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Monday 30 September 2019

Monday's Long Song

Scandinavian disco house is one of the high points of early 21st century popular culture I reckon. DJs and producers like Lindstrom, Prins Thomas and Todd Terje make and play expansive, forward looking and open minded electronic dance music that doesn't take itself too seriously. Really Deep Snow came out back in August, a nine minute cosmic disco journey from Lindstrom, and part of a four track album called On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever (out in October). Built around a drum machine and a bubbling synth line Really Deep Snow ploughs its way onward, gathering momentum, a drive on a dirt track through the trees, deeper into the forest. A fairly fast paced slow burner, if that makes sense.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Life Can Be Cruel

Would you like to start your Sunday with a hot off the press Hardway Bros re-edit of Japan's Life In Tokyo? Of course you would, why wouldn't you? Sean Johnston has given the 1979 David Sylvian- Giorgio Moroder co-write a sultry update, setting the controls for a nine minute voyage to the heart of the chug. It all gets a bit wiggy and spun out too. Get it here or below.

Life In Tokyo (Hardway Bros Re-edit)

Saturday 28 September 2019

White Light

Whoosh! and oof! This arrived in my Inbox yesterday and is a tremendous racket, a full throttle explosion with flailing, driving, distorted guitars and pounding drums courtesy of Psychic Lemon (a three piece who rehearse and record in a studio in the back of a small garden in Cambridge apparently). They released an album last year called Live At The Smokehouse, a five track, forty- two minute long recording of a show they played in Ipswich. I think Drew turned me on to it. It's an intense and vivid blast of psyche/kraut/space rock, an instrumental guitar and synth freak out. The song titles alone should give you an idea about what to expect- Interstellar Fuzz Star, Satori Disko, Hey Droog!, Johnny Marvel At The Milky Way and White Light, the song in it's studio version that they now offer as a free download. Their new album Freak Mammal is out in November. Press play. Turn volume up. Cobwebs blown.

Friday 27 September 2019


GLOK's debut album Dissident comes out today, Andy Bell's seven track cosmic departure, its grooves and bytes full of vibrant kosmiche synths, ambient sounds, motorik drums and stellar guitar parts. The album was sent out digitally when I first ordered it and it sounded great in early summer. I'm looking forward to diving back in with the physical release- it's well timed too as it chimes well with a lot of what is sitting near my stereo at the moment. Some time ago an edit of the twenty minute title track was sent out to those who'd bought the vinyl/cassette version, an edit by sound engineer Leaf Troup, seven minutes thirty- nine seconds that sounds like outer space exploration with warm pulses and dancing synthlines.

Thursday 26 September 2019

A Motorik Oscillation Retread

Back in March I posted a pair of tracks by A Mountain Of Rimowa, a driving, electrified, bass-led monster drawing a straight line between West Germany in the 1970s and small nightclubs in 2019 filled with chuggy cosmic disco/house. It shouldn't therefore be too much of a surprise to find out that the man behind A Mountain Of Rimowa is Sean Johnston, Hardway Brother and one half of ALFOS. The two versions of A.M.O.R. disappeared from Soundcloud a while ago but it is now back digitally, at Bandcamp and Youtube, with a release scheduled for early October. Let there be much psychedelic and groove based rejoicing. Especially if you're lucky enough to be in Carcassonne this weekend.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Let's Revel

I've stayed away from blogposts about politics for the last fortnight fearing I was getting a bit repetitive, just pissing into the webwind about the insanity of Brexit and the wide ranging stupidity of Johnson, Rees- Mogg, Farage and all the other fuckers, and the way that the UK was sleepwalking into an actual overthrow of its democracy. But then yesterday happened, the Supreme Court ruling that Johnson and the government acted unlawfully in proroguing parliament, that they suspended parliament, the sovereign body in our political system, to prevent it from doing its job. It's unprecedented and I cannot believe that (at the time of writing) Johnson has not resigned. Any other UK Prime Minister in modern times, found guilty in such a way (and dragging the monarch into it for good measure) would have gone, by their hand.

I've been getting into Snapped Ankles recently, a London based band. Let's face it, any band content to be photographed like they are above have got to be worth checking out. The have a real DIY, post punk energy about them, the songs on their 2017 debut powered by frenetic drumming and propulsive rhythms, angular guitars and homemade synths twisting noise into shapes. They've got a new one out called Stunning Luxury which I haven't played yet but the Come Play the Trees is a short sharp burst of inspiration. This song, Let's Revel, is wired and frantic after a slow paced start with an FXed vocal casting a cynical, angry eye over the struggles of modern life 'let's revel in dense misery, let's revel in new chemistry, let's revel in former glory'.

Let's Revel

Tuesday 24 September 2019


There's nothing that compares to Neu! for making that dreamy, linear, soaring krautrock, the motorik beat gently pushing everything ever forwards. Isi is from 1975's Neu! '75, Rother and Dinger complementing each other perfectly throughout Side A. Michael Rother's lush layers of melody and sound on this are gorgeous and hypnotic.


Monday 23 September 2019

Monday's Long Song

On his recent radio appearance with Heidi, posted here if you missed it, Andrew Weatherall dropped the news that back in 1993 when questioned for the NME's end of year poll Mark E Smith's nomination for Wanker Of The Year was Andrew Weatherall. He didn't go on to say what had gone down between them other than that he (Weatherall) had been lined up to produce an album for The Fall and then for reasons unspecified it didn't happen. If you want to dip in, it's at around forty five minutes into the show.

Then Weatherall played this from 2005's Fall Heads Roll, the centrepiece of that album led by a filthy, churning, propulsive bass guitar riff and chugging drums. Mark speaks into the microphone of walking bass, Aristotle Onassis, Jane Seymour, Calvary and cavalry, Prestwich, Deansgate and Moscow Road, eight minutes that once again proves Mark E Smith and whoever was playing with him at that time were indeed The Fall and that they were capable of coming up with moments of genius. 


Sunday 22 September 2019

Hulme Group Mind

On Friday night I got the bus to Hulme to see Richard Norris take his ambient/deep listening project on the road. The two Group Mind Abstractions albums he's put out this year have remained close to my turntable since their release and should be available on the NHS- their effect as a kind of aural medicine, totally absorbing mind clearers and mood enhancers is second to none.

The event was at the Niamos, an old theatre close to the city centre, formerly the Nia Centre and before that the Hulme Hippodrome and Grand Junction. Hulme was famously the home of the Crescents and the birthplace of Factory. Now there are masses of student residences right up to the theatre, buzzing on a warm Friday night. Niamos is an arts and culture hub, cans of Red Stripe behind the bar, the faded grandeur of the theatre interior and a boho vibe. It's so relaxed there wasn't even anyone checking tickets on the door. I was expecting a Group Mind night for some reason and hadn't quite realised until I got there that Richard was supporting a Brighton band/collective called Partial Facsimile. A see- through screen was hung across the front of the stage with fractals, shapes and digital waves and cities projected onto it during Richard's set. He played for just over half an hour, long drawn out sounds, warm waves of ambient noise and twinkling riffs, the 5.1 surround sound really proving its value. Sitting in the main, tiny auditorium as part of a very small crowd- there were fewer than thirty people there- the effect was striking, encompassing and enveloping. I loved it but wanted more. I'd have happily immersed myself in the Group Mind for another hour or two.

Partial Facsimile are a surround sound and visual art collective, four guitarists, three playing sitting down, and a drummer plus keys playing long, drone rock, plenty of reverb and space with FX pedals- a  little like an expanded Spacemen 3 but without the drugs and the walking with Jesus. The songs comment on modern life- commuting, social media, lives lived through screens, fake news, climate change, Brexit, immigration- and films cutting up images of the same projected onto the screen while the group play. At the end of each song a QR code appears, linking to articles and research. Pretty interesting and worth seeing even if the realisation that I wasn't getting any more Richard Norris and his Group Mind initially left me a bit deflated. Below is a clip, a minute's worth, that I took during Richard's set. I don't usually film parts of gigs on my phone but having a visual and audio record of this show seemed like a good idea- part of me wishes I'd filmed the whole thing.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Re- Animations

In 2009 Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve released a compilation album rounding up their remixes and re-animations of a bunch of artists- The Chemical Brothers, Franz Ferdinand, Late Of The Pier, Peter, Bjorn and John, Tracey Thorn, Badly Drawn Boy, Goldfrapp, Midlake, Dust Galaxy, Real Ones, Simian Mobile Disco and Findlay Brown. At the same time that album was released Erol Alkan and Richard Norris were asked to mix all their versions together into a single, hour long set for a special download edition. They went back to their versions, took some of them apart again, re-assembled them and then stitched the whole thing together. A decade later it has re-appeared online for your enjoyment, an hour of psychedelic, electronic, time shifting, retro- futuristic exploration. There should be something in this for everyone to enjoy.

Friday 20 September 2019

Maybe This Can Last Forever

I found this the other day via a Facebook group a friend added me to, a four track release from the middle of last year from a label called Giegling, based in the German town of Weimar (a place with some pertinent 20th century political history but not necessarily renowned for house and minimal dub techno). The e.p. was/is vinyl only and apart from their appearance on streaming media the four tracks contained within the grooves of the 12" don't seem to be available on any download sites. Some copies of the vinyl are advertised for sale at Discogs, starting at £66.67 and heading all the way up to €250 so I don't expect to getting my mitts on a copy any time soon. 

Maybe by Kettenkarussell is sublime- lush washes of synth and deep house drums, rising and swelling before the snare rattles in at around a minute and then the vocal, a repeated phrase borrowed from Love Like This by Faith Evans, and perfectly nails that point between happiness and sadness, darkness and dawn, coming at you in waves. Heady, spine tingling stuff.

After that the tracks that make up the rest of the e.p. are a little more abstract, revealing themselves over time, subtle and nuanced and less immediate than Maybe but just as capable of worming their way into the brain. Schlange by Ateq is breakbeat led, minimal techno, understated Teutonic machine funk. Tecsol by Edward is squiggly, loopy acid that breaks down into something quite serene after three minutes thirty-five and then heads off again for six more minutes of synth- mangling adventure. Moment Of Youth by Map.ache is glitchy, minimal techno, built around insistent drums, a twinkling riff and a Gang Starr sample.

Thursday 19 September 2019


Hoga Nord must be the most reliable record label in the world at the moment, putting out gem after gem. This is by Mythologen and came out back in May on an album called Antisocial Background Music 2017- 2019, a fine album title I think you'll agree. And it really hits the spot.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

An Open Mind's Excursion

I found the above photo while looking at Robert Frank photos on Google image search. It's by Jakob Perlmutter from a series he did as a homage to Frank. The use of space framing the two people, lots of empty space, and the grey tones are all very Frank but the face of the girl could only be recent (the nose piercing particularly).

One Dove always seem autumnal to me, the days getting shorter, the creeping darkness and chill in the air. The 1993 remix of Breakdown by Andrew Weatherall is career highpoint for all involved- from the opening seconds as the chords fade in and the voice 'against the black blue sky, the shadow of the dove' as the Sabres dub production kicks in. Big rattling bass, a Shades Of Rhythm sample, chopped up acoustic guitar and melodica. Dot's 'na na na na' refrain looped. A prime example of the art of the remix.

Breakdown (Squire Black Dove Rides Out)

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Lewi's Dub

Duncan Gray, as blogged about here in August, has been drip feeding long chuggy ALFOS dancers through the Bandcamp page of the tici taci record label. This one is a lost track, recorded in 2014, played by Weatherall and Johnston at their A Love From Outer Space nights and then sitting gathering dust on a hard drive. For the princely sum of £1 you get six and a half minutes of slow motion, electronic dub disco, all drums, weird noises and lovely bass.

Monday 16 September 2019

Monday's Long Song

Robert Frank died last week aged ninety- four. In 1957 he published a book of his photographs called The Americans, a collection of pictures taken across the USA over a two year period in the mid 1950s. The photos showed a different US from the one portrayed on TV, in the cinema and the magazines, the brightly coloured, neon lit America of the Eisenhower years- Frank's America was the lives of people at the margins and shots of the places most people passed by or through. Arriving in the USA in 1947, an immigrant escaping post- war Europe, the son of a German Jew who lost his citizenship in the 1930s. He began to see the USA as a bleak and lonely place for those excluded by poverty.

The Americans had an introduction written by Jack Kerouac, whose own travels across the continent mirrored Frank's. He shot his pictures using only his Leica and the light that was available, and what his pictures show more than anything to me is that the key thing needed to take good photographs isn't a piece of equipment but the eyes. Frank saw a different America and photographed it. He looked at it from another angle. He saw that he could frame scenes differently. An article at The New Yorker in the wake of his death said ' Frank’s nakedness to what was to him an alien land terrified us, and we were joyous. In a way, this amounted to a callow extension of American exceptionalism—postwar national hubris, only negative. Tragedy with its foot to the floor. We were special, all right. Also fucked. Sure.' R.I.P. Robert Frank. 

Anyway, back to the music- a long song for Monday and completely unconnected to the above. This is some lengthy progressive house from 1992 by The Aloof remixed by Fabio Paras. Paras was one of the original DJs on the London scene in 1988, playing in Ibiza and then at The Astoria and Flying. Fabio's remix of On A Mission opens with drums and percussion, huge tribal beats building before the chopped up vocal comes in. 

On A Mission (Fabio Paras Remix)

Sunday 15 September 2019

Green On Blue

Double Weatherall action for Sunday, four hours of the end times sound system, across two different online radio shows.

First Lord Sabre's monthly jaunt to Hackney and NTS Radio. Music's Not For Everyone this month has the familiar, disparate collection of outsider sounds- garage rock, dub, post punk, more synths than you can shake a stick at and a new Weatherall remix of Ashley Caselles. Tracklist.

Meanwhile, broadcast a day later on Worldwide Radio, Andrew is in the studio with Heidi- some overlap with Music's Not For Everyone but with The Fall and The Cure too, to make a similarly eclectic and barnstorming selection of songs.

Saturday 14 September 2019

On A Thousand Islands In The Sea

Thurston Moore is going to release three 7" singles in November and each one will have the same B-side, a cover of New Order's Leave Me Alone. I've said before that I'm not a massive fan of covers of New Order songs. Lonelady's recent cover of Cries And Whispers and Galaxie 500's slow burning take on Ceremony are two of the few exceptions. Thurston's cover will join those ranks, a rather lovely and chilled out take on the song, starting out quite Byrsdy and ending with a restrained squall of acoustic guitars and feedback. Thurston recorded in his version in Salford, Sumner and Hook's hometown, dipping his scuffed Converse into the River Irwell and coming up trumps.

New Order recorded the original at Britannia Row in Islington in 1983 and it closed their Power, Corruption And Lies album, a quantum leap forward from 1981's Movement. Hooky's divine bassline and Bernard's acidic guitar spiralling around each other for ages before Bernard starts singing his plea for solitude. People often cite Age Of Consent and Your Silent Face as the singles that Factory should have released from Power, Corruption And Lies if Factory and New Order had been in the business of something as mundane as releasing songs as singles that had already appeared on albums. Leave Me Alone is right up there with those two songs, a gem surrounded by jewels.

Leave Me Alone

Friday 13 September 2019

My Senses Are Sharp And My Hands Are Like Gloves

I was in a record shop recently- I know, a record shop, imagine!- and there was something horrible playing on the in-store sound system (1980s Queen I think, almost enough to make me turn round and walk out). But within a minute the horror ended and a familiar drum beat started up and I knew I was going to be in there, browsing the racks, for at least the next ten minutes.

The song was Television's Marquee Moon, title track of the group's 1977 album, a record that is a key NY punk record but doesn't really sound anything like punk. Tom Verlaine and Richard Quinn's guitar playing is jagged and sharp, precise but fluid guitar solos and single notes, none of the fast thrash of The Ramones, the slashed chords Stones-isms of the New York Dolls. Verlaine's vocals are thin and expressive. The vox, twin guitars, bass and drums are all perfectly balanced. In the song Marquee Moon the band pull off some ace, super sharp stop- start sections while Verlaine drawls about Cadillacs pulling out of graveyards, darkness doubling and lightning striking itself, and the parts where his voice is left alone 'just waiting' and 'hesitating' are stunning.

The first side of the album is so good that on the occasions I play it I rarely get to turn it over, See No Evil, Venus and Friction setting up the way into the title track. I don't think anyone involved in the making of Marquee Moon ever did anything as good afterwards which must be a terrible thing to live with in one way but a brilliant thing too.

The only other occasion I've posted anything by Television I posted Marquee Moon and while that was many years ago I'll post something different just for difference's sake. All I said before about the music is true on Venus, the twin guitars, the dynamics and the electricity plus Verlaine's lyrics and delivery- the line about Richie saying  'we could dress up as cops, just think what we could do' followed by Verlaine's 'you better not'. There's also the pay off of the chorus as he falls 'into the arms of Venus de Milo'.


Thursday 12 September 2019

Autumn Sweater

Indian summer yesterday, autumn sweater today. In 1997 Yo La Tengo released I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, a double album of perfectly formed New York indie rock. Within the four sides of vinyl lies possibly their best song, certainly one of their most affecting.

Autumn Sweater seems to tell the story of a couple who've reached the end of the road and the regret that that entails. Songs about relationship break ups and endings are ten- a penny but Ira Kaplan manages to find a new way to express something about this opening verse

'When I heard the knock at the door
I couldn't catch my breath
Is it too late to call this off?

We could slip away
Wouldn't that be better
Me with nothing to say
And you in your autumn sweater'

Songs about relationship break ups and endings a ten a penny but Ira Kaplan manages to find something new to say in the opening verse. There's insecurity in there, not knowing what to do, wanting to turn the clock back and a feeling that escape would be for the best- and the thing that sticks in his mind most is a piece of clothing. The sense of loss comes through again in the middle eight section...

'I'll try hard, I'll try always
but it's a waste of time
it's a waste of time if I can't smile easily
like in the beginning
in the beginning'

Musically there's just bongos, drums and organ- from the opening drumbeat and shakers to the descending chords and fuzz part, nothing is overcooked. A mini masterpiece. What's more you can hear the leaves turning brown. 

Autumn Sweater

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Indian Summer

This mix from Rich Lane is the perfect way to spend two and a half hours today, a midweek pick-me- up, lots of chuggy end of summer tunes, some head nodders, beard strokers and foot tappers. There's a possibility that some warm, even hot, weather is on it's way, thanks to those Saharan heat plumes.

Prequels - Rich Lane / (Cotton Bud)
9:AM (Rich Lane Remix) - Did Virgo feat. Johanna / (La dame Noir)
Araf - The Long Champs / (tici taci)
Irusu - Thoughtless / (Reinhardt)
Penumbras (Noche Remix) - Utopyk & El Fulminandor / (Fulmen)
The Science of Plants (Peza Remix) - Kieren Holden / (tici taci)
Trapped (feat. Snem K) - Duncan Gray / (tici taci)
Sleepstream (Ewan Pearson Remix) - Languages / (Days of Being Wild)
Dumb It Down - Rich Lane / (Cotton Bud)
La Nuit Des Tropiques (Field Of Dreams Remix) - Les Crocodiles / (Pleasure Unit)
Duncan Gray - Long Haul / (tici taci)
Jack Butters - Rotten Road / (tici taci)
The Long Champs - A Postcard / (tici taci)
Just Want to Touch (Cabaret Nocturne Remix) - Two Mamarrachos / (Nein)
Touched By The Hand of Cicciolina (Rich Lane Cotton Dub) - Pop Will Eat Itself / (unofficial remix)
Toucan (Mr BC Remix) - Quantal / (Sub:Sonic)
Power To The People (Markus Gibb Remix) - Pardon Moi / (Roam)
Imani's Dress (Original Mix) - Satori / (Crosstown Rebels)
Around Me (Rich Lane Cotton Dub) - ONUKA / (unnoficial remix)
Erotica Nervosa (feat. Sarah Rebecca) - Duncan Gray / (tici taci)
Plague Of The Zombies - Scientist / (Greensleeves)
City of Culture - Rich Lane / (Cotton Bud)
Tecno Misógino (Bufi Remix) - Moderna Y Theus Mago / (La dame Noir)
Gorian Dray (MontCosmik Remix) - Monoblock & PLSKTR / (Play Pal)
Subtractive Ocean - Dark Strands / (From the forthcoming album 'Lights Out')

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Fresh Cream

I was playing songs from an old mp3 player recently, one I'd forgotten about. Intrigued by what might be on it I charged it up, plugged it in and put it on shuffle while I was pottering about. Within a few songs this came up, something I hadn't heard for years.

Fresh Cream

Fresh Cream is a beautiful little acoustic guitar instrumental, what sounds like nylon strings being plucked and pulled over chords strummed on a steel string guitar. It could be the title music to a 70s TV show, the incidental music to a spy thriller or the backing track to an item on art on the local news. Huck Whitney, the writer and player of Fresh Cream, was/is one of the guitarists in London garage rock 'n' rollers The Flaming Stars. He had a solo album out in 2008 called Black Diamond and wrote some music for the Bond film Quantum Of Solace which was not used for some reason. Whether Fresh Cream was one of these or not, I do not know. I think the mp3 came from Huck's MySpace page, back when MySpace was still a thing. For full 'where does the time go' horror I had feeling I might have posted it here before and it turns out I had, back in January 2010 when this blog was only a month old.

Monday 9 September 2019

Monday's Long Song

Since posting Rainbow Sun by Seahawks in the middle of August I've been digging around their back catalogue, acquiring a 2016 album (Escape Hatch), some Prins Thomas remixes and a remix compilation called Deep Haul. Ecsape Hatch is a dreamy piece of work, ten songs that seem to be centred around the ebb and flow of Mediterranean with rhythms that occasionally make it to house music tempo but are usually much slower, saxophones drifting in from Bladerunner, piano and guitars lost in a haze of FX, lots of texture and sheen. Very easy to put on and then lose yourself in. Starways is just shy of twelve minutes long and is an excellent way to start the working week.


Sunday 8 September 2019

Every Time I Hear Those Bells I Know It's All Over Now

More from Anton Newcombe's Berlin studio. Vermont/New York psych-rock pair The Vacant Lots make an electrified, punkish, two chord rumble- you know exactly where their music coming from and for the time the record is playing nothing else really matters , their 'minimal means maximum' aesthetic having taken them to both Sonic Boom and Alan Vega before they pitched up with Anton in Berlin. They've released an array of albums, singles and e.p.s since 2010, all clad in distinctive black and white op art sleeves. This song, Bells from the Exit e.p. and produced by Anton, came out in June. Loads more at Bandcamp.

Saturday 7 September 2019

The Sword

Brand new, totally retro and full of dirty guitars, Velvets rhythms and Gallic cool come L'Epée. Lou is a tribute to Lou Reed and sounds exactly like a tribute to Lou Reed should...

Back in May L'Epée released Dreams, an organ led shake and crawl yé-yé number with a video taking us through Paris in the 60s, from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower, the banks of the Seine, pavement cafes and then heading out of town. L'Epée, a four piece made up of Anton Newcombe, Emmanuelle Seigner and Lionel and Marie Liminana sound like they should be blaring from a car's radio or through the half open window of a first floor flat.

Friday 6 September 2019


This has been a rather long and busy week at work and the summer holiday now feels like it was an age ago. It's been feeling quite autumnal too. Friday has been a long time coming. I don't want to keep writing about politics and Brexit but it's been a dizzying week there too where an hour or two away from news leaves you feeling like anything could have happened. This time last week the proroguing of parliament was rightly a national outrage and the main topic of news. Since then Johnson has been defeated in parliament three times; attempted to call a general election; sacked twenty one members of his own party, some of whom are the longest serving and most distinguished Tories of modern times, in the name of party discipline, and this from a man who rebelled against the previous Prime Minister who appointed him to the cabinet; seen his own brother abandon his government and position as an MP; deliver a rambling, bizarre speech in West Yorkshire with a line of police cadets behind him, looking like the tinpot Mussolini wannabe that he is. He is a proven liar, a racist, a homophobe, and a hypocrite. They say we get the politicians we deserve. As a nation we are truly paying some enormous karmic debt at the moment.

Friday night is a time to switch off. Ambient techno from Gothenberg anyone?

Horizon is a track on a forthcoming album from Stiletti Ana on Hoga Nord Rekords, a slow and intense psychedelic, electronic trip inside. It is very much in the recent Richard Fearless/Death In Vegas area and I can't offer much higher praise than that. Pre-orders at Bandcamp.

Thursday 5 September 2019

I Like Walking In The Park

New Order's Lowlife album of 1985 remains a career highpoint, as a full studio album only really matched by 1989's Technique. Lowlife is a perfect synthesis of rock and dance, Hooky's metallic bass and the synths and Stephen's metronomic drums all vying for space, matched by Barney's growing confidence as a singer. The nervy early steps, getting to grips with technology, finding a way out after Ian's death, the experimentalism of Power, Corruption And Lies, and the increasing boldness of Temptation, Thieves Like Us and Blue Monday led to Lowlife.

The penultimate song is Subculture, a peak on an album that features several other peaks, songs like Love Vigilantes, The Perfect Kiss and Elegia. In October 1985 the group released a single version of Subculture, a version remixed by John Robie. Robie was a fixture on the 80s New York electro club scene and turned in a version of Subculture which it is fair to say splits opinion. His remix is aimed squarely at clubland, the shonky vocal of the album version replaced by a new one (for the record I love the shonky, all over the place vocal of the album version, the ways it works against and with the synth riff, massive sound and glittering production). Robie's version is much more electronic, added some female backing vocals and then layering more and more sounds. Some people hate it. Peter Saville refused to design a sleeve for it.

In 1986 a new mix of Sub-culture appeared, one song on a four track 7" single given away with Record Mirror magazine (a now long defunct British music magazine). As well as the new exclusive mix of Sub-culture were songs by Raymonde, Hipsway and The Adventures. Robie got the credit, mistakenly or otherwise, but this new remix was by Joseph Watt, a member of the Razormaid! a remix service who worked out of San Francisco in the 80s to produce exclusive versions and edits of songs for subscribers (usually DJs). I'm guessing that the Watt remix came via Robie. It leans back to the Lowlife version with the synth riff and bassline, adding harder drums and percussion. Hooky's bass runs are centre stage before the vocals come in, alternating with extra keyboard parts, building for several minutes before we even hear Barney. When he does come in his voice is harking back to the album cut, detached and human, a bit exposed, singing the words apparently inspired by the groups visits to Skin Two, a London fetish club- tied up in chains so tight, being unable to shaft without someone else, having to submit, it having to hurt you a little bit. A dissonant pumping synth sound comes in and the sound toughens up again, pitched somewhere between the Lowlife song and Robie's single remix.

Sub-culture (Exclusive Remix Record Mirror)

In 2017 New order played a series of shows at the old Granada TV Studios on Quay Street as part of the Manchester International Festival, organised by Dave Haslam. They went back through their catalogue to play songs they'd not played for years and to make it more interesting/difficult for themselves recruited some young musicians from the Royal Northern to form a synth orchestra. The famous synth riff on Sub-culture was played originally slowed down and then sped up for the recording. The group, minus Hooky of course, marvelled at these young geniuses who could not only play the riff but at the correct speed too. Taking from both the Lowlife and Robie versions it's pretty magnificent, despite the absence of the most distinctive bass player of the 1980s, and the wall of synth players is visually and sonically great. The video won't embed but you can find it here.

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Dirty Boy

A Certain Ratio have been having a new lease of life since singing to Mute with new singles, old songs excavated from the vaults, re-issues, box sets and gigs. Last year's single Dirty Boy, featuring guest voices from the living (Barry Adamson) and the dead (Tony Wilson) has been remixed by Chris Massey, a Manchester based DJ, producer and promoter. The remix is if anything better than the original version, Jez Kerr's bass in the foreground and a thudding house beat putting ACR back at the heart of the dancefloor. The video is a time shifting delight, intercutting footage of Manchester and it's people from the last forty years, the Hacienda of the late 80s, dancers at a 70s discotheque, ravers at an outdoor festival, Jez and the band live on stage in '89 and recently, the Mancunian Way then and now, our orange buses and a 60s motorcyclist speeding through the city centre- the old and the new.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Skylark II

It seems like a while since Timothy J Fairplay released any new material. I'm a big fan of his music- vintage synths, 80s keyboards, driving bass and drum machines, obtuse and funny song titles. The new one, Skylark II is a four track e.p. on digital and yellow vinyl and an amazing retro sci- fi sleeve from Fred Gambino, and is a short soundtrack to an alien abduction mystery in Chile which is, if nothing else, different from run of the mill songs about your girlfriend leaving you.

The Bandcamp page for Skylark II has a passage to go with the music.

'Out on the hard shoulder of Highway 3, close to the mountains, Pablo Mistral kneels by the rear of his truck, weak and immobilised, and unable to speak. Ahead of him near a grove of trees, a great luminous plate shaped object hangs motionless about six or seven metres from the ground. Close behind him three strange figures eye him fixedly. He watched the three beings as they stood looking at him for what felt like five minutes. ‘They were what looked like two men and a woman, all were blonde and their hair was combed back. All were roughly the same height and were all dressed alike. Very tight fitting leaden grey coloured one piece suits, three quarter length boots of a yellow colour like that of chamois leather, they had long gloves of the same yellow colour, and these reached half way up their arms. They wore no belts, nor helmets, nor anything else. They had no weapons. Their faces were like ours, but they had great wide foreheads and slightly protruded eyes that appeared to a emit a low blue glow which seemed to gently pulse in intensity. They were talking together in a language that was impossible to understand, it had no vowels, and sounded like a badly tuned radio, with squeaky sharp noises. One of them seized me by the collar and pulled me upright forcibly, but without violence. I tried to speak, but my voice would not come. While the one who had pulled me up held me, another put a device to the base of the index finger of my left hand. I got a good look at the device. It looked like some sort of small portable computer, and it had a nozzle which they applied to me for a few seconds. It did not hurt. When they took it away, I had two drops of blood on my finger. I think I fainted then, because I don’t remember anything else…’

Monday 2 September 2019

I See A Change Coming

There's a lot going to happen this week. It looks like this week will present the only chance for our elected representatives to assert the fundamental principal of British democracy- that parliament is sovereign in the UK, not the government or the Prime Minister. If Johnson and Cummings plan to drive a No Deal Brexit through by proroguing parliament is going to be stopped in the Houses of Commons and Lords then this is it. I hope they are up to it. 

The large numbers of people out over the weekend marching show that there is public outrage and fears about this Tory right wing power grab but the pressure has to be maintained. Although Albert Square was fairly full on Saturday afternoon there were significantly more people shopping in the Arndale Centre or going to watch City play Brighton. There is an apathy about the English, a feeling that it couldn't happen here coupled with the view that Johnson is a man of action and he's getting things done. Marches and demonstrations are easily ignored by governments. A million people marched against going to war in Iraq. If parliament fails this week, the numbers on the streets and the intensity of the marches have to be increased. I sometimes think that witty placards and polite marching isn't necessarily going to do very much and that the only way the strength of feeling will be noticed is if things start getting smashed up. I'm not one to advocate violence but it worked with the Poll Tax. 

It turns out that the people who talked so loudly in 2016 about taking back control and returning sovereignty to the mother of parliaments don't really give a fuck about that- they are ignoring the very thing they said they wanted to restore. What the last week has shown is that this country seriously needs a revolution, a wholesale change in its systems and practices. At the very least the UK needs a codified and written constitution, formally setting out the powers of the different branches of government with clearly delineated checks and balances. This necessitates a Head of State with actual political power who would have the constitutional right to resist the request from three members of the Privy Council to prorogue parliament last week. The Queen had no way to do this. I have no idea if she wanted to resist or didn't but that doesn't matter. Politically constitutional monarchy is dead in the water and has to go. Outdated, hamstrung and archaic, it serves no practical or political purpose. The House of Lords has got to got too, obviously, replaced by an elected second chamber (private education needs abolishing as well if we're going to break down the completely unrepresentative run of Prime Ministers who went to Eton). We need significant change, asap. 

In 1989 Spacemen 3 called for a revolution. The one that Sonic Boom had in mind may have more due to the harassment he got due to his chosen lifestyle and the supply of hard drugs in the Rugby area than any real political concern but he does get to the point with 'well I'm through with people who can't get up off their ass to help themselves change this government and better society' before concluding 'hold on a second... I smell burning... and I see a change coming round the bend'. 

Sunday 1 September 2019

Right Now, Right Now, It's Time To...

The MC5, possibly somewhat refreshed, with a jam kicking motherfucker session live on TV for a full eight minutes and thirty eight seconds.

The MC5's debut album gained mythical status when I was younger, much mentioned but never heard. No re-issues back then, no Youtube. Just hunting for a second hand copy. Eventually I found one. It was all very rockist- maybe that's stating the obvious- but over time it's power and energy became clear and never less so than on the title track which comes across like a call to arms for an entire generation. The lyrics to the title track are pretty loose, not really about anything political other than the power of electric guitars and loud drums and the feeling that they provoke, but they feel revolutionary. More than enough in 1969.

Two decades later, in 1991, Manchester's World Of Twist recorded a version for a John Peel session which shows what a ferocious live band they could be too.

Kick Out The Jams (Peel Session)