Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Shall we do something really obscure from the back catalogue of Andrew Weatherall? In 1997 Weatherall and Keith Tenniswood moonlighted from their day job as Two Lone Swordsmen to put out a double vinyl, six track e.p. as Lino Squares. The record came out on Humboldt County Records and had various spelling/punning titles- the e.p.'s title was The Role Of Linoleum and included tracks called Neuphrique, Phrique Out and Blue Pole Dancer. Musically we get deep house, minimal electro and minimal deep house electro. This one, Tidy Unit, has a smart breakbeat, crashing percussion and some whooshey noises. Rather fine I think.
Blue Pole Dancer has pots and pans style drums, a nice one fingered keyboard part and a disembodied female vocal. A bit moody.
Blue Pole Dancer
Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Rummaging through a box of records at the second hand record shop the other, a box labelled House/Dance/Ambient I found a pristine copy of Leftfield's Song Of Life (Remixes) ep for only £2. So I bought it. Two of the three tracks are the Underworld remixes of Song Of Life which are excellent. The third is Leftfield's own remix of Release the Pressure, premium grade skanking dub techno.
Release the Horns
Monday, 29 August 2016
I wrote a piece for The Vinyl Villain's Imaginary Compilation album series, ten Husker Du songs to brighten up your life. It's here. I also found this, a remastered version of Zen Arcade's opening song. The Youtube poster who put it up had done the new version himself, brought the bass up and balanced out Spot's trebly mix. A very good job done.
Something I Learned Today
At around the same time a friend reminded me of Bob's 90s band Sugar and their 1993 ep Beaster. Having signed to Creation and got some genuine success with Copper Blue they put out Beaster as a follow up The six songs on Beaster were recorded at the same time as Copper Blue but stand out as distinctively different- the guitars are heavier and denser. Very dense. Like other Bob Mould records (like Zen Arcade) Beaster was a kind of concept record and had a lot of religious imagery. Opener Come Around comes around slowly with bright acoustic guitar but then the Les Paul and Marshall stack kicks in, along with Bob's deliberately difficult to make out vocals.
Sunday, 28 August 2016
This is new from Lambchop and is pretty remarkable- an eighteen minute long meditation utilising a stuttering drum machine, some pretty little melodies on piano and woodwind and Kurt Wagner's rueful voice. It's a tribute to the dance of the same name, witnessed by Kurt at a wedding, it's not country soul they are known for and it sounds like autumn is just around the corner.
Saturday, 27 August 2016
A few weeks ago Strictly Rockers did a guest posting as part of The Vinyl Villain's Imaginary Compilation Album series, a ten track compilation of the Durutti Column. Strictly Rockers focused on the Factory years and did a great job. I had been planning my own Durutti Column ICA and didn't get around to completing it but it wouldn't have been too different from SR's. Mine would have included-
Sketch for Summer
For Belgian Friends
The Missing Boy
Contra Indications (The Together Mix)
Sketch For Dawn
Which gets me to eight songs and two to mull over. SR stuck to the Factory releases and I had intended to include some post-Factory material. Since Factory went bust Vini Reilly has put out at least fifteen albums for other record labels including the short lived Factory Too. I wouldn't pretend to have an expert knowledge of them all but have kept my hand in, dipping in and out over the years. 2008's Sunlight To Blue... Blue To Blackness had a beautiful little tune called So Many Crumbs And Monkeys which was on my ICA shortlist. A principal contender for my ICA would be this one from 2006's Keep Breathing album which a friend posted on social media a few days ago, reminding me of it. Before I go any further, just give it a spin...
I don't know where to begin with this song- it defies description. Heavy bursts of rhythm guitar. Soaring melodies. A voice floating in and out. Tremelo. Vini's own voice whispering in the background. All building upwards towards the light. Stunning. And proof that Vini's well continued to contain deep water long into his third decade of making 'silly little tunes'. The rest of Keep Breathing has plenty of other brilliant moments too.
I have no idea if anyone makes any pennies off their Factory recordings anymore- who owns them? New Order got a record deal elsewhere and their back catalogue gets re-issued all the time. Happy Mondays got their stuff licensed or bought up by a major. Does the rest of the Factory roster see any cash for their music? I have no idea. However this album and this song are commercially available at various legal download sites, which I should imagine Vini benefits from. Vini has been hit by poor health and financial trouble in recent years and is currently unable to play the guitar which is incredibly sad for such a unique, talented and expressive artist. So I'm not giving you a free download of this- if you like it, and I'd be surprised if you didn't, go and give Vini some of your cash in exchange for It's Wonderful. Cos it is.
Friday, 26 August 2016
It's over a year since I lasted posted anything by the Reid brothers. Over a year! Slap my wrists and confiscate my scuffed suede Chelsea boots immediately. The video for Sidewalking came my way on social media the other day and what a truly great record it is, maybe their greatest. Released in March 1988, a stand alone single which marries industrial noise with hip hop drumbeats (sampled from Roxanne Shante) and lyrics about missing the last bus home. The extended version from the 12" is double the length and double the fun.
And here's the video.
Thursday, 25 August 2016
Primal Scream's Chaosmosis album from earlier this year didn't really do too much for me- it was alright but nothing special. This however is the best thing they've put their name to for a long time. Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre has remixed 100% Or Nothing into a nine and a half minutes long psychedelic dub odyssey, spaced out with dubby bass, disjointed backing vocals, a melodica wending its way through and lots of echo... echo... echo. It's coming out on limited edition clear vinyl on Friday. Really good.
Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Factory Floor- messy decorators, don't ask them to do your front room. You could ask them to provide you with some good music though. They've slimmed down to a two piece and on their new album 25 25 they've moved away from the industrial noise of their earlier records to an acid house sound- stripped back with bouncing basslines, analogue synths, acid squiggles and squelches, the tsk tsk tsk of high hats, an 808 snare, a thumping kick drum and some very minimal vocals ('Ya', 'work work work'). Much of this album sounds like it could have been made and played in any dance club anywhere between 1988 and 2003 but it more than gets away with it- retro but forward thinking. I suspect I shall be playing this for some time.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Ahead of a new album (Heads Up) in Setember warpaint have released a new song called New Song. On first listen I was a little disappointed- it seemed a bit lightweight, their languid, rolling grooves replaced by something much poppier (not that I'm against poppier). However it's really grown on me, especially since picking it up on 7" where on a proper stereo rather than computer speakers the bass has room and the rhythm hits the spot.
Monday, 22 August 2016
Yesterday was Joe Strummer's birthday. He would have been sixty four. His passing in 2002 seems a long time ago now. I've no doubt he would have had a lot to to say about the world as it has unfolded over the last fourteen years, more songs to write and records to release, more places to tour, constant offers to reform The Clash. So it goes. This song does a typical Strummer trick, taking the commonplace (a nitcomb), building some versus and a chorus around it with some typically Joe street-poetry touches, and turning it into something affecting and real, a song of devotion.
Sunday, 21 August 2016
I've been having some fun watching these clips on Youtube recently. Dance Energy was BBC 2's attempt to capture early 90s youth culture. To be far to the Beeb Snub TV was an excellent half hour weekly look at the indie scene with some essential live clips and interviews. For Dance Energy they got Normski in as presenter. Normski may be best described as an acquired taste (although many internet commenters seem to prefer the word bellend). Dance Energy ran on a Monday evening, straight after The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air and had 'live' performances in the studio from dance and hip hop acts. Unlike the majority of 1960s TV music programmes, where there's no doubt that the groups are better dressed and better coiffured than the audience, on Dance Energy the crowd are the real stars. here's a few I've picked out...
Steve Cobby's band from this time was Ashley and Jackson (they played Cities In The Park which is why I think I came across this on Youtube while looking for clips of that event for my post a couple of weeks ago). Solid Gold was going to be Ashley and Jackson's breakthrough single but it never really happened for them in terms of having a hit. This clip from 1991 starts with the titles and theme music which will push all kinds of buttons for some of you of a certain age...
Bassomatic's Fascinating Rhythm was a top ten hit in 1990 and still sounds pretty good today although that style of rapping has dated. This song aside Bassomatic are also known for having a pre-Madonna/All Saints William Orbit on board.
Yo! Here comes Normski again! This is Bizarre Inc, hugely popular up here in the north, with Playing With Knives. I love this record, it's crunching keyboard riffs, repetitive, cyclical vocals and breakbeat- and the on stage dancers.
And this is a beauty, The Beloved's It's Alright Now, a properly blissful, house tune, all positivity and optimism. Again this should have been a massive hit and wasn't.
Lastly for the moment The Shamen. Like The Beloved they started as an indie guitar band and then moved into dance music when it hit them. This performance of Hyperreal is pretty smart, the best version of this song, and has Will Sin in the group, before his untimely death in Tenerife in May 1991.
There's loads more of this on Youtube if you want more. And why wouldn't you?
Saturday, 20 August 2016
Following yesterday's ambience and Davy H's contribution here's the new one from Frank Ocean (which I picked up on on Twitter via Davy H). Word on the net is that this forty five minute visual album stream is Frank's artistic statement prior to the new 'pop' album dropping. It may have already dropped by the time this post publishes. Endless is built on Frank's r 'n' b voice and beats, emerging from sound, ambient washes and loads of texture. An acoustic guitar drops in at the half hour point and at the end it turns techno. Very dreamy and slightly out of kilter. In the film Frank is wearing a Jesus And Mary Chain t-shirt while building stuff. What does it all mean? I don't know...but I like it.
Hmm... I don't have permission to share it. Watch it here.
Edit: you can't watch it there either. Apparently you can only watch it at Apple in exchange for cash. Sorry about that.
Frank Ocean - Endless from Audio Premieres on Vimeo.
Friday, 19 August 2016
Far be it from me to take the corporate shilling and promote a multinational corporation- but almost all of use Windows don't we? If not Windows then Apple? And I'm not being paid anyway. Months ago someone directed me to these on Twitter, possibly Davy H of the much missed and still sadly inactive Ghost Of Electricity blog. To mark the occasion of the 20th birthday of Windows 95 ideoforms put these onto Soundcloud, the Windows 95 start up sound slowed down by 4000%, followed by the same slowed down effects for Windows 98, 2000, NT, Vista and XP.
All of them become rather wonderful, ambient, Eno-esque moods rather than the brief and sometimes irritating sound of your operating system bursting into life. Eno actually contributed to the creation of the 95 jingle and Robert Fripp did the Vista one. You could probably slow many things down and get them to sound like Eno and turn them into interesting ambient pieces. But like the person in the art gallery who points and says 'my five year old could have done that', it's the doing it that's important.
Thursday, 18 August 2016
The action and success at the velodrome in Rio over the last few days has been unmissable, edge of the seat stuff. Laura Trott, Becky James, Katy Marchant, Jason Kenny, Bradley Wiggins, Owain Doull, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Katie Archibald, Joanna Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker, Callum Skinner, Mark Cavendish- all truly something else.
Husker Du's Celebrated Summer, fifth track on 1985's New Day Rising, is a peak by a band with many, many peaks. The opening burst of guitar followed by thumping drums and bass raise the hairs on the back of the neck and the 12 string acoustic guitar breakdown in the middle and at the end show Bob Mould wasn't going to be hemmed in by hardcore's rules. Breaking out and breaking through. Melody combined with their ferocious energy. The lyrics, as so often with the Huskers, suggest something gone, something lost, the summers of youth- was that your celebrated summer?
A Level results today for my students. More tension and hopefully more celebrations.
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
A couple of lesser known tunes from A Certain Ratio's back catalogue for you today, both real favourites of mine. In 1986 ACR were moving away from the clipped, army shorts, punk-funk of their early years. Force, released in 1986, found them edging towards a more commercial sound. And Then She Smiles is northern jazz/funk/pop but much better than that sounds. Martin Moscrop's clarinet keeps it all slightly discordant (and isn't a million miles from 808 State's Pacific). It's parent album Force was re-issued by LTM back in 2009 and is worth tracking down. I have a cassette copy in one of those cloth-bound boxes Factory went with for a while (Fact 166 fact fans).
And Then She Smiles
In 1987 they signed to A&M and put out several career highs which failed to sell (Good Together, acr:mcr, The Big E, Won't Stop Loving You) and migrated their way back to independence in the early 90s on Rob's Records (Rob Gretton's label). They then released a series of cracking dance/house inspired records including Mello in 1992. Mello came in a variety of versions, including M-People remixes and dubs.Part 1 was the radio friendly one. The 303 Dub is great too.
Mello (Part 1)
Mello (303 Dub)
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Tuesday calls for dub, dunno why, it just does. This is a recording of Radioactive Man's dub dj set supporting Pitch Black in London in July. Over the course of an hour and a half it goes deep into dub and echo, rimshot and strange smelling smoke, including Sly and Robbie, Grace Jones, Lee Perry, Ini Kamoze, Adrian Sherwood, Colourbox, Aswad, Toots and The Maytals, Johnny Osbourne, Peaking Lights and Dub Syndicate. Highly recommended.
Monday, 15 August 2016
Some more archive footage from two decades plus ago and another Manchester group. I watched this on ITV in the summer of 1990 and taped it on a VHS cassette that I always had on standby near the telly for music clips. I built up a small collection of compilation videos that got thrown away at some point. Now most of it's on Youtube. In July 1990 a bunch of Manchester bands played at Granada Studios- Intastella, The New FADs, The Charlatans and The High. I've written about The High before. They released a minor classic album called Somewhere Soon which had some really good songs and three superb singles in Box Set Go, Up and Down and Take Your Time. The album's follow up single was another cracker (More...). After that, for a number of reasons, it fell to pieces but for a while they were very good. In the clip here, which I can remember vividly from my homemade videotape, they play Box Set Go and PWA in one of the sound stages at the old Granada Studios building.
Singer John Matthews and guitarist Andy Couzens have recently reformed and played a few gigs. The released a new single (Kiss The Sun) but annoyingly I can't find a stream of it to post.
Take Your Time
Sunday, 14 August 2016
Tim Burgess has done an album with Peter Gordon, due out on Tim's O Genesis label in early September. Tim's work outside The Charlatans is full of surprises, from various guest vocal performances to his solo album written with Lambchop's Kurt Wagner. This is the furthest from Madchester and Britpop yet- and it seems unfair to continue to pigeonhole both Tim and The Charlatans with those two labels. Peter Gordon is a New York based composer, experimental jazz, film scores and so on. He worked closely with Arthur Russell and his own Love Of Life Orchestra recordings are well worth checking out. The first song from Same Language Different Worlds came out digitally in June and is a little wonder, pitter-patter drumming and a drifting sax, swirling aquatic melodies and Tim's hazy vocals floating along on top.
A second song, Begin, has appeared online this month- metallic percussion, some synths and more phased vocals. All in all, it's a long way from Knebworth 1996.
Saturday, 13 August 2016
Released twenty five years ago this month Primal Scream's fourth Screamadelica single was Don't Fight It, Feel It. Where Loaded had been one of the key indie-dance triggers and Come Together was Weatherall's gospel masterstroke and Higher Than The Sun was just so far out and gone, Don't Fight It, Feel It was pretty much the closest they came to making house music (maybe Slip Inside This House shares that). DFIFI is wobbly house but house music nonetheless with a shuddering bassline, Denise Johnson's wonderful vocals and bleeps and bloops and all manner of dancefloor sounds. The various single versions came with remixes including the even housier and barnstorming Scat Mix where Weatherall and Hugo Nicholson twist their own track inside out and upside down.
Don't Fight It, Feel It (Scat Mix)
The song and others on Screamadelica caused ructions in the group no matter what Bobby told the press, guitarists walking out of studio sessions and people's egos threatened by not being on certain tracks. They worked it all out for the live shows. This TV appearance on The Late Show shows how they got a guitar-led version of DFIFI going, with Throb working his way around house music on a Les Paul and Bobby sharing the vocals with Denise. Good stuff. And unlike The Stone Roses, they didn't blow the sound meter and then shout abuse at Tracy McLeod.
Friday, 12 August 2016
I'd forgotten about this one and found it while wasting time on Youtube recently. 1999's Electronic album Twisted Tenderness didn't exactly set the world alight and Sumner and Marr moved onto different and separate things afterwards. Track 2 is a little gem though, a highlight in either man's back catalogue outside their main bands. Johnny Marr had got back into playing distorted guitar and the whole thing has menace and convincing swagger.
This live version done for Jo Whiley's Channel 4 music show is even heavier.
Thursday, 11 August 2016
I read an article about poor old Billy Mackenzie recently, the man with the astonishing voice who sang The Associates songs. Party Fears Two is so beyond pop but also a very great pop single. I also really like this one from 1981, undoubtedly Bowie influenced but also very much it's own thing. And that voice gives me goosebumps.
White Car In Germany
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
I usually throw cds that come free with music magazines straight into the bin these days but a Jamaican Explosion one survived and when I stuck it the kitchen cd player the other night The Folkes Brothers 1961 hit Oh Carolina had me skipping around while loading the dishwasher or doing something similar.
Forget about Shaggy's 1990s version, this is the real deal. There's an excellent explanation of the song's recording and history here. It may not surprise you to know that Prince Buster was heavily involved. In 1984 the Jamaican government sent John Folkes a certificate for Oh Carolina accrediting him with recording the first ever reggae song. Which is nice.
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
Dublin and Wicklow duo Solar Bears have been subjected to two new Andrew Weatherall remixes, both out on 12" now. The two versions of Separate From The Arc are a step removed from some of Weatherall's recent reworkings. Mix 1 has a Two Lone Swordsmen style breakbeat and some dark soundscapes.
Mix 2 is percussive and far out, a syncopated rhythm with synths wobbling over the top.
While we're in the Weatherall area there's another instalment of his NTS radio show for your listening pleasure. This one is a pretty dark trip- the first song alone is unsettling.
Monday, 8 August 2016
Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve's album The Soft Bounce has been getting regular listens round here, loads of good stuff on it. The title track has been remixed by Daniel Avery and it sounds like this...
Insistent techno drums and percussion with some droney keys and pulses. Uplifting and gently euphoric.
Sunday, 7 August 2016
If you can tear yourself away from the Olympics this new mix Steve Cobby has done for Thump magazine might just work some magic on a Sunday evening in August.
An hour and thirty minutes of blissful sounds- Balearic, house, reggae and most points in between including his own gem of a single Bushfarmer (released earlier this year).
Just over twenty five years ago Factory Records put on a two day festival in Heaton Park, Manchester, in memory of Martin Hannett who had died earlier that year. Day One, Saturday August 3rd, included Buzzcocks, Paris Angels, Ruthless Rap Assassins, The Railway Children, OMD and The Wonderstuff. Day Two, Sunday, was almost entirely Factory acts- Happy Mondays, Electronic, ACR, Revenge, Durutti Column, The Wendys and Cath Carroll plus De La Soul, 808 State and New Fast Automatic Daffodils. There were two day camping tickets. But who would want to camp in Heaton Park?
We went on the Sunday. It was hot. I met my brother there, who came in when some of the crowd outside pushed the fence down. He had a ticket but just fancied coming in through the fence. From memory Durutti were good but a bit lost in a giant field, Revenge were a bit iffy (Hooky playing bass, singing and whacking the syndrums repeatedly, probably trying to overcompensate for the bad blood between him and Bernard Sumner, New Order's split and their relative positions on the bill), ACR were good, 808 State really moved the crowd, De La Soul were shouty. Electronic were imperious, especially when the Pet Shop Boys turned up on stage and you scanned left to right and saw key members of New Order, The Smiths and PSBs all together for one song. It's shame they played live so rarely.
The whole event was filmed and a video released which I bought but no longer have. Here's a scene setter...
And here an enthusiastic Tony Wilson interviews Johnny Marr, Rowetta, Shaun Ryder and Bez...
This Youtube uploader has labelled this as Electronic live in London but it's definitely Heaton Park.
Happy Mondays were by 1991 a stunningly effective if very unlikely stadium band. Kinky Afro rocks. No, it doesn't, it grooves.
Saturday, 6 August 2016
Back home again- I've barely been at home for the last three weeks have I? I'm sure those of you who don't have long summer holidays don't want to hear about the beautiful rolling hills of the Dordogne, the sandy coloured French villages, the point at which the Dordogne and Vezere rivers converge, engravings made on cave walls by our ancestors 25, 000 years ago that take the breath away, the fine wines of the Bergerac and Saumur, long sun drenched evenings, the daily sunshine and 34 degree heat. So I won't go on about it. If it's any consolation I can offer this advice- don't get a ferry back across the Channel from Caen to Portsmouth that lands at 10 pm and then leaves you having to drive up to Manchester round not one, not two but three sets of roadwork diversions and gets you back in at 3 am.
Long summer drives through France on the other hand are a joy. The roads are great, traffic is minimal, the scenery wonderful. We have occasional differences about what should soundtrack the journeys. This year's tune that all of us agreed on was this recent smash from Beyonce, full of ire and anger, led by calypso strings and some intense drums. It borrows liberally from Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs too.
If you haven't heard it the album Lemonade is full of great tracks. Genuinely.