Sunday, 31 December 2017
Despite what I wrote a fortnight ago about this being a good year for music I'm not sure that 2017 will go down as a good year. Brexit continues to be a monumental mistake which will fuck this country over for the foreseeable future. It is divisive, regressive and blinkered, a country committing a slow suicide. My only hope is that it eventually screws the Conservative Party over completely- who created this mess and have to take the blame. In the US Trump continues to normalise views and opinions which should have been long dead and buried, not to mention deliberately provoking an unstable dictator in North Korea, in some kind of nuclear dick-measuring contest. As the year went on a succession of stories of men abusing their position and power flowed out. If 2017 has been grim, 2018 looks like being just as bad, if not worse.
Still, there's always music to cheer us up. When I wrote my list two weeks ago I missed a couple of things out which I should have included. Paresse's slow motion Scandinavian house has been a favourite of mine for a few years now and this year's Sloth Machine ep was no exception. This is the closing track.
Matt Johnson and The The returned to the fray with a vinyl only Record Shop Day release, a tribute to his brother Andy who died earlier this year. We Can't Stop What's Coming is a beautiful song, moving and genuine.
It seems right to mention the response in May to the bombing at Manchester Arena. The response was solidarity and strength, standing together not apart. It was also musical- from honorary Mancunian Ariana Grande putting together a massive concert at short notice at the cricket ground (just up the road from here) to the adoption of Don't Look Back In Anger as a sung two fingers to terror. My old school, Parrs Wood High School, provided the choir at the One Love concert and a host of pop stars sang their hearts out. We watched on TV through tears.
When the Supersonic documentary was on the other night my Twitter timeline was mainly full of people expressing the view that 'I never particularly liked Oasis but this documentary is really good'.
Lastly, in early May an event took place which confirmed my belief that people are essentially good and that bloggers are generally wonderful people. And that sometimes taking what seems like a risk is the right thing to do. A bunch of us- me, Brian (Linear Tracking Lives), Dirk (Sexy Loser), Walter (A Few Good Times) travelled from respectively Manchester, Seattle and Germany to Glasgow to meet the locals-Drew (Across the Kitchen Table), JC (The Vinyl Villain) and Stevie (Charity Chic Music), plus a few of JC's mates (Aldo, Comrade Colin, Strangeways). It was a risk- none of us knew if we'd get on or what would happen- but it paid off. We all have a new set of friends (real life friends now as well as internet friends) and I feel sure it will happen again. And everyone else is welcome too.
I was trying to think of a song that might find approval from the whole Glasgow bloggers collective, the international chancers (as Drew dubbed us), a song that we would say 'aye, that's a belter'. 80s indie looks likely. Early Primal Scream seems to fit the bill.
Saturday, 30 December 2017
More instrumental, blissed out vibes for late December, this time courtesy of Cantoma (Phil Mison). Phil is a veteran of the legendary Cafe del Mar, the scene for those Mediterranean sunsets. Many say that the true Ibiza experience has been ruined by mass tourism and corporate sponsorship- they may be right- but Phil has put out several records in the last few years attempting to capture the true spirit. Firstly, in 2016 in his Cantoma guise, a beautiful album called Just Landing. Physical copies are long since sold out (although relatively pricey Japanese imports are available on eBay). It can be bought digitally at the usual places. This co-production with Danny Rampling, Claudio's Theme, is spot on.
This year Phil put together a compilation called Out Of The Blue, a trip through a laid back and open minded record collection, which has this Frank de Wulf recording from 1992 on it, a starry-eyed, sun-going-down moment spread over seven minutes of vinyl.
Friday, 29 December 2017
This 30 minute mix might just freak you out a little. Martin Glover (Youth) put it together for the solstice (a week ago now- and just think, it is several minutes a day lighter than it was this time last week). The mix takes Joy Division and Basement 5 as the source material, adds some spoken words and in Martin's own words is an 'experimental and eclectic journey through the longest night of Solstice towards the new dawn...hinged around a Joy Division incessant voodoo drum beat...buckle up'.
Thursday, 28 December 2017
An escape hatch is exactly what this 2016 track by Seahawks is, a combination of white noise and lush melodies that swirl about until the bongo and piano hit at around a minute in. After that, it's another seven minutes of bliss. Even the saxophone, an instrument I can often do without, is a joy.
Wednesday, 27 December 2017
Let's blow those post-Christmas cobwebs away with some Mogwai, a song that gained a video/short film on December 21st. This is one of those slowly building, sky-scraping guitar tracks that they do so well.
It can't take away that extra inch you've gained around the waist over the last few days though.
Monday, 25 December 2017
Sunday, 24 December 2017
The Christmas edition of the NME used to be a big thing. Now the NME is given away for free by the doors in Top Shop but it was always a big deal back in the day. Double sized (88 pages!), albums and tracks of the year, alternative rock stars and indie bands in fancy dress, Shaun and Bez pissed and stoned... enough to keep you going through the long hours when there's nothing to do at a family Christmas.
In 1989 The Stone Roses were the NME's band of the year and it flew them out to Switzerland for photographs on top of a mountain. That year they had done a nationwide tour picking up converts on a daily basis, put out their debut album plus 3 singles, and played two era-defining gigs (at Blackpool in August and Ally Pally in November, plus Top Of The Pops). The two album based singles had B-sides that were as good as most of the album tracks (Made Of Stone in March had Going Down, She Bangs The Drum in July had Standing Here and Mersey Paradise). In November they put out the double A-side of Fool's Gold and What The World Is Waiting For, a game changer if ever there was one. They would never be that good again and in some ways 1990 would do for them- they stalled and lost the lightness of touch and sureness that in 1989 had put them on top of the world.
This Is The One
A year later NME's writers crowned Happy Mondays as the band that made 1990 tick. In the summer Step On made them pop stars. In November they put out Kinky Afro, produced by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne, a move that found them with a sound perfectly suited for the times and with a lyric that is unmatched. The extended Euromix (by Oakenfold and Osborne) made its way onto various releases (the USA and Australia both got the Euromix). My mp3 version is from The Factory Tape that came with Select magazine in 1991.
Kinky Afro (Euromix)
I've not posted Low's Just Like Christmas yet this year, something I have done most Decembers at Bagging Area. It is a delight, from the rattling drums and sleigh bells to the sweetly sung words describing the band travelling from Stockholm to Oslo in the snow while on tour.
Just Like Christmas
I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas, whatever you're doing and wherever you're doing it. See you in a few days for the post-Christmas lull.
Saturday, 23 December 2017
I've completely avoided Christmas songs up to now this year- they/it's been really annoying me- but I finished work yesterday and don't have to go back until Monday 8th January. And that is very good indeed.
So, Saturday before Christmas and everything that entails. Last minute shopping. Return trips to the supermarket for that one item they didn't have or you'd forgotten. Queuing to get in the supermarket carpark (although you knew you should have walked you thought it'd be ok). Writing cards for people who live nearby who you'd decided you wouldn't post to this year but then one from them dropped through the letterbox.
Forget all of that and spend a few minutes with Vini Reilly and an achingly beautiful piece of music from The Durutti Column.
One Christmas For Your Thoughts
One Christmas... is a close cousin of the magnificent For Belgian Friends. It was recorded in 1981 but not released until 1985, coming out on Les Disques du Crepuscule, a Belgian label based in Brussels that put out records by Factory acts (along with its subsidiary Factory Benelux).
Friday, 22 December 2017
Fifteen years ago today Joe Strummer returned from walking his dogs, sat down in front of his fire and died from an undiagnosed heart defect. I was out Christmas shopping and heard about it by text from my wife, then a friend, then another friend.
In 1990 Joe was deep into his wilderness years. He wrote a song that appeared in a film called I Hired A Contract Killer. Burning Lights is a little under three minutes long, just Joe and a chugging Telecaster riff for company, but it contains possibly his best lyrics, post-Clash.
'Some dreams are made for children
But most grow old with us
And when the air can hope to hold on
And to the ground from dust to rust
And I've been a long haul driver
Moving things but the cops don't know
Now I can see the writing
You are the last of the buffalo
Now I've been to California
And I've been to New South Wales
Sometimes I, I pull over
When I realise I've left no trace
Burning lights in the desert
Such a sign only you would know
Your running tyres, they're out of pressure
Such a sign only you would know.'
Burning Lights seems completely autobiographical to me, a man looking in the mirror. His era-defining band well behind him- a band which split up because, as he has realised, he made bad decisions and took bad advice- and here he is confronting a future which doesn't seem to have a place for the ex-leader of The Clash, the last of the buffalo, a man who believes he has left no trace. Pretty good eh? Rest in peace Joe.
Thursday, 21 December 2017
RGC Archive Hour Vol. 12 is with us, a winter special from Weatherall's record collection, opening with a song from The Rolling Stones' Goats Head Soup album. This week's dragging like it's made of lead- please let us get to Friday.
The Rolling Stones - Winter
Billy Mackenzie - Wild Is The Wind
Richard and Linda Thompson - Dimming Of The Day – Dargai
Bob Brown - Close Of the Day
The Innocence Mission - Beautiful Change
Mikael Tariverdiev - Snow Over Leningrad
Camille - Winter’s Child
Jackie Leven - Your Winter Days
The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters
Pierre Favre - Snow
Mark McGuire - Inside Where It’s Warm
Wednesday, 20 December 2017
Listening to some of 2017's shoegaze survivors put me in mind of 1988's great indie guitar hopes, Creation's House Of Love. Signed in 1987 Guy Chadwick, already a veteran of several bands but in 1986 inspired by seeing The Mary Chain, put a band together from an advert in Melody Maker and Terry Bickers dropped into his lap. Bickers was an understated but mercurial whizzkid. Much of the 'sonic cathedrals' aspect of shoegaze can be traced back to Bickers wall of fuzz and melody. Singles Christine and Destroy The Heart took them to the top of the Festive Fifty and the NME and briefly they looked like the boys most likely to. Then drugs, disagreements, major label problems and ego took over- and so did Manchester- and they never really recovered (despite making some songs that still stand up on various follow up lps and singles). But as well as the indie shimmer they could also be direct and full on. Road is drama filled, widescreen late 80s indie, chiming, ringing guitars and existential dread in the vocals followed by Guy's indie boy dream of freedom- 'Steal a car, the highway calls, stick some pins, in your toes, suck your cheeks, dance boy down the road'.
Album track Salome enters on driving drums and a killer riff before Guy comes in with 'I love the way she cries...' Bickers fires off blasts of guitar. Echoes of The Bunnymen in this one, not least Chadwick's closing lines 'Salome is dead, the king is free... I'm sailing on the sea'.
The dreamier side of them is captured well on this 1989 appearance of Channel 4's Big World Cafe. Whatever it is, they had it briefly.
Tuesday, 19 December 2017
You don't have to go very far at the moment in this country to see the impact of the social policies of the last Conservative government and the current one. Go into central Manchester (or any British town or city) and take a walk around and you'll be confronted by homelessness on a massive scale. It became unavoidable in Manchester city centre some time ago, people living on the streets in huge numbers. The public's reaction to it is appalling too at times- I saw three young men stop, point and laugh at a homeless man sitting on the street recently. Out here in Sale, a 15 minute tram ride from Piccadilly Gardens, 4 miles from the city centre, there are people sleeping in the precinct, on the steps of an electrical substation and in the doorways of Boots and Sainsburys.
Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake have collaborated on a track called The Priest, highlighting the problem of homelessness, based on the poetry of a Big Issue seller Joe Gallagher.
Johnny Marr is finishing a third solo album. In an interview about The Priest and the forthcoming solo album he said this-
'Because of what had happened with Brexit and Trump and everything, I came into this record really determined to not let those fuckwits impede on my creative life. But you’re living in this world and you can’t do anything about it. So much of the record is about dislocation.' The full interview is here. There's an internet meme that goes around which is 'Be more like so-and-so' and in this case it stands up- be more like Johnny. Be more like Maxine.
Monday, 18 December 2017
So said Brian Eno, providing Manchester's most enduring group with a name. I've seen them play live three Decembers running now, in a basement in Blackburn last year and at a sparsely attended show at the university the year before. Saturday night's gig at The Ritz is close to full, a sign that being on a big label (Mute) brings promotion and rewards. The core members of ACR have been playing together now for nearly 40 years so it's no surprise that they as tight as can be. It's also good that having seen them play shows in fairly close succession, that they are still changing the arrangements of the songs, extending them and mucking about with outros and middle parts. Singer/bassist Jez is suffering from sciatica, having to sit down at times, but there are no half measures. During the encore he dedicates the gig to the memory of Duncan O'Brien, technician and friend to the group who died this year. On the balcony teenage daughters of the band dance and take photos. On the floor it's mainly the 40 plus crowd. In the toilets someone says 'for a moment there, I thought I was back in Hacienda'.
In looks and sound I've often thought that ACR's short back and sides haircuts and clipped funk could have made them the perfect house band for a club in Weimar Berlin. Arriving on stage to the ACR:MCR intro tape, they kick off with the early stuff, drawing us in with taut basslines and staccato guitar parts and Donald Johnson's mesmeric drumming. Just when it begins to feel like it might be little too austere, just a tad too '81, they turn the gig on a sixpence and hit us with 3 slices of late 80s dance-pop; 27 Forever, Won't Stop Loving You and Good Together. Suddenly the greying but up for it Mancunian crowd are dancing with Denise's singing front and centre. Then we get Be What You Wanna Be and Shack Up, two pieces of Manchester music as essential as anything anyone else has recorded in the last 40 years. The final song is as it always is- Don and Martin Moscrop swap places, Martin on the drums and Don slapping fuck out of a bass guitar, with everyone else on cowbells, whistles and bongos. They tour next year, another sign that Mute's money has brought them some freedom. The re-issued album campaign is already underway. I have a friend, who I reconnected with a year ago, who made me a compilation tape back in late 1986 or early 1987. On it was this song, one that I've been listening to now for 30 years. Hearing the stepped, jerky funk of Do The Du live in 2017 is just as good as hearing it on a C90 was then (thanks for that Darren). Do The Du was originally released on The Graveyard And The Ballroom, a Factory Records cassette from 1980.
Do The Du
This is the one that got everyone singing along on Saturday night. We can argue about whether the original version (here) or the Bernard Sumner remix is the best, but this is the version they've been playing live.
'When you're sick and tired
Of everybody lying to you
You just want to walk away
Walk right into better days'
The Big E
Sunday, 17 December 2017
Nope, I'm not entirely sure what is going on in the pictured Bagging Area either.
2017 seems to have been a good year for music. Making a list of 15 favourite albums was easy, an average of more than one a month- and in the end I got to 18. I'm sure there are loads of good albums I haven't heard too. These are the ones that pushed my buttons the most.
18 Monolife 'Sandalphon'
17 Peter Perrett 'How The West Was Won'
16 The Charlatans 'Different Days'
15 Hannah Peel 'Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia'
14 Steve Cobby 'Hemidemisemiquaver'
13 Timothy J. Fairplay 'Where Is The Champion'
12 The Replacements 'For Sale: Live At Maxwell's' (30 years old but first official release)
11 Ride 'Weather Diaries' (especially Cali, which soundtracked the end of August perfectly)
10 Slowdive 'Slowdive'
9 Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band 'Adios senor Pussycat'
8 Mogwai 'Every Country's Sun' (especially Party In The Dark, a number one in another universe)
7 Bicep 'Bicep'
6 The Jesus And Mary Chain 'Damage And Joy'
The top 5 are interchangeable in terms of positions, each one could be my number one in its own way.
Moon Duo 'Occult Architecture Vol 1' and 'Occult Architecture Vol 2'.
Released a couple of months apart as separate but linked records, the flip sides of each other, the light and the shade. Vol 2 is as light and up as anything they've done and is a treat but the dark side of the Vol 1 is often its equal. Motorik drumming, mellifluous guitar parts, analogue synths- psyche rock with electronics, blissed out and dreamy.
Andrew Weatherall 'Qualia'
Over the last couple of years Weatherall has hit another purple patch, with releases all over the place- singles, remixes, albums, dubs... Qualia is an 8 track joy, synths and guitars over live drums and loops, buzzing and propulsive, determinedly European in sound and full of vim. And just when you think he might be playing within himself, he throws in something like Soft Estates, a harking back to TLS's minimal electro, or Vorfreude 2, with lounge backing vocals cooing over massive sounding drums and wiggly keyboard lines.
Jane Weaver 'Modern Kosmology'
A hit of summer, psyche, folk, glam, kraut and pop all bound up in one ten song record.
Kelly Lee Owens 'Kelly Lee Owens'
I bought this almost on a whim in Piccadilly Records at the start of the year (and it's their album of the year). Kelly's debut is a beautiful blend of woozy electronics, ambient textures with both pop and techno at its heart. The slow motion build of some of the songs contrasted perfectly with the rhythmic pulse of the others. Closing track 8, extended over nine and half minutes, is a trip into a dream world.
Yes, there are quite a lot of Andrew Weatherall records in this list. There are individual songs off all of the albums listed above that could make this list but for the sake of brevity I've kept it to stand alone releases. It starts with a summer holiday earworm courtesy of the daughter and the then latest NOW! compilation and ends with Aura by Bicep which, especially in its 12" form, sums up everything that is great about electronic dance music.
35 Miley Cyrus 'Malibu'
34 Gorillaz 'Andromeda'
33 Paul Weller 'Mother Ethiopia'
32 Lorde 'Green Light'
31 Fort Beulah N.U. 3 one sided 12" singles that I'm taking together- '1', '2' and '3'
30 Phil Kieran 'No Life' Roman Flugel remix
29 Trentemoller and Jenny Lee 'Hands Up'
28 Confidence Man 'Bubblegum' Andrew Weatherall Remix
27 AMOR 'Paradise'
26 Kid Wave 'Everything Changes'
25 Doc Daneeka and Robert Owens 'LUV UNLTD'
24 Calexico 'Voices In The Field'
23 Konzel 'Haptic Didactic'
22 Finiflex 'Ta Ta Oo Ha'
21 Andrew Weatherall 'Kaif'
20 Duncan Gray ft Sarah Rebecca 'Erotica Nervosa'
19 Heart People 'Voices' Andrew Weatherall Remix
18 Nancy Noise 'Kaia/Azizi's Dance' Remix e.p.
17 Phil Kieran 'Find Love' Andrew Weatherall Remix
16 Jagwar Ma 'Give Me A Reason' Remixes
15 Charlotte Gainsbourg 'Deadly Valentine'
14 Andrew Weatherall 'Kiyadub' ep
13 Gulp 'Morning Velvet Sky' single/Richard Norris Remix
12 Justin Robertson 'Numerical Discord Swap'
11 The Charlatans 'Different Days' Chris and Cosey Remix
10 Halina Rice 'Drive' single/Richard Norris Remix
9 Mark Lanegan Band 'Beehive' Andrew Weatheral Remix
8 The Early Years 'Hall Of Mirrors' Andrew Weatherall Mixes 1 and 2
7 Ride 'Pulsar'
6 Bicep 'Glue'
5 Alien Stadium 'Livin' In Elizabethan Times' ep
4 Yello 'Frautonium' The Andrew Weatherall Remixes (4 of them but especially Warehouse)
3 Richard Fearless 'Sweet Venus'
2 BP Fallon and David Holmes 'Henry McCullough' Andrew Weatherall Remix
1 Bicep 'Aura' 12" Mix
Good video too.
Saturday, 16 December 2017
Honecker Complex is a contender for song title of the year. It is taken from a 4 track e.p. out early next year called An Introduction To Consumer Electronics, produced by the magic hands of Timothy J. Fairplay. Synths at full throttle, a rattling kick drum, arpeggios galore.
Titles are a speciality of Tim's. The final track on the record is a number called Birthday Celebrations At Utrecht Space Disco.
Friday, 15 December 2017
Frankfurt's Roman Flugel has been a resident on the German electronic and club scene since the early 90s. His head was turned by a Chicago house compilation his older brother gave him and he hasn't looked back since. In 2016 he released an album, All the Right Noises, a record that went some distance from acid techno and trance, exploring a more ambient and contemplative sound- synths, ambient noise and analogue drum sounds. The title track is a perfect example.
All The Right Noises
In 2014 he remixed one of the tracks off Daniel Avery's debut album, turning an already pretty tripped out modern techno track into an even more tripped out modern techno track. A masterclass of machine groove.
Thursday, 14 December 2017
Continuing this week's very loosely themed run of posts combining photos from German fashion magazines in 1995 found when searching for images using the search term 'German techno 1990s' with dance music- and just in case you've already worked your way through all of Steve Cobby's City Of Vultures archive I posted yesterday- here is an hour long mix from Craig Bratley that kicks off with Jaydee (Dutch producer of the 1992 classic Plastic Dreams) and heads deep after that, ending with Bicep's Aura (one of this year's best records round here, without a shadow of a doubt). Driving rhythms and space age sounds fitted as standard. By the 38 minute mark it's all very intense. Vorsprung durch technik.
Jaydee - Back Into Acid
O'Flynn - Pluto's Beating Heart
Rahaan - Move Out The Way
DMX crew - The Wiggly Worm
Option 4 - To Be Your Baby
Savage Hymn- Animals v2
Stephan Barnem - Flash Drama
Rebolledo - Discotico Plexico (Maceo Plex remix)
Ara Koufax - Natural States
Bicep - Aura
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
At the eastern end of the M62 is Hull, City of Culture 2017. Steve Cobby, dj, musician and producer and resident of Hull, has spent some of the year celebrating by playing records and inviting friends to do the same at City of Vultures. There's a treasure trove of mixes to explore in the City of Vultures archive on Soundcloud, Steve plus guests like Ashley Beedle, Mr Scruff, Darren Emerson and Richard Dorfmeister- disco through to techno and most points in between.
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Pic from the same source as yesterday's German techno image (a German edition of Elle I think, mid 90s Deutsche fashion shoot).
Music from Steve Mason and Martin Duffy who as Alien Stadium have gone and released an end of year beauty, a four track mini-album called Livin' In Elizabethan Times. Mason has had fun with the lyrics- on The Visitation imagining a conversation between the human occupants of planet Earth and some alien invaders. The visitors have had a look at us and decided we aren't much cop.
'Your leaders are arseholes
Your science is crap
And just for the record
Your planet is flat
We hate your religions
Your food is too weak
Your language confusing
You're far from unique
DIE DIE DIE DIE'
The entire e.p. is a blast from start to finish, engaging and inventive- guitars and synths, driving drums and rhythms, Steve's familiar doleful voice, the sound of two men having fun. My only complaint is the cost of the vinyl- fifteen quid, which for 4 songs is pretty expensive.
Monday, 11 December 2017
Early 90s German techno anyone? Admittedly some 1992 techno can sound a bit harsh on the ears at this distance. The techno kick drum and tempo of Come Into My Life place it firmly in 1992, as do the acidic edges. It also veers into trance but the vocal and the sweeping strings lift it elsewhere. Even if you don't like techno (or think you don't) you should give this one a go. The Youtube uploader has set it to scenes from Bladerunner which makes perfect sense.
Come Into My Life was produced by Torsten Fenslau, who had a record label called Abfahrt as well. His biggest commercial success was producing Mr. Vain by Culture Beat, number one in 12 countries in 1993. He died in a car crash the same year. According to Wiki Mr. Vain was the first number one record not to have been released as a 7" single since the 1950s. Despite its Eurodance cheesiness Mr. Vain is a song that always makes me smile.
Sunday, 10 December 2017
Two slices of early 1990s dance music to whisk us away from December and all those pre-Christmas irritations. First up is a song I've posted before but only recently saw the video for the first time.
Released by Creation in 1990 Dream Beam is a wonderful slice of house music, bleepy and spaced out with vocals from Denise Johnson. It was this song that got her the gig with Primal Scream and led to her singing on Screamadelica. Tony Martin's production is perfectly in tune with the times- he put an album out too, also called Hypnotone, which is worth pulling out from the shelf or looking out for if this kind of thing is your bag. Dream Beam is also on Creation's definitive 1991 Keeping The Faith compilation, along with Fluke, Weatherall's MBV remix, World Unite, Sheer Taft, Love Corporation, Primal Scream and a couple of others. Keeping The Faith is among the very best things the label ever released.
I saw Hypnotone perform at a mini-festival in Sefton Park, Liverpool (I think it was summer 1990). Larks In The Park was an annual affair starting in the early 80s. Famously in 1985 The Stone Roses and The La's played the same night. Hypnotone went on way after dark. We were on a grass bank across the boating lake from the stage and the bleeps came from the bandstand, drifting across the water towards us, followed by Denise's voice. Everyone was very chilled and happy. It was one of those moments.
Dream Beam (Danny Rampling Remix)
I posted Papua New Guinea by Future Sound Of London fairly recently, back at the end of August. August seems like a long time ago now. This is another video I'd never seen before until recently, FSOL playing Papua New Guinea on Top Of The Pops in 1991. And playing it live. Papua New Guinea is one of those records that takes you away from it all.
Weatherall's remix takes things up several gears, a thumping kick drum over that throbbing synths and the rushing rewind sounds. Tom toms. Seagulls. Chanting.
Papua New Guinea (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
Saturday, 9 December 2017
It's Saturday, the forecast is for snow today and lots of snow tomorrow. They often promise that but equally often it doesn't happen. To be frank, snow at the weekend is a waste of time and effort. Snow is only any real use if it closes work and you get a stolen day off.
A few weeks ago the latest edition of the R.G.C. Archive our went up online, Andrew Weatherall's irregular jaunt through his record collection following his enforced move form his Shoreditch studio. This is Vol. 11 and has a distinctly filmic and soundtrack quality with a side order skronky saxophone jazz. Just right for bunkering in while the snow falls.
Black Merda - Windsong
Don Sebesky - Sounds Of Silence
John Schroeder Orchestra - But She Ran The Other Way
Quincy Jones - Sahara Stone
Simon Park - Tides
Annette Peacock - The Succubus
Ralph Carmichael - Searching Questions
Bruno Nicolai - De Sade
The Harry Roche Constellation - Spiral
The Mystic Moods - The Seventh Plane
Ennio Morricone - Come Maddalaena
The Animated Egg - I Said, She Said, Ah Cid
Friday, 8 December 2017
After writing about them at the weekend I've been thinking about Minutemen a bit this week, digging out some of the records and cds, thinking about an ICA for The Vinyl Villain and then it occurred to me that I could tie together two of this week's posts quite neatly.
One of the Minutemen's key songs is Corona (off Double Nickels on The Dime but more famous as the theme tune to Jackass. Let's try to ignore tattooed MTV idiots stapling their arms and scrotums and focus on the song). D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley all wrote lyrics for the songs. Inspired and turned on by punk rock they decided early on that they would write lyrics that meant something. D. Boon wrote Corona after a trip to Mexico.
Mike Watt can explain the song better than I can- 'Corona is very heartfelt. D. Boon wrote that one on a trip to Mexico. After all the drinking and the partying, the morning after, there's a lady picking up bottles, to turn them in to get monies for her babies... it really touched him. Music was personal with us, it's how we were together, and then the [punk] movement let us do it in front of people. The movement was so inclusive, and it seemed that if you wanted in, you had to bring something original – it was kind of a toll. And for D. Boon, I remember him telling people, “Okay, whatever we play, it sounds like the Minutemen”. And that's what I hear in Corona.There's a little Mexico in there, it's got a little 'thinking out loud' – what D. Boon called our lyrics. Like, D. Boon's thinking about what's going on here: we're having a party at the beach, and this lady, by using the empty Corona bottle – it's not like D. Boon liked Corona beer! – no, she's using that bottle to help. So there's a real connection there. That's why I really like Corona – it's a strange mixture of things, but to me it's the nice things about the Minutemen'.
There's so much about this 2 minute 25 second song- the Mexican riff at the start followed by the trebly guitars and double time drumming, the fizz and buzz of the bass, D. Boon's punk poetics- he manages to say so much with so few words-
'The people will survive
In their environment
The dirt, scarcity, and the emptiness of our south
The injustice of our greed
The practice we inherit
In their environment
The dirt, scarcity, and the emptiness of our south
The injustice of our greed
The practice we inherit
The dirt, scarcity and the emptiness of our south
There on the beach
I could see it in her eyes
I only had a Corona
Five cent deposit'
There on the beach
I could see it in her eyes
I only had a Corona
Five cent deposit'
In 2003 Calexico put out their fourth album, Feats Of Wire, the one that brought all the pieces together with some career high points. One edition of the cd came with some bonus tracks, including a cover of Corona, a pretty logical song for them to cover. Calexico slow it down a bit and add some lovely mariachi horns
Track 32 (Corona)
While looking for a picture for this post I found this image of a pair of SST labelmates, pictured in front of a poster for Husker Du's 1984 double album, D. Boon (who died the following year when their tour van crashed) and Grant Hart (drummer of Husker Du, who died this year of cancer).
Thursday, 7 December 2017
Jane Weaver's album (Modern Kosmology) is one of my most played lp releases of 2017. In October one of the stand out songs, The Architect, became the lead song on an e.p. with 3 new tracks. This one, Element, is the closer and is a thing of motorik joy. Jane's choral, layered vocals ease us in and then metronomic, minimal drums take over. A bassline joins in pulsing away. Over the next 7 minutes plus we get more of the same, beautifully repetitive. Static and odd noises come and go. Waves of synths wash in and out. It's too insistent to be ambient, very much something to tune into to and then lose yourself in.
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Last week Walter posted a new song by Calexico. I used to listen to Calexico a lot, back in the first decade of this century, but we drifted apart a couple of albums ago. I reached a point where I couldn't take any more Americana, I'd had my fill. But the song Walter posted last week was good, their Tex-Mex vibe is still there but with a driving guitar riff and something else- an intent and a focus, kicking out, a response to events. It comes ahead of an album in January, The Thread That Keeps Us.
On tracking back I found out that they put out a new single back in October too, another trailer for the forthcoming album. End Of The World With You has a driving twangy guitar line, an Ameri-indie feel and lyrics about the 'love in the age of extremes'. Trump. Far right extremism. Gotta keep pushing back against this and Calexico's response sounds alright to me.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
On our Freeview box we have several music channels, one of which is devoted to dance music (Clubland Classics or something is its name). It often runs down a chart of 50 early 90s dance music smashes which invariably I get sucked into. I walked into the front room on Sunday to find this playing.
Before they decided to turn into a rock band The Prodigy were a full on Essex rave outfit, Liam Hewlett's dj and production skills plus 3 mates as dancers. No Good (Start The Dance) was a 1994 single built around a Kelly Charles vocal sample, rave synth stabs and a frantic breakbeat. The video is also very 1994, clearly paving the way for the later Firestarter and Breathe videos. But aside from slow-mo shots of Liam, Keith Flint and Maxim, it's the dancing that really strikes me and that really locates it in 1994.
Monday, 4 December 2017
Under Bernie Rhodes' tuition Joe Strummer and The Clash were encouraged to write about the world around them, real things that mattered. Joe said as far as love songs were concerned ''subject covered'' and he had a tendency to be a bit sniffy about Mick's love songs. But as Viv Albertine pointed out in her autobiography Clothes Music Boys in some ways it's Mick's love songs that have been among the most enduring of The Clash's tunes, Train In Vain and Should I Stay Or Should I Go among them.
Train In Vain was a last minute addition to London Calling, added right at the end after the sleeves had been printed (which added to the notion that the group were embarrassed about love songs). It was also intended for an NME flexidisc but that never happened so onto London Calling it went. Train In Vain rides in on a railway rhythm and Mick's twin riffs- harmonica and guitar- and the country and western inspired lyric, which may be about Mick's relationship with Viv which broke down around the time of the London Calling sessions. It was also the first single that got into the top 30 in the USA, the country they were bored with and enthralled by. Throughout his time as leader of Big Audio Dynamite Mick barely wrote a love song, in either incarnation of the band- in fact I can't think of a single one off the top of my head.
I saw on Twitter over the weekend that it is now 6 years since the Mick Jones/Pete Wylie/The Farm tour that played Clash songs up and down the country. It was a great moment to see Mick play Train In Vain and do his little shuffle and grin on stage at The Ritz. Later on Ian Brown and John Squire turned up for the encore, their first appearance on stage together since announcing the Roses reunion. Train In Vain is a great little song, one which always raises a cheer when I hear it.
Train In Vain
Sunday, 3 December 2017
The Hartnoll brothers, re-united again, played Manchester on Friday night. Just before kick off I was outside the Apollo trying to shift a spare ticket- along with half a dozen other middle aged men also trying to sell spares. 'Dad techno ticket to sell' someone shouted. Inside, having been unsuccessful in selling the spare, it was pretty rammed despite the spare ticket situation. Round the fringes of the Apollo standing area were a few hardy souls who looked like they'd taken an E in 1989 and never stopped but largely it was middle aged mums and dads on a night out.
Orbital appeared on a podium on top of the stage making them a good 10 feet above the usual stage height, with films and images projected above them, below them and behind them. A lattice of mini-laser beams mid-set caused cheers. Musically it's a greatest hits set plus a few new ones, perfectly paced, the songs segueing into one another. Opening with Lush 3 and then straight into Impact (The Earth Is Burning) is a statement of intent. Orbital are not going to spend long warming you up- the kickdrum started about 20 seconds in and didn't really let up. From the off the bass was loud- I could feel my jeans and coat vibrating. Phil and Paul are both wearing the trademark light-up glasses and frequently waving their hands in the air and doing the pointing-fingers dance, clearly enjoying themselves.
They chuck in 2017's Copenhagen early on and premier two other new ones (Phuk and Tiny Foldable Cities) but the main joy is in hearing their classic tracks at volume in front of an appreciative crowd- The Girl With The Sun In Her Head, Satan, a beautiful Halcyon and set closer Belfast. The rock trappings of the encore are still with us- they thank us, go off and we await their return. And when they return we are given The Box, a slightly too short Chime and Where Is It Going? All over by 11.00 pm. Babysitters get double after midnight.
Saturday, 2 December 2017
In 1984 Minutemen, from San Pedro, released one of US punk's set texts, Double Nickels On The Dime, a 45 song double album (out on SST in the same year as Husker Du's double Zen Arcade). Minutemen came from the punk rock scene but Double Nickels... contains much more- country, jazz, spoken word stuff, funk. The songs are short, really short, so if you didn't like one, no need to jump up and flip the needle on- another song will be coming along any second now.
Their lyrics weren't standard punk stuff either...
'A word war
Will set off the keg
"My words are war!"
Should a word have two meanings?
What the fuck for?
Should words serve the truth?
I stand for language
I speak the truth
I shout for history
I am the cesspool
For all the shit
To run down in'
Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Truth?
By the time singer and guitarist D. Boon died in a van crash, out on tour, the band had put out four albums and eight e.p.s, criss-crossed the States, and converted thousands, one-by-one. Their story, beautifully told, is here...
As D. Boon sang in History Lesson Part II 'our band could be your life'.
Friday, 1 December 2017
December's here. Woo. Let's celebrate the arrival of advent with some soundtrack music from Clint Mansell. San Junipero was the fourth episode from last year's Black Mirror series, Charlie Brooker's stories of future shock and technology gone wrong. In San Junipero two women, Yorkie and Kelly, meet in a bar in a beach resort in 1987 and fall in love. The beach resort and bars and entire existence turn out not to be entirely as they same. Ditto the people. I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it- get thee to Netflix and watch it. For a Black Mirror episode it had an upbeat ending too.
The episode is peppered with songs from 1987, including a brief snippet of Girlfriend In A Coma and a repeating Heaven Is A Place On Earth. The rest of the soundtrack was by Clint Mansell, formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself. The 10 tracks Clint recorded came out as a stand alone album and work well independently, with washes of synths, pulses of bass, strings, bleeps and static and repeating melodies. This is the closing piece. It's a long way from Beaver Patrol.
San Junipero (Saturday Night In The City of The Dead)
Thursday, 30 November 2017
Kelly Lee Owens has released one of this year's best albums- her self-titled debut is the Piccadilly Records album of the year and they don't usually get it wrong. The album has been near my stereo since it came out, a woozy, spectral head-trip with little melodies emerging from the analogue synths and drum machine, sing-song vocals and extended waves of ambient noise. To finish the year off she has put out a single, a cover of Aaliyah's More Than A Woman, heavy bass and sampled strings, out digitally now and on vinyl soon. The B-side is her own remix of the A-side, a tougher house version with squiggles.
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
This was one of the stand out tracks on Weatherall's most recent Music's Not For Everyone, a strange electronic track from Konzel. You can find it as one of five tracks from five different artists on Glasgow's Invisible Family 2 ep. Haptic Didactic has a hypnotic bass, synths, guitar slashes, a disjointed voice, some great percussion sounds and a lot more besides. Absorbing stuff and available digitally at Bandcamp.
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Mr Weatherall is currently on tour in Australia but he sent in November's edition of Music's Not For Everyone so we wouldn't miss out.
More of the usual weird, psychedelic, dub, house mish-mash. from Agnes Obel, Okay Temiz and Johnny Diyani, Stunning Couple, Poets Of The Machine, Natural Sugars, Konzel, The Spellbinder Project, Mumbo Jumbo, Au Pairs, Sven Libaek, Anthony King, Jock Scott and Gareth Sagar, Klaus Joynson and The Type 40, Eddie Miller, Buck Jones, Max Wall, Kaleidoscope, Gerardo Iacoucci, O.C.S., Justine, Jennifer Touch, Anne Clark and AMOR.
Monday, 27 November 2017
This came out in September and was widely missed and it's a shame because it is an excellent piece of disco-tinged house. Duncan Gray provides the music, the clipped riff and the beats, the whooshing noises and the grimey bassline. Sarah Rebecca provides the vocals, about drive and ambition and sexual obsession, ending up chanting 'I will be reborn in the fire' over a dirty, descending guitar part.
It's a Monday at the end of November. Christmas is too far away to look like any fun. Black Friday is a dispiriting now annual occurrence. We all could all do with some uplifitng, slinky, funky dance music in our lives couldn't we?
Sunday, 26 November 2017
Every so often I get an email from Mark, the founder of the Quiet Storm family, asking for a suggestion. He'll provide a theme or a photo and ask for a song. A while back he asked for songs that name-check other artists and the Quiet Storm family responded in spades. Mark has compiled and mixed the songs together into a 70 minute mix that is a hit from start to finish, as the tracklist below shows.
The songs I suggest for these mixes often end up being the last song, the play out tune. I don't know what that tells you about me. That I like to have the last word? That the songs I choose are all end of night records? That I go for encores? This time it's Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros' Yalla Yalla, a favourite of mine since it came out in the late 90s. Joe spins out lines about Kool Moe Dee, The Treacherous Three and Brownie McGee.
1. Consolation Prize - Orange Juice
2. Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken - Lloyd Cole And The Commotions
3. You Get What You Give - New Radicals
4. Just Like Eddie - Heinz
5. You're Right Ray Charles - Joe Tex
6. Aretha Sing One For Me - George Jackson
7. When Smokey Sings - ABC
8. Thou Shalt Always Kill - Dan le Sac VS Scroobius Pip
9. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House - LCD Soundsystem
10. Lighten Up Morrissey - Sparks
11. All Men Are Liars - Nick Lowe
12. Sweet Gene Vincent - Ian Dury
13. Faron Young - Prefab Sprout
14. Tinseltown To The Boogie Down - Scritti Politti
15. Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds - The Mountain Goats
16. Elvis Presley Blues - Gillian Welch
17. On My Way To Harlem - Gregory Porter
18. Yalla Yalla - Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
Here's Joe back in 1999
Saturday, 25 November 2017
A friend posted this picture on social media recently, a magazine photoshoot from 1995. Richard Whiteley at the controls. My best effort on the letters was 'scores', 6 letters, not too bad I thought. But, according to the Countdown episode guide (yes, it exists) you could get an 8 letter word- 'scowlers'.
This is a new one from Justin Robertson (in his Deadstock 33s guise), about to come out on 7", a chugging, funky piece of acid goodness, equal parts Detroit and Manchester with bleeps straight out of Yorkshire. It really hits the spot for Saturday.
Friday, 24 November 2017
I found this picture I took a few years ago, the River Irwell again but somehow I managed to get it and everything around it entirely in blue. No filters. So one more river post to complete the week- I was thinking of songs that mention rivers (Nick Cave and Kylie, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Sugar's The Act We Act) but you can flog these blog things to death if you're not careful.
This song is from A Certain Ratio's 1989 album Good Together, released following their move to a major label (A&M) in search of funds and a hit. Hits evaded them. But Good Together is a good album, a song based record, a little over polished possibly, and they went several steps beyond it with the following year's ACR:MCR, an album which was soaked in what was happening in the clubs.
ACR are playing The Ritz in December and then a UK tour in March. I've seen them twice in recent years and will do again next month- they are well worth seeing if they're playing anywhere near you.
Thursday, 23 November 2017
This muddy stream is in the woods in Sale, a dirty tributary that I'm guessing ends up in the Mersey. Musically, today I offer you a delightfully strange song and its dub, both from the magic hands of Lee Perry and Zap Pow, recorded at Perry's Black Ark at some point in the 1970s (1977 I think). The original track is slowly wonky, vocal harmonies and horns and a lilting rhythm. The dub, River Stone, is dubbier and less strange, strangely. A river that smells of sweet herbs and drifts towards the sea.
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
That's the Mersey, wending its way from Stockport, through Sale (where the picture was taken) and out through Cheshire to Liverpool. Mersey Paradise as four mop-tops once said.
There's an excellent 7" release- sold out/repressed/sold out/repressed and currently available again here- by the Dubwood Allstars called Under Dubwood, a Richard Burton reading Dylan Thomas in dub King Tubby excursion.
The B-side is River Theme, a grizzly, funky garage-psyche groove from The Time And Space Machine.
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
The Irwell again, above, photographed from the same bridge as yesterday but facing south rather than north.
River Of Bass is the opener to Side D of dubnobasswithmyheadman (or track 8 on cd), possibly the best album of the 1990s. River Of Bass glides into being, all fluid and loose with Karl's vocals half whispered/half sung over the top, their most ambient track. Sub bass that entrances and mesmerises. Calming and reflective.
River Of Bass
Monday, 20 November 2017
Some more rivers coming your way over the next few days I think. Yesterday's river was the Afon Llugwy in Betws-Y-Coed, North Wales, photographed when I was there a few weeks ago. Today's river picture shows the Irwell, historic boundary between Manchester (right) and Salford (left). The pub down by the river on the Salford side, the Mark Addy, was ruined by floods in 2015.
In 2002 Doves found themselves caught by the river. I think it's the same river that R.E.M. were looking for yesterday, a mystical river rather than a geographically specific river. Rivers often symbolise time, power, nature obviously, loss of control, and futility (the futility of trying to hold a river back). Also the river, in song and in life, always joins the sea and then disappears into it. The narrator in this song seems to be talking to his son, who's made a mistake, been caught and now has to learn the lesson.
Doves were a good band. Currently on hiatus, Andy and Jez re-appeared as Black Rivers in 2015. I've posted it before but this Richard Norris remix of their song The Forest is well worth hearing again, a kind of autumnal Balearica.
Sunday, 19 November 2017
I haven't deliberately listened to any R.E.M. for ages. I hear them in passing but don't often make the effort to play their records. Recently I had an overwhelming urge to hear Find The River. The album it finished off, Automatic For The People, came out a quarter of a century ago and for an album that is right up there in their back catalogue, Find The River is quite the ending, heartstrings tugged at for sure, but also optimistic and wide eyed (at the end of a record that was surrounded by rumours of death and illness). Lovely beyond belief.
Stipe's lyrics were much clearer by this point-
'The river to the ocean flows
A fortune for the undertow
None of this is going my way'
But he could still chuck in words for their own sake, for the sound of them-
'Of ginger, lemon, indigo
Coriander stem and rose of hay'
And finish with couplets that seem to mean something-
'Strength and courage overides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river poet search naivete
Pick up her and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
All of this is going your way'
Saturday, 18 November 2017
You know you're gonna be mine...
I'm going to bounce you out of your bed on this Saturday morning with a perfect piece of rave- pop from Bizarre Inc, a trio from Stafford. They had two hit singles in 1991, both ravier and more hardcore- Playing With Knives and Such A Feeling. I'm Gonna Get You is unashamedly pop, with vocals from Angie Brown (reworking lyrics from Jocelyn Brown's Love's Gonna Get You, a 1985 song which also contained germs of two other rave hits, a sample in Moby's Go and the line 'I've got the power!' in Snap's The Power). I'm Gonna Get You went to number 2 in the chart, based around a drumbeat, synth stabs and some vocal hooks. Once in your head they will stay there all day.
Yo DJ pump this party.
I'm Gonna Get You