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Monday, 19 November 2018

Monday's Long Song


Dark And Long is the still superb sounding dub-techno entry point to Underworld's dubnobasswithmyheadman album. The 1994 single version of Dark And Long, across various formats, gave us a whole load of different versions including this one from the cd single- 215 Miles, a twenty minute excursion into synth pads and pulsing rhythms. Clear your diary and enjoy the ride.

215 Miles (Dark And Long)

Sunday, 18 November 2018

One Way Traffic



In 2015 Richard Norris and Dave Ball reunited as The Grid and recorded using the Moog Soundlab at the University of Surrey. They have just put some of the results of this on the internet. One Way Traffic is a half hour dive into the sound of the Moog modular synth, a world of drones and lovely repetitive noises, pulses and waves of sound and rhythm. I think some of you may love this as much as I do.



The Moog Soundlab UK includes the Moog System 55 modular synthesiser and developed by Dr Robert Moog who 'established standards for analog synthesizer control interfacing, with a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse triggering signal.' Furthermore,  'The Moog modular system consisted of a number of various modules mounted in a cabinet. Each module performs a specific signal-generating or -modifying function. These modules offered unprecedented control over creating sounds by allowing a user to modify primary sound waveforms with amplitude modulators  and spectral modulators and other modifiers. Envelope generators provided further control by modulating the attack, decay, sustain and release parameters of the VCAs, VCFs and other modules. The modules are patched together with patch cords with ¼-inch mono plugs. The patch cords and module parameter knobs could be adjusted in countless ways to create a nearly infinite number of sounds. The final sound was heard ('triggered') from the system by pressing a key on an attached keyboard or pressing on the ribbon controller'. 

Now cover that up and see what you can remember. 

Saturday, 17 November 2018

The Crystal Frontier


Digging through a stack of records that need filing the other night, mainly made up of ones bought this year and last, I found the latest Calexico album (The Thread That Keeps Us), an album that I played a couple of times back in January but found to be a bit dull overall. Which was a shame because the two songs that preceded it were both really good- Voices In The Fields and End Of The World With You- responses to Trump's America and a band sounding reinvigorated. The rest of the album seemed less good but maybe I should go back to it.

Back in 2000 Calexico released an ep called Even My Sure Things Fall Through, a collection of B-sides and extras. They were more Tex-Mex at this point, songs with mariachi horns and central American rhythms, the sort of songs that sound intriguing when caught in snatches through a tinny radio or open doorway and irresistible when played loud and close up. Crystal Frontier is a blast. Try it.

Crystal Frontier (Widescreen Version)

The song was inspired by a novel of the same name by Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, a book that explores the lives of people who straddle the border between the US and Mexico, people going to and fro, back and forth, living on both sides of the line.

Since its release 18 years ago the song has taken on an extra life- it was chosen to be beamed into the space shuttle Discovery to wake the crew up. NASA picked the song up from a recommendation by Tucson, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (whose husband Mark Kelly was the shuttle Commander). Gabrielle Giffords was later one of the victims of a gunman, shot in the head at a public appearance, along with twenty-four other people, six of whom were killed. She recovered to some extent and returned to Congress to vote in 2011. She has since retired from Congress but is an advocate of gun reform.


Friday, 16 November 2018

Sugar


I'm launching into what may be an ill conceived Friday series here at Bagging Area. Last Friday I posted several songs about honey- songs by Death In Vegas, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Pastels and Spacemen 3. Today's musical foodstuff is sugar, delicious, addictive, lipsmacking sweet stuff (that a report recently said is the real cause of the modern obesity crisis in the western world). A quick search of my hard drive reveals I'm spoilt for choice when it comes to sugar.

The lightest song on The Stone Roses debut album from May 1989 was about a girl, a sugar spun sister, opening with John Squire's crystalline guitar chords and Ian's softly sung vocals. The chorus turns things a little in what seems on the surface to be a fairly simple love song- the sky going green, the grass blue, M.P.s involved in solvent abuse- all these things would happen before she is happy with him. There's a bit after the second chorus where there's a pause and in the gap Ian sings 'my hands..... are stuck to my jeans' which is very nicely done (and which for years I misheard as 'stuck to my dreams'). The sugar analogy is back at the end as Squire winds things up- she is the candy floss girl, he the sticky fingered boy.

(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister

In 1997 Yo La Tengo put out a career highpoint, the double album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, an album which is a masterpiece of its kind. Sugarcube was in the middle of side 1 and later released as a single, 3 minutes 21 seconds of New York dreamy, soft noise perfection.

Sugarcube

Lyrically it's a bit more oblique than The Stone Roses sugar spun song but I think it's about the same thing ultimately...

'Whatever you want from me
Is what I want to do for you
Sweeter than a drop of blood
On a sugarcube
And though I like to act the part of being tough
I crumble like a sugarcube
For you'


More sugar vicar? 

AR Kane's sugar song came out in 1989 and is a lilting, off-kilter song, acoustic guitars and odd tunings and another case of sugar being a female who's a little too sweet.

Sugarwings

There's loads more sugar on my hard drive- The Orielles have a song from last year (with an Andrew Weatherall remix to boot) called Sugar Tastes Like Salt, Slowdive's recent triumph gave us Sugar For The Pill, there's some Balearic Sugar Water from Kamasutra, Echo And The Bunnymen's glorious 1987 single Lips Like Sugar and Secret Knowledge's Sugar Daddy, a 1994 epic from Kris Needs and Wonder. I think I've posted all of these before at some point. There's plenty more sugar in my record collection too but I'll wrap this up with one more sugary delight before our teeth fall out. Four years ago Timothy J Fairplay released a 12" in his Junior Fairplay rave guise, a back to the old skool circa 1990-1 retro-rave track that I love to pieces. Created using solely a breakbeat and a Korg 1, a vocal whoop and a stacatto 'yeah!', and then released on one sided purple vinyl, it is fun bottled, the future backwards. Sugar Puss. 



Now go and clean your teeth. 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

To Fly Free You Must Fly Alone


Back to 1990 today and a hands in the air piano rave moment from N-Joi. The vocal track on the original version of the song was made up of samples from 3 different sources- Gwen Guthrie, Soul II Soul and Darlene Davis- which singer Saffron mimed for TV and sang live for performances, as seen here on Top Of The Pops...



Anthem

Saffron went on to find fame as the singer of Republica, a group that included a former member of Flowered Up (Tim Dorney on keyboards) and a former member of Soul Family Sensation (Jonathan Male on guitar). Back in the late 90s I wrote some reviews and articles for a Manchester based magazine and got to interview Saffron (on the phone not face to face). I don't think the Saffron interview was published (probably because my interviewing skills were limited and the whole thing was a bit uncomfortable). Later on I co-interviewed Bez in a bar called The Temple Of Convenience. He was promoting his book Freaky Dancing. This interview went much better. Bez offered to take us out for the night with, and I quote, 'some classical music fella and the King of Cumbia squeezing fuck out of a massive squeezebox'. His opening gambit when we all sat down was to tell me that I looked like 'I smoked loads of smack' (which I didn't I hasten to add). Good fun and highly entertaining. Happy days.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Green World Blue Realm


Back at the start of the decade I downloaded this song from a music blog (Davy H's now defunct The Ghost Of Electricity).

Another Green World (The Blue Realm Remix)

Mojo Filter takes Brian Eno's Another Green World, the Arena theme tune for those of a certain age, and gets it all loved up. The voice in the song says 'L-O-V-E love' and that's largely what it sounds like. This is a piece of music so glorious, so uplifting, so beautifully out there, it should  be posted on an annual basis. As it is, I haven't posted it since May 2012, for which I can only apologise. May 2012 seems like another world entirely doesn't it? Six short years ago but a world away in many ways. You don't need me to spell it.

Back in the mid 80s Alan Moore took Swamp Thing, a minor DC comics character and wrote a series of stories that redefined what comics could tackle. Illustrated by Steve Bissette and John Totleben it was a weird trip into all sorts of places comics didn't really go including inter-species sexual relationships. In the edition from April 1984 Swamp Thing had to come to terms with the realisation that he wasn't human, that he had lost his humanity and lived in the Green. Moore peppered his writing with pop culture references- this issue's title was Another Green World. There's a full account of the story of Swamp Thing #23 here. When I finally sold all of my comics Swamp Thing was one of a handful that I hung on to.

Today also happens to be my Dad's 80th birthday. Happy birthday Dad.



Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Flame On


Stan Lee, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief and creator of hundreds of characters including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The X Men, Black Widow, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, Ant Man and Daredevil, has died at the grand age of 95. It's fair to say that a lot of our childhoods would have been very different without Marvel Comics and their cast of brightly coloured superheroes (and their flawed, all too human alter-egos). RIP Stan and Make Mine Marvel.

There's been a little resurgence of The Dream Syndicate in blogs in these parts this year kicked off I think by my post back in April, a film of Andrew Weatherall playing in Italy last year and dropping The Dream Syndicate's John Coltrane Stereo Blues into his set. Watch it here, it's fifty minutes you won't regret. Drew posted some Dream Syndicate, CC has posted some and I think The Swede too. So here's some more from Steve Wynn and co, the second song from their full length debut, an album inspired by 1966 and 1977 in equal parts.

Defnitely Clean