified fear of being abandoned by the government and neglected, left to fill out DNRs. This piece is an act of rebellion declaring our existence and right to live."
So the ethos & purpose of the song is crystal clear: how does it sound? Well it is a very substantial piece (nearly eleven minutes in length) and the focus is very much on Katie's words (check out the video where you can read them as you hear them: this seems to me to increase their impact) to a subtle & respectful backing by Ace which complements and enhances them without ever distracting from them and builds steadily to match the growing intensity of emotions. They use the descriptors "queercrip" and "cripplepunk" to describe their ethos: neither of them is familiar to me, though I can see what they mean in hindsight, the "punk" angle of the music being definitely the spirit & rawness of emotion rather than any tired "two & a half chord" thrashing.
The poetry is uncompromising: I am pretty sure that Ace doesn't know the meaning of compromise and in Katie she has found a kindred spirit. As one who is not a member of the community whose life is described I found it both moving & eye opening: precisely what I'm sure the creators of "Resuscitate Me!" intended: there really is no point in preaching to the converted when so much is at stake. Travelling from the delineation of the regular daily challenges & experiences of life with a disability to the obscenity of the precise subject of the piece, the senses of fear, frustration & anger palpably grown lyrically & sonically, yet the frustrations never result in loss of articulacy & we never lose sight of the human scale of personal vulnerability.
You can learn from this: you can be moved by this, as I was, but ultimately the question is "what are you going to do about it"? "Resuscitate Me!" goes beyond pop music aesthetics into life & death reality and listening is insufficient a response.
You can access "Resuscitate Me!" on Spotify and the lyric video is at: