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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Far From Crazy Pavements

Sometimes you need a healthy does of bile and anger in your music and your art. The world is a fucked up, unpleasant place at the moment, not least the coverage of what is happening in the USA with the protests and riots following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The racism that blights the history of the USA never seems too far from the surface, a reminder that for all our pretence of 21st century modernity and sophistication attitudes formed over a few hundred years have very deep roots. You never have to dig very far to find racists and supremacists on social media. The absence of moral leadership at the top of US politics is obvious. Worse, the president encourages further, state sponsored violence by quoting racists in his Tweets. There is footage of policemen making white supremacist hand symbols to protesters. The president hides in the White House, issuing demands to State Governors to 'dominate' the protesters. In the past, even at moments of crisis- 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King or the Rodney King beating by the LA police- there was a sense that the President should act for the good of all Americans, provide some kind of re-assurance, attempt to unite. Trump does none of this. He separates, he divides, he incites, he fuels hatred. He should be removed.

Escaping through music that takes us away from this is the answer sometimes but it's also essential to listen to music that reflects the other side of human nature, society, governments and the way that we have chosen to organise ourselves. Beasley Street was written by John Cooper Clarke in response to the poverty of 1970s Salford and Margaret Thatcher's government and social polices but it's themes and imagery are universal. Released on his 1980 album Snap, Crackle And Bop and produced by Martin Hannett, it's a poem/ song with enough lines to ensure John immortality, not least 'Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies/In a box on Beasley Street'. A contemporary equivalent could be Matt Hancock laughing his way through an interview where he was confronted with a UK death toll of 38, 000 people.

Beasley Street is a torrent of words, JCC painting pictures of squalor, decay and suffering, indelible images of dead men's overcoats, riff joints, rats with rickets, broken teeth, shit stoppered drains, boys on the wagon and girls on the shelf, poison, lager turning to piss, ageing savages, yellow cats, the smell of cabbage, dead canaries and 'the fecal dreams of Mr Freud'. 

Beasley Street

Monday, 1 June 2020

Monday's Long Song

Another Monday, another Weatherall remix. This one came out in 1995, a Sabres of Paradise remix of Fun>Da>Mental. At seven and a half minutes long it's in no rush to get anywhere very quickly and has some very dusty and lazy sounds floating on top of the stoned groove. In fact, the title Mother In India (Sabres At Dusk Mix) is a pretty accurate description of what it sounds like.

Mother India (Sabres At Dusk)

It was coupled with the eight minute Sabres At Dawn Mix, a similar but less sleepy version.

Mother India (Sabres At Dawn)

The sleeve listed inspirational mothers, sisters and daughters throughout history that Fun>Da>Mental wanted to pay tribute to, from Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto to Boudica, Marie Curie, Betty Shabazz, Joan of Arc, Miriam Makeba, Mahalia Jackson, Emily and Sylvia Pankhurst, Angela Davies, Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King and Alice Walker.

This remix was one of the last Sabres of Paradise ones and I'm sure I read somewhere recently that it was the first tie that Andrew and Keith Tenniswood really worked together one to one so in some ways the Two Lone Swordsmen were born here. In 1995 the Sabres studio was above a dry cleaners in Hounslow, on the Flightpath Estate and I can hear some of the sound of the first Two Lone Swordsmen album, 1996's The 5th Mission (Return To The Flightpath Estate), in these two remixes.

To come bang up to date the fifth monthly Woodleigh Research Facility three track ep came out on Friday, a set of songs called Karra Mesh. Sonically and thematically the title track fits in very well with the two Fun>Da>Mental remixes above, the sounds he was exploring two and a half decades ago still circling.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

And We Ain't Got No Water

From 1977, a piece of Lee 'Scratch' Perry reggae so hot it could burn the vinyl it was pressed onto. Soul Fire clocks in slowly and then things fall into some kind of groove. A grunt, a hiss of steam, an organ groove and Lee's vocals, a rasping, edge of your seat kind of singing 'soul fiyah/ an' we ain't got no water'.  There's some 'la la la la la'. The horns come in low. This is so loose sounding but so on it and precise and the mix is superb, achieved using just a four track recording desk, some rum and collie weed (as SRC said a few weeks ago), the needles close to the red and the myriad of background noises that make something beautiful and righteous out of what could be chaos.

Soul Fire

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Isolation Mix Nine- Weatherdub

It's difficult to know where we are with isolation any more. Many people seem to be acting like it's all over, parks are full of groups of people and social distancing is a thing of last month. The daily death toll doesn't seem to be diminishing that much and in the north west we currently have the highest regional infection and death rate in the country. As the government brings about the end of lockdown in favour of the economy and to distract from the horrors of their mismanagement of the entire period, some people I'm sure will stay in and stay distanced. In our household we are shielding so our lives will carry on as before for the moment. God only knows where we go from here.

Isolation Mix 9 came partly from a comment I made at The Flightpath Estate, an Andrew Weatherall Facebook group where I promised a Weatherdub mix, and partly from Isolation Mix 6 three weeks ago, an hour of dub that had several of Lord Sabre's fingerprints on it. There's some crossover between that mix and this one but I chose the other Steve Mason remix and dropped the Sabres Of Paradise dub of Regret by New Order just for variety's sake. This mix, an hour and a quarter of dub business from Andrew Weatherall as a solo artist, aided and abetted by Nina Walsh, as a remixer, as a Sabre Of Paradise and as an Asphodell, spans thirty years taking in songs from 1990 and 2020. There's loads more that could have gone in but I thought I'd keep it compact.

Sabres Of Paradise: Ysaebud (From The Vaults)
Sabres Of Paradise: Return of Carter
Steve Mason: Boys Outside (Andrew Weatherall Dub 1)
Andrew Weatherall: Unknown Plunderer
Saint Etienne: Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Andrew Weatherall Mix)
Sabres Of Paradise: Edge 6
Andrew Weatherall: End Times Sound
Meatraffle: Meatraffle On The Moon (Andrew Weatherall Dub)
Richard Sen: Songs Of Pressure (The Asphodells Remix)
Andrew Weatherall: Kiyadub 45
Lark: Can I Colour In Your Hair? (Andrew Weatherall Version)
Planet 4 Folk Quartet: Message To Crommie

Friday, 29 May 2020

The Return Of Friday Night Is Rockabilly Night 166

Back in the mid 2010s there was a long running series here on a Friday evening, a series of rockabilly posts that ended up a) reaching number 165 and b) draining me of enthusiasm for rockabilly. In the end it felt like a chore and that's a sure sign to kill off a blog series. Plus there's only so much you can say about rockabilly- a twangy guitar or ferocious leadline, slapback bass, railroad rhythms and a man or a woman usually singing about another woman or man. Tonight is a brief reprise inspired by finding my copy of Jim Jarmusch's 1989 film Mystery Train and watching it last Friday night (or maybe it was Saturday, difficult to tell). Either way it was the first time I've seen the film for many years.

Mystery Train is three short stories that interconnect on one night in a Memphis flophouse hotel. It unfolds pretty slowly, at a pace today's films wouldn't, and in the end nothing much really happens. The first story, Far From Yokohama, has a young Japanese couple, Mitsuko and Jun, making a pilgrimage to the American south to see Gracelands and Sun Studios. She, MItsuko, is obsessed with Elvis, he, Jun, with Carl Perkins. The second story is about Luisa, a young widow, stuck in Memphis overnight while trying to fly her recently deceased husband back to Rome for the funeral. She ends up sharing a room with Dee Dee, who has just split up with her English boyfriend. In the room at night Luisa sees the ghost of Elvis. The third story centres around Johnny, the English boyfriend (played by Joe Strummer) who has lost his girl and his job, is drunk and out of control. Dee Dee's brother (a young Steve Buscemi) is called to rescue Johnny and they spend the night in the hotel too before the film's finale the following morning where there is a gunshot and the participants from all three stories move on. Each hotel room in the film has no TV, something each guest remarks on, but each room does a portrait of Elvis looking down on the guests. Mitsuko is keeping a scrapbook as she travels through the US, a record of Elvis and the people he has influenced , from Madonna to the Statue Of Liberty.

As well as Strummer (in his first acting role and thrown a line by Jarmusch who wrote the part for Strummer at a time when he was adrift and depressed) and Buscemi the film stars Screamin' Jay Hawkins as the hotel's night clerk. Buscemi is Buscemi, Hawkins is droll and subtle. Strummer overdoes it a bit, clearly the non- actor in the film. Thirty one years on the real stars are Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase, the young Japanese couple, smoking their way through the train, the railway station, the hotel and back again. The chemistry between them and their understated cool, a pair of eighteen year olds in 50s clothing entranced by the music of the rockabilly pioneers, is central to the film.

The song Mystery Train was written and recorded by Junior Parker in 1953, a Memphis blues before it became a rockabilly song. Elvis' version from 1955 is a crucial, definitive song in the history of 20th century music, in American culture and in Elvis' own story. It made him a nationally known figure. Producer Sam Phillips, guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black and Elvis created something that is one of building blocks of popular music, pure magic from start to finish, from the fade in and the moment when Elvis comes in with the line 'train arrived sixteen coaches long' to the fade out, and his girl gone on the train into the night.

Mystery Train

Correction Dub And Other Songs

This came out at the start of last week and despite all the time we supposedly have on our hands at the moment I've only just got around to listening to it this week. It's a sixteen song compilation from Viscera called Galactic Broadcasting 001 filled with the kind of line up of names that would have me expecting to find a new one from Andrew Weatherall in there somewhere- Scott Fraser, Hardway Bros, JD Twitch and Ess O Ess are all present and are all familiar names to this blog as well as Nightwave, Kincaid and others. The opening track is Correction Dub by  Formerlover, a new project from Sofia Hedblom and her husband Justin Robertson, and is dark dub disco with a detached spoken vocal from Sofia about desire and punishment.

Scott Fraser's Mercury (Celestial Mix) has a jackhammer beat and shimmering synths via Detroit. System Overload from Hardway Bros is eight minutes of tension, ricocheting sounds and chug and a monstrous buzzing bassline. JD Twitch's Ballachulish Moon is swooping, bouncing science fiction techno. The compilation, pulled together quickly, costs ten pounds of your hard earned cash but any profits are going to charities supporting NHS workers so you can do some good while enjoying the cosmic dance. It's at Bandcamp.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Sorry Kids We Left You With A Black Sun

Lol Hammond (Ex- Drum Club) and Duncan Forbes (ex- Spooky) have a new album out in July, a record called Who Will Stop The Robots? Ahead of it are two new songs. This one, Sorry Kids We Left You With A Black Sun is a beaut, a full on wall of swirl, the shimmer and haze of shoegaze with 808s and the floating vocals of Eva Abraham. Majestic summer sounds with an apocalyptic warning.

Ahead of that one, back in March, came The Sky Is Falling, an emotive Eno- esque piece of ambient piano music which drifts in, wraps its arms around you and then departs again leaving you better than it found you.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020


More Belgian music. This album has been working its way into my life and has become a current favourite, a kitchen disco album and a real treat. Straight outta Ghent, Rheinzand are a trio making modern 2020 electronic dance music, covering a range of sub- genres from house to nu- disco to Balearic to indie funk. The squelchy, juddering funk and timbales of opener Blind kick things off in a very upfront way, Charlotte Caluwaerts vocals coming in eventually, snapping at how 'an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind' with steamy, whispered early house backing vocals raising the temperature again.

The kickdrums and snares of Kills And Kisses are immense, Charlotte's isolated, heavily treated voice on top, creating strange distorted dance music. The pulsing Fourteen Again, with a low throbbing whooshing sound and a splashy cymbal, builds for ages, layers of Morodor synths and keys, before the 'I wish I was fourteen again'' chant enters, low and insistent in the mix.

It's followed by a cover of Talking Heads' Slippery People, a slow, sticky and unhinged take on the song that is quite superb. If we were allowed to dance in dark basements in close quarters with other people, this would doing the trick

There are disco influences are all over the album too, sweeping strings and syn- drums. From start to finish it's a complete album, that can be consumed in one sitting and works equally as twelve individual songs for dancing too. Buy it at Bandcamp. From Belgium with love.