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Monday, 27 June 2022

Monday's Long Song

Out last year but new to me (via David Holmes playing it on the June edition of God's Waiting Room at NTS) is this vinyl only four track EP by Berlin's Alex Kassian. The long songs for today are both on the B-side, the sumptuous Spirit Of Eden. Long and lightheaded electronic joy, dub teetering into jazz/ deep house, beautiful melodies and floating production, Spirit Of Eden is the sort of thing that for the duration it spins, totally transports you somewhere else- and that's exactly what we want music to do sometimes isn't it?

The 12" follows Spirit Of Eden with a Bill Laswell dub which at eight and a half minutes is slightly longer and taken at a slower tempo with a lovely flute part that comes and goes as the refrain from the original drifts in and out. 

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Half An Hour Of Spacemen 3

Pontins at Prestatyn, North Wales, has hosted all sorts of weekenders over the years from soul weekenders in the 80s to Northern Soul and Motown revival nights to an 80s weekender taking place there this very weekend, featuring in no particular order Chesney Hawkes, Black Lace, Aswad and Sonia (poor Aswad, how did they get mixed up in that?). To the best of my knowledge Spacemen 3 never played Pontins in Prestatyn but they did play a health spa in not too distant Chester in the late 80s with spectacular results (an event described in bassist Will Carruthers' book, Playing Bass With Three Left Hands), an evening where a group more familiar with opiates were introduced to ecstasy for the first time and played one of their best gigs. 

This Sunday half hour mix takes in Spacemen 3's dreamier, spacier, more ecstatic songs, less of the supercharged Stooges influenced sound and more of the 'lie back and think of Rugby' grooves, selected from their three albums- 1987's The Perfect Prescription, 1989's Playing With Fire and the final album 1991's Recurring (released after they'd split with Sonic Boom and J Spaceman unable to work together in the studio and taking a side of the album each), plus a lovely recent re- edit by Jesse Fahnestock's 10:40.  

Half An Hour Minutes Of Spacemen 3

  • Ecstasy Symphony/ Transparent Radiation
  • Just To See You Smile
  • How Does It Feel? (10:40's Terrace Moonshine Dub)
  • Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here)
  • Ode To Street Hassle
  • I Love You

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Saturday Theme Sixteen

Today's Saturday theme is one of the great Theme records, a song which turned spring 1988 upside down- a joyous, ecstatic, sampledelic splash of neon colours, smiley face, acid house crossover mayhem. A song guaranteed to fill a dancefloor, at any occasion, still. Theme From S'Express is one of the best records of the 80s and if I was forced to put together a list of my favourite fifty singles (or something similar) it would undoubtedly feature highly. 

Theme From S'Express

Mark Moore and Pascal Gabriel constructed the track largely out of samples. Moore was a DJ, Gabriel a producer (who had recently co- written Bomb The Bass' hit Beat Dis, another sample- heavy smash in both the clubs and the charts). Moore turned up with a bag of records, they sequenced the parts they wanted onto cassette and turned everything up to ten. 

A few years ago at his A History Of Dubious Taste blog Jez pulled together the songs that provided Mark Moore with his source material which is where I got most of the mp3s I've used for what follows. I've attempted to sequenced the songs that S'Express sampled for Theme From S'Express into one continuous mix- it was a bit of a challenge, getting the sequence and the segues somewhere near right. It starts and finishes with some spoken word science fiction, goes all disco and New York, borrows from acts as diverse as Sam The Sham and Gil Scott Heron, some early 80s synthpop and the genuinely jaw dropping, X rated Tales Of Taboo by Karen Finley, a song that once heard is never forgotten. 

Theme From S'Express Samples Mix

  • Laura Olsher: The Martian Monsters
  • Rose Royce: Is It Love You're After?
  • Peech Boys: Don't Make Me Wait
  • TZ: I Got The Hots For You
  • Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson: The Bottle
  • Crystal Glass: Crystal World
  • Alfredo de la Fe: Hot To Trot
  • Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs: Oh, That's Bad, No That's Good
  • Debbie Harry: Feel The Spin
  • Karen Finley: Tales Of Taboo
  • Stacey Q: Two Of Hearts
  • Yazoo: Situation
  • Gene Roddenbury: The Star Trek Dream

Friday, 24 June 2022

This Is Something

At the tail end of last year Sean Johnston released a cover of Willow's Song, the haunting, freaked out folk song from The Wicker Man, recording as The Suummerisle Trio. It came out as a 7" on Golden Lion Sounds, vinyl only but you can listen to it here. The Trio were/ are Sean, Duncan Grey and singer Sarah Rebecca. 

Sean's now expanded the trio to a six piece, pulling in Andy Bell on guitar, Jo Bartlett on vocals (from It's Jo And Danny), Kevin Sharkey (ex- Undertones and That Petrol Emotion) and Mick Somerset Ward on sax (Clock DVA, Crooked Man). On top of that line up he's got Rico Conning in on remix duties (ex- Torch Song, the early 80s electro- ambient outfit he started with William Orbit). The resulting song is a shift on again, into late 80s/ early 90s territory with a pulsing sequencer line, a thumping, propulsive groove, spacey sound and Jo's vocal soaring on top and the sax skronking away inside the mix, a sort of indie- dance/ disco/ acid house synthesis. The full extended mix is eight minutes, an end of the night anthem. The dub mix is a beauty too. Rico's remix ten minutes of Balearic splendour. It came out on 12" a couple of months ago and is now available digitally on Sean's new label Outre- Mer- you can listen and buy here

Thursday, 23 June 2022

There Goes The Cure

I started bereavement counselling in April, a session a week for eight weeks. It came to an end yesterday with my final session. I didn’t go into counselling expecting that it could in some way ‘fix’ me- there’s no cure for bereavement, grief and loss. Isaac’s death will always be there and that’s that in a way, what we have to do is learn to live with it and try to find a way to rebuild our lives without him. Bereavement counselling also isn’t the type of counselling where there is a flash of light as everything shifts, or falls into place or suddenly a new path becomes clear- at least that’s my experience. It has been a weekly opportunity for an hour to talk about ‘it’- Isaac, grief and loss, life going on and all the other stuff that starts to bleed in- with someone who is trained to listen and to prompt and question (at times). It’s been useful as somewhere to drop all my emotional stuff once a week. I think I’ll miss it now it’s gone but am probably better equipped to manage without it. It has helped me untangle some of the thoughts, find my way through them- and my counsellor has been really good at helping me do that. 

Our bereavement counselling has been provided by MacMillan. Their counselling (staffed by volunteers mainly) is available for any adults who have suffered a bereavement, it doesn’t have to be cancer related. I don’t think this is widely known. The occupational health team connected to my workplace didn’t know this. This also confirms to me the state of affairs at the moment. My referral for counselling to our local health care trust brought me to an assessment quite quickly but I was then advised that an appointment for counselling through the NHS could take ‘up to three months’- they don’t have the staff or the budget to see anyone quicker than that unless they are suicidal. Charities like MacMillan step in to the gap of an underfunded and under resourced NHS.

One of the most unpleasant side effects of grief, particularly present back in the period from January through to April, was a series of flashbacks I suffered. When Isaac died the three of us were with him. The consultant who had seen many people die from Covid told us what would happen and it was largely as he described. In Isaac’s last hour we were sitting on his hospital bed with him. I was sitting facing him, holding his hands and looking at him. When the moment came I was right in front of him and with him, looking at him. For some time afterwards, I would unexpectedly get flashbacks to the moment he died. They started happening on Tuesdays- Tuesday was the day he died- and would often come when I was driving. For an instant I was back in the room, holding his hands and looking at his face. I would smell the room and feel the pain. They would pass fairly quickly but for the moment the flashback was present, it was deeply unsettling and very unpleasant. I started to dread Tuesday mornings. Once it got past 12.45pm (the time he died) I would be ok, it would pass, but then I’d be waiting for the next Tuesday. When I started counselling in April I described all of this in one of my early sessions (the woman I spoke to from occupational health at around that time said the flashbacks were 'rather concerning' and commonly associated with PTSD). A few weeks ago, on an evening in early May as I pulled onto the motorway to drive to Tuesday night 5- a- side, I had a horrific flashback, the full on ‘back in the room’ experience. It left me short of breath, completely overwhelming me, knocking the wind out of me. Luckily the motorway was quiet and it passed quickly, I focussed on the road and sort of pushed it away. When I pulled in at the car park I got my phone out and wrote it down as a note, just described what had happened. I talked about it at counselling two days later and last week we went back to it and discussed strategies for dealing with it. We talked about it again yesterday and the realisation I haven't had one now for some time and about how I'd deal with one if I did. I haven’t had one since that one in May. Maybe the counselling, the talking, the passing of time and the acceptance has helped. 

I don’t mind some of the aspects of grief. That sounds weird I know. As time goes on and the raw, physical pain lessens, redcues as a permanent feature of living, as a day to day emotional state There are times and triggers when the crashing waves of grief and loss still come. Visiting Isaac’s grave does it. When we go, the sheer enormity of what has happened, of him dying, hits me anew (not every time but most). There are little things that trigger it: a photo popping up in my social media memories; the memory of somewhere we went or something we did; an encounter with someone who we haven’t seen since he died or who didn’t know; a memory of him randomly crossing my mind. When it comes I let it happen, I don’t try to suppress it. I almost welcome the fact that even now, nearly seven months on, it can poleaxe me, take my breath away, cause me to gulp and well up. It provides a link to him. I can feel it and then come up out of it, almost like diving into water and then getting resurfacing as you get through the surface and breathe air again. My counsellor described finding something to ground yourself at these moments, something tangible. The pain feels real and then it passes. 

Counselling has helped me with all of this. There’s no cure for what’s happened. It becomes a matter of accepting it and finding ways of coping. I’m relieved the flashbacks seem to have gone for the moment. Some of the other physical symptoms remain- the tinnitus is still present first thing in the morning and at occasions where it’s silent and I suddenly notice that my ears are ringing. My jaw clenching and tooth grinding is still there but also lessened, less acute than before. Sleep is still a bit hit and miss at times. But we agreed yesterday at the end of my final session that I've made progress- the fact that other, day to day stuff has become a bit more pre- occupying suggest that I'm moving on in some way, thoughts of Isaac and the grief are not ever-present like they were. She said there's still a 'heaviness' about me but I've come a long way from the person who turned up at the first session back in April. And that is good. 

There Goes The Cure

This 1993 song by One Dove with Andrew Weatherall on magic dust sprinkling  and production duties suggested itself to me while writing this post. Listening to it as I finished tidying the post up I thought it might be too close to the bone, and lyrically it is almost too much... 

'One cut too many/ One more life to go... losing a shadow/ Losing another soul/ So many echoes/ He's gone'. 

Tears come, again. But it fits very well and with those pianos and the post acid house/ comedown production, and that part where the dubby bass pushes its way through especially, it also feels like dawn has come and there might be a way forward after all. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

The Chill Out Tent

There are a slew of interesting and musically wide ranging compilation albums hitting the shelves at the moment, both digital and physical releases, so much music that it feels difficult to keep up sometimes. In recent weeks I've been delving into various Various Artist albums- Luke Una presents E Soul Cultura, the Spun Out Agency's More Of That Frightful Oompty Bumpty Music, Paul Hillery's We Are The Children Of The Sun and The Chill Out Tent Volume 1 to name but four. Eventually I'll get round to posting something about each of these, but I'll start today with the last one- The Chill Out Tent Volume 1. 

The 1990s/ early 2000s really marred the chill out compilation CD. More often than not just an excuse for some identikit blandness to play in a bar while wearing bad sunglasses- it became a very debased concept, piles of double CDs destined for bargain bins in motorway service stations. The Chill Out Tent compilation, put together by the Chill Out Tent crew, is a very strong attempt to renew the concept with a twelve track album of Balearic/ dance/ dub/ reggae tracks, based around what they call 'acid house hippy'. There's so much to enjoy inside it the compilation- all exclusive to the album- from opening pair of songs onwards, starting out with the sitars and dub burblings of Calm's Summer Night Dream and the Uptown Top Ranking sampling of Turbotito's To Feel In Love. Balearic DJ and producer Chris Coco contributes remixes and versions on six of the twelve songs with his remix of Sauco's Sun Goddess and a collaboration with Hear And Now both already sounding like high summer and his remix of Projections Original Cell is drifting, ambient/ Balearic bliss (I've posted some of Projections music before here). The album finishes with a song from Mallorca by Joan Bibiloni, five minutes of sounds to watch the sun go down to- whistles, hand drums, Spanish guitar, synths. Nottingham's Balearic duo Coyote are on there too. Home Grown is a beauty, slowly edging forward with keys and padded drums, in no hurry to get to it's destination. 

The Chill Out Tent Volume 1 can be bought here, out in full at the start of July. 

Earlier this year Coyote released a new EP on French label Citizens Of Vice, two new tracks- As The Crow Flies and Steely Dad (song title of the year alert). It came with some remixes including this one of As The Crow Flies by Chris Coco, which has some of the most heart tugging, happy/ sad piano chords you'll have the pleasure of hearing today. Buy it here if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Acid Solstice

I found an old mp3 player recently- not even an iPod but one produced by Creative- and wondered if it still worked. Charged it up, had a poke around inside the folders to see what was on it and then put it in the car to accompany my commute. It's a bit clunky but works fine, stays charged for a good while and will even let me delete files and add new songs. Driving on Saturday afternoon with Eliza in the car with me, this song came on and as the kick drum banged away, the juddering bassline came in and then the layers of acid/ techno wonkiness piled up increasingly filling the car with the sparse fullness of the song and then that stentorian vocal faded in, 'acid funk/ acid funk/ acid funk...' and the snare rattled like a rock on a metal roof, Eliza said, 'well, this is intense'. And I could only reply, 'Yes. It is'. 

Acid Funk (Scott Hardkiss Mix)

It's also ridiculously funky, absorbing, next level stuff from the Hardkiss family back in 1996. Hawke and God Within with Scott Hardkiss on remix duties. I imagine it could still cause mayhem at a club if dropped at the right time and for the right crowd. It came on again driving home last night, the sun beating down on the M60, and it sounded just as good, building and building, ever increasingly, yes, intense. If you want something to add a little edge to your morning routine, to get you moving as you make your tea/ coffee or get your packed lunch together, stick Acid Funk on for a few minutes. 

It's the summer solstice too, something to celebrate or at least to note. The longest day is always a little double edged- summer's only just arrived and in calendar terms we've already peaked. But happy solstice, if that's your thing.