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Monday, 26 September 2022

Monday's Long Song

Today's long song comes from the mysterious Anatomy Of The Head, an EP that was revealed in a dream in the winter of 2021 and then recorded in Germany by a three piece group who live in Kiribati, possibly (Kiribati is an island in the central Pacific Ocean). The EP, one long twenty nine minute piece made up of eight shorter movements and titled Unholy Spirits Light Divine is a ghostly invocation, the sound of a string movement playing in the wind recorded onto a hand held microphone in the dark. It is long and hypnotic, anxiety inducing in places, freaked out ambient/ neo- classical/ sonic disturbance. It's an enthralling listen, one which could be experienced differently in different circumstances. Your Monday morning commute may not be the ideal circumstances but then again, you never know. 

You can buy Unholy Spirits Light Divine at Bandcamp where the group- Michael van Gore, Heidenreich and Mr Fishman who play respectively strings of blood, mutilation and dismemberment- have provided more detail and background about the EP and the long song itself, The Tomb Of Kitlab Al- Roh. 

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Forty Minutes Of Andrew Weatherall Remixes For Convenanza

The Convenanza festival held at Carcasonne in south west France is in its third day today, the first festival since 2019 and the first since Andrew Weatherall died in February 2020. Convenanza started as an Andrew Weatherall and friends three day festival held inside the walls of the Medieval castle, organised by Bernie Fabre with a hand picked line up reflecting Weatherall's singular and eclectic worldview- acid house, dub, space rock, gnostic sonics, leftfield literature, artists painting the castle walls in trippy yellow stripes and performances from Andrew as DJ and as Woodleigh Research Facility with sets over the years from the likes of Silver Apples, The Liminanas, Red Axes, Baris K and Curses. This year the three nights have seen headlining sets by David Holmes with support including Glok, Ian Svenonius, The Utopia Strong, Manfredas and Sean Johnston/ ALFOS. I've never been to Convenanza, it's the wrong time of year for a teacher to be flying to south west France for a weekend of debauchery, but one day I shall no longer be bound by school holidays and if Bernie still puts Convenanza on, I shall be there. In the meantime I live Convenanza vicariously through updates from friends who are there. In tribute to the festival and Andrew Weatherall todays forty minute mix is a Convenanza friendly set of Weatherall remixes from the last decade, the hissy drum machine, space echo, arpeggiator and sequencers all deployed, setting the controls for the heart of le sol.

Forty Minutes Of Andrew Weatherall Remixes

  • Group Rhoda: King (The Asphodells Remix)
  • Richard Sen: Songs Of Pressure (The Asphodells Remix)
  • The Venetians: Son Sur Son (Andrew Weatherall Edition Uno)
  • Silver Apples: Edge Of Wonder (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
  • Heretic: Pollux (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
  • The Twilight Sad: Videograms (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
  • Andrew Weatherall: Intro
We are making our own pilgrimage today, to Childhood Wood on the edge of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. The MPS Society, the charity who look after children and adults born with the set of genetic diseases, have a piece of woodland where they invite families to plant a tree in memory of those who have died. We're going there today to plant an oak sapling for Isaac and to see him added to the memory board. Another moment of grief and remembrance in a year full of them. 

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Let The Good Times Be Never Ending

New Century Hall is a first floor concert venue at the foot of the CIS tower near Victoria station in Manchester. Opened in 1963 it has recently been restored to its former modernist glory and has spectacular wooden panelled walls and a ceiling filled with hundreds of painted lightbulbs. Back in the day Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Tina Tuner played there. In 2009 I saw Billy Childish play the venue (though I think it was downstairs, it wasn't in the upstairs room). This week it's hosted a week of gigs to celebrate its re- opening. On Thursday night The Charlatans played there.

The band were playing two sets- a one off performance of their 1992 album Between 10th And11th in full, some songs not played since the 90s, followed by 'the hits'. The album is a curious one, caught in a no- man's land between Madchester and Britpop while grunge raged around them. The first flush of fame following Some Friendly and the success of The Only One I Know was behind them, guitarist John Baker was out of sorts and eventually left the group, replaced by Mark Collins. Bassist Martin Blunt was episodically unwell, the arrival of Collins led to some songwriting tensions and they were a little unsure about whether they'd alienate their fanbase by moving on from the sound that secured their rapid rise. The exact conditions in which make a record which then feels a little overlooked, an album of mainly album songs and one which is probably a fan favourite but was panned by the music press at the time and left behind by an audience moving elsewhere. Perfect then for re- appraisal in a live environment three decades later. 

With support from DJ Andy Votel playing all manner of 60s psychedelia, weirdness and exotica, The Charlatans take the stage just before nine, clearly excited to be in the building. They launch into Between 10th And 11th's opening song I Don't Want To See the Sights, a full on swampy groove, 1992 dance/ psychedelia, the organ and guitar swirling around Martin Blunt's thick, upfront bass. Tim Burgess is having the time of his life, grinning, waving, cheer leading and in very good voice. The song's layered and dense sound, long lyrical lines and subtle choruses are mirrored by the lightshow and projections- footage of the band across the years, album covers, the bands name, images of posters and gig tickets (including one for the gig at Liverpool Poly, March 1990 that I attended) and the circling oil wheel of 60s live gigs. Between 10th And 11th sounds played live now like a lost 90s gem- I think it probably always has been- but in the New Century Hall tonight its alive and present, layers of sound twisting around each other, guitars and organ/ keyboards with driving rhythms. Can't Even Be bothered gets a big cheer. The album's single, Weirdo, a genuine Charlatans classic with that woozy Hammond, is massive. Chewing Gum Weekend is a blast, an ode to youthful excess. They alter the order slightly, moving The End Of Everything to the end, a long, powerful psychedelic groove that brings it all to a climax.

I Don't Want To See The Sights

They leave the stage for ten minutes and then return for a perfectly pitched, emotional second half, beginning with a gloriously funky and melodic Let The Good Times Be Never Ending from 2015's album Modern Nature (their best from recent years) and then throw back to 1990 with a rocking version of Then, with its pumping rubbery mod bassline, indie dance drums and Tim's sweetly threatening vocals. The 70s Stones/ disco of You're So Pretty/ We're So pretty and Oh! Vanity follow, temperature rising, the band grinning at each other. The joyous title track from 1997's Tellin' Stories is played, fist pumping from Tim and the crowd singing along. 'Good that one isn't it', Tim says as it finishes. 

Then they play North Country Boy. I was expecting they would and was steeling myself for it. The single has always been an Isaac song for me. A friend bought it on 7" for Isaac not long after he was born and we played it at his funeral last year which has given it a massive resonance for us. When we walked into the chapel and the drums and guitar kicked in I did wonder if I'd ever be able to listen to it again. Crying at gigs has become a regular thing for me since he died and North Country Boy works its utterly sad magic, reducing me to tears, sucking all its emotion in and crying it out. I'm still in a state when they blast their way into One To Another, an inclusive outsider anthem, Bob Dylan meets The Chemical Brothers at the Heavenly Social. Next is another Modern Nature highlight, Come Home Baby, and then the finale, a long, trippy, stretched out and loud romp through Sproston Green, everything in its right place, a song to close a set with as good as any from the period that any of their contemporaries wrote. As a friend on Twitter said, 'Blimey, this looks like it was sensational!' 

It was. 

Let The Good Times Be Never Ending

Friday, 23 September 2022

Saturation Point

More new music, this time from regular postees Pye Corner Audio and Sonic Boom, the latter remixing the former. Pye Corner Audio's album Let's Emerge has bene a 2022 highlight, layers of subtleties and nuance in the drones and ambience. Pye Corner is often the music of dystopic nightmares, unsettling and subterranean. On Let's Emerge he has tried to face the light and make music that is optimistic and warm. On the closing track, Warmth Of The Sun, with Andy Bell on guitar he more than achieves it. Over the previous two sides of vinyl, the more I listen to it, the more I hear it (especially now my right ear is functioning more fully). 

Sonic Boom, residing in Sintra, Portugal, has remixed three of the tracks from let's Emerge and they're coming out as an EP, digital and vinyl with the 10" vinyl limited to 1000 copies on orange vinyl with am inside print too. By the time I heard about it it had sold at Bandcamp which at least spared me the moral dilemma of whether or not I could justify spending £17.99 on a three song EP (spoiler- I couldn't). The first of the three is available to listen to, a remix of Saturation Point that Sonic has pivoted back to the gloom. It starts out with gloomy synth sounds and creeping drones but eventually the door opens and twinkling beams of light work their way in, with a lovely, echo- laden Andy Bell guitar line that working its way to the fore. The EP, Let's Remerge!, out in November, also has Sonic Boom remixes of Haze Loops and Warmth Of The Sun which on the basis of this will be worth waiting for. 

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Brix Goes Tubular

Brix Goes Tubular, a collaboration between Justin Robertson's Deadstock 33s and Brix Smith, came out in the sweltering heat of August, a low slung and infectious slice of groovy acid/ indie disco, Brix surfing on top of Deadstock beats and bleeps. A joy.

Last week a dub version came out, prompting me to go back to it having played it non-stop for a few days and then forgotten about it. That seems to happen a lot. I'm not sure of that's my current concentration span issues or the nature of the seemingly constant torrent of music that floods out of the computer. The dub is lovely, laid back and warm, unwinding at its own pace and in no hurry to be anywhere at all sooner than it needs to be. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Wall Of Sleep

Having been reduced to only one fully functioning ear since early July has made appreciating new music difficult. Three weeks ago the GP diagnosed a sinus infection, an MRSA type bug, which had filled the eustachian tube to my right ear causing it to block, wipe out much of the hearing in it and produce raging tinnitus as a side effect. Eventually after two months of trying this, that and the other, I was prescribed some antibiotics (which it turns out they use to treat syphilis and malaria too) and although the first course didn't touch the infection, the second course began to work. Driving home last Wednesday, my right ear popped and I could hear. It fluctuated a bit over the next few days but then improved further. It is, in some ways, like being born again. All of which is a long winded way of getting round to some new music.

In July Daniel Avery released Higher, the then latest lead in to his new album Ultra Truth (due in November). Listening to Higher and the B-side Unfolder with tinnitus and only one ear was a disappointing experience. Listening to Higher and Unfolder last week on headphones in stereo was a revelation. Intense, reverb drenched, speaker rattling, emotive 21st century rave/ techno. 

Unfolder is even better, the sound of static, synths and filters, echo, dredged up from somewhere, with the drums pushing ever forwards and a spooked vocal sample. It all sounds very simple but I imagine took endless tweaking and refining. At one minute fifty a descending bass synth kicks in, adding not a little tension/ drama.

Yesterday Daniel put out the latest track from Ultra Truth, the altered state, another dimension woozy and drift of Wall of Sleep, metallic drums in the distance behind a blur of drones and a submerged vocal from HAAi. It does sound exactly like the techno your brain imagines as you wake up or drift off. Well, the techno my brain does, I can't speak with any confidence about yours. You can buy Wall of Sleep here, Higher/ Unfolder here and Ultra Truth here

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Triumph Of A Heart

We've been away for the weekend, spending two very enjoyable days in Sheffield and a walk in the Peak District yesterday. Late on Saturday night we started playing songs and videos from YouTube through the TV and this piece of brilliance was selected...

Triumph Of A Heart came out in 2005, the closing song on Brk's Medulla album. I haven't heard Medulla and this song and video were new to me. The video, directed by Spike Jonze (of course) is filmed in and around Reykjavik and features Brk driving off from her house into town for a night out, disappointed as she is with her husband. Who is a cat. 

Triumph Of A Heart

The song is a riotous musical adventure too, with human trombone sounds courtesy of Gregory Purnhagen, beatboxing, orchestral strings, synths, and Brk singing 'just celebrating the body, cells doing rollercoasters rides up and down your body'. Mark Bell from LFO is on board and beatboxing comes from Dokaka and Rahzel.  The version of the song in the video is different from the one on Medulla, mixing the album version and the Audition Mix from CD single 2 I think, making a superior version but either way Triumph Of A Heart is great fun, bouncy, idiosyncratic, cacophonous, celebratory pop music. 

The video is a blast- the part where Brk nips to the toilet, the song stops and the rest of her party step in and begin beatboxing and making all kinds of vocal noises is superb. She then goes off, falls over, bangs her head, stumbles around and is eventually rescued in the car by her feline husband. Back at the house they kiss, the cat grows to human size and they dance around the living room.