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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Remix Exchange

I found this again recently, a very smart piece of digital dub from 2013. Group Rhoda is/was the solo electronic project for Oakland, California artist Mara Barenbaum. King was a track on Group Rhoda's 12th House album (the original version of King is available from Bandcamp here). It was remixed by The Asphodells. Weatherall and Fairplay set the controls for the heart of the bass frequencies, echo- drenched bleeps punctuate the synths and Mara's vocals ride over the top.

King (Asphodells Remix)

Group Rhoda returned the favour, the second leg of a remix exchange, by reworking Another Lonely City from The Asphodells only album Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Love. There were a bunch of remixes of tracks from Ruled By Passion... from the likes of Phil Kieran, Justin Robertson, Ivan Smagghe, Hardway Bros, Daniel Avery, Richard Sen and Scott Fraser, all released as a companion album. Played back to back these pair of remixes complement each other really well (unsurprisingly) and give you ten minutes of digital dubbed out pleasure for Saturday.

Another Lonely City (Group Rhoda Remix)

Friday, 17 January 2020

Betty Came By On The Way

I've been reading Rob Young's book Electric Eden, a book that's been sitting and daring me to read it for quite a long time. I bought it cheap somewhere and then put it on the pile next to the bed. It is several inches thick and tells the story of British folk music- 'unearthing Britain's visionary music' says the tag line on the cover- and deals with many bands and artists who I am on musical nodding terms with, people like John Martyn, The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Pentangle, and some who I know a bit better (Bert Jansch). In the middle there's a lengthy section about Nick Drake. To my surprise in the ten years this blog has been going I've never posted any Nick Drake songs.

I remember first buying a Nick Drake album in 1987. I don't know exactly why because I wasn't really listening to anything like Nick Drake in 1987. I must have read a review somewhere, NME or Melody Maker most likely, and taken the plunge. I was quite open to trying things on the basis of a good review which could be costly and risky. 1987 saw the release of an album called Time Of No Reply, a collection of outtakes and alternative versions. The internet tells me there was a four disc box set released at the same time but I didn't buy box sets in the 80s. I bought Time Of No Reply on cassette and when I got home went to my om to listen to it (at this point I knew nothing about the man who made it other than the picture on the cover of him sitting cross legged under a tree and the fact that he died young, self inflicted, in 1974). The cassette hissed a bit and then these fourteen songs whirred by, finger picked acoustic guitars, sometimes played in odd time signatures, sung in a soft and very English voice with references to trees, dogs, sand, magic, wheels, sheds and Mary Jane. Some of the songs were suddenly decorated with sweeping strings. It sounded nothing like The Wedding Present, The Smiths,Billy Bragg,  Talking Heads, PWEI, ACR, New Order, S' Express or anything else I was into in '87. I can't say I got it straight away, it took some time, but over the years that cassette dug its way in. In those days before CD re-issue culture finding albums by people from the recent or distant past was a hit or miss affair, a matter of rummaging in the second hand shops and rooting through bargain bins. I never found another Nick Drake album until the late 90s when I began to fill in the missing pieces on CD.

There's a richness and an intimacy about Nick Drake's songs and also a sense of the unknown about them, there's always something just out of reach. They're atmospheric, frequently beautiful and tragic too- he sold next to nothing during his lifetime and couldn't understand it, retreated into his shell, ever the outsider looking in. River Man was on that cassette I had in the late 80s and I finally replaced it in higher fidelity when the Time Of No Reply album was updated as Made To Love Magic in 2004 (with some songs that gained new strings and new mixes, stereo versions and so on). This version of River Man is from that CD, the Cambridge era dorm demo according to the inner sleeve.

River Man

In 2004 it was released as a 7" single (which I bought- Nick Drake seems a very un- 7" single sort of artist). This version, a video mix from a CD single I think, has a fuller sound, those strings appearing to make your guts suddenly plunge, and birdsong.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Nin- Com- Pop

Another record pulled at random from my record collection during Boxing Day with the family was the 2001 album by Lali Puna, Scary World Theory, selected by my brother- in- law HSD. Lali Puna were/are based in Munich, still active I think, the blank but compelling vocals of  Valerie Trebeljahr sitting on top of experimental electro- pop. The album, nearly twenty years old now, sounded really fresh. Nin- Com- Pop has laptop or sampled drums, organ, a few guitar licks, some hiss and lots of presence.

The album's title refers to the work of sociologist George Gerbner who researched and wrote about the long term effects of television. He usually called it Mean World Syndrome. According to Gerbner the longer a person spends living in the television world, the more likely they are to believe that social reality aligns with the reality portrayed on TV. Gerbner's conclusion was that television heavily influences people's perceptions of the real world, for instance people exposed to regular violence come to believe the world is a very violent place and suffer increased levels of anxiety, fear and pessimism as a result. Gerbner also said that traditional forms of cultural story telling that came from the home, school, church and communities were being replaced by the millionaire owners of the television companies who have 'few stories to tell but a lot to sell'.

Anyone watched any of the latest series of Love Island?

Nin- Com- Pop

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Shadow Play

Not the Joy Division song but an instrumental by Bristolian Ryan Teague from back in 2011. Lovely soundscape style music with a backwards intro, woodblocks, whirring chiming noises, synth strings and a musical box. From an album called Field Drawings.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Some Folks Are Born To Wave The Flag

There's a lot of war in the ether at the moment, both real and imagined. Obviously the Iran- USA situation but also Brexit looming and the lunatic fringe making their usual absurd comparisons. Leave.EU recently tweeted that 1st February should see all the church bells ring across the country to celebrate 'our independence'. The original tweet read-

Just as we did to mark the Allies' victory in Europe in 1945 we're calling all patriots to ring the bell at their local church... to celebrate Britain's new found independence! If the powers that be don't like it? We'll do it anyway!'

I'm sure we don't really need to unpack this swivel eyed insanity any further but this shows what we're dealing with and where the leave ultras heads are at- leaving the EU is for them on a par with defeating Nazi Germany. Mark Francois, comedy little right wing Tory bellend, repeated this call in the House of Commons, demanding Big Ben ring out to mark the occasion.

The right wing who have pursued this national idiocy have made these World War II comparisons all the way through. Brought up on Second World War films and comics like Commando and Victor, there is an enormous emasculating shadow that falls over them, the knowledge that their fathers and grandfathers served in the two big wars of the Twentieth Century and that they never would. They're obsessed with the Germans, Dunkirk, Churchill, Spitfires and D- Day, never missing an opportunity to hark back. This idealised Britain of their imagination, all white cliffs, Sten guns and Anderson shelters, is of course a Britain before immigration and before the liberalisation of the 1960s. In their version of World War II the Soviets are always inconsequential, despite losses of 20 million, and the USA always arrives late, 'after all the serious fighting's done'. Francois, Farage et al, a lifetime spent wishing the Second World War was on their CV, their little Dunkirk hard ons leading their politics.

Meanwhile in the USA the last two Republican Presidents both had the opportunity to serve in the jungles of South East Asia and both passed it up. Trump had five deferments from Vietnam. George W Bush had his Dad pull strings and served with the National Guard at home. Trump (especially) loves the hard man imagery of assassinating men in foreign countries by drone strike.

These things came together last week. And then I heard Creedence Clearwater Revival's 1969 song Fortunate Son while looking for some footage of Vietnam for a lesson with my Year 11s.

Fortunate Son

Monday, 13 January 2020

Monday's Long Song

In 2015 Four Tet released a two track album called Morning/Evening, each side twenty minutes long. Morning Side especially is a unique, joyful and innovative piece of music. It began with a sample of the Hindi singer Lata Mangeshka and took off inspired by her voice and the ragas from the collection of Indian music he inherited from his Grandfather as a child and more contemporary influences like Autechre. The drums are familiar Four Tet, skittering and busy but light and the synths and voice give the twenty minutes of Morning Side the quality of waking from a dream, the sunshine coming in through the blinds. It's a stunning piece of work that never feels like it's twenty minutes long.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Ballardian Dreams

Sunday always seems ideal for the long mix, the Sabbath lending itself to the extended DJ mix. Today's is from Richard Fearless and a mix titled Ballardian Dreams. In 1971 JG Ballard said 'Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century'. He also said 'civilised life is based on a huge number of illusions in which we collaborate willingly. The trouble is we forget after a while they are illusions and we are deeply shocked when reality is torn down around us'. Both seem pertinent in some way.

For this mix Richard Fearless has mined the influences that went into his recent Deep Rave Memory album and seemlessly stitched together ninety minutes of electro, acid, techno, EBM and industrial musics, all glide by of synths, drones, robot voices, squelchy bass, machine drums and unmistakable superfast flicker of the strobe.