Sunday, 31 May 2020
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.
Saturday, 30 May 2020
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
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.
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
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.
Tuesday, 26 May 2020
We should have been in Belgium this week, a few days in Antwerp and Brussels for my fiftieth, frites and beer, cafes on squares, some browsing of record shops and some sightseeing. We'll have to see if we can get there for my fifty- first. In 1980 Vini Reilly wrote this beautiful, shimmering, fluid piece of abstract guitar music. Produced by Hannett and with ACR's Donald Johnson on drums
For Belgian Friends
This cover version by Dream Lovers came out back in 2017, an even more blissed out, laid back version than Vini's original.
Belgium also says Belgian new Beat, proto- house music built on juddering drum machines, wonky basslines and vocal samples. Most of this music is the best part of thirty to thirty five years old. Selecting one track from random out of a forty three song compilation called The Best Of Belgian New Beat Vol. 1 brings up this by Chayell from 1989, a moody synth monster with a voice intoning 'with a girl like me'.
Don't Even Think About It
Monday, 25 May 2020
I've posted quite a few of Richard Norris' Music For Healing series since lockdown began. Part 9 came out last week and it is my favourite so far, a stunning twenty minute long piece of ambient music, led by piano with gentle drones and noise as a backdrop. It works beautifully as background ambience and equally as deep listening, an idea Richard has been exploring in the last two years.
As the government appear increasingly incompetent and the news doesn't really offer any respite- we have the highest number of Covid 19 infections and the highest death toll in Europe. The government clearly acted too late and mistakes were made in February and March, some of them for political reasons, that have contributed to thousands of people dying. There doesn't seem to be a well planned way out of this at the moment and the right wing press are massing behind the government, attacking anyone who steps out of line as unpatriotic, lacking bravery or asking questions at a time when 'we' should be rallying around the government. The relaxing of lockdown has been clumsy and unclear and many people seem to be behaving as if it's all over- meanwhile the daily death toll is still well into three figures. The plan for re-opening schools was proposed against the advice of everyone involved, except the government. Given that the government have made such a mess of the whole thing so far, is it really surprising that so few people trust them to get re-opening schools right?
Then there's the whole Cummings situation, where the people who govern us- this particular person being unelected- clearly think that the laws they make in an emergency don't apply to themselves and that they therefore are better than you. That this is then followed by the Prime Minister's defence of this as 'legal, responsible and [done] with integrity' is beyond belief, beyond where any modern British government have gone in defending the indefensible. Johnson is a liar. We've known that for years but he is now it is obvious increasingly also a puppet. He is so weak, such a piss poor excuse for a leader, that he can't fire a senior aide. Look at the front bench, a parade of elitist chancers and charlatans, all stacked up behind the biggest chancer and charlatan of them all. What a sham our democracy is. It doesn't matter that I am angry. I'd never vote Tory. I voted Remain. I'd never vote for Johnson. But it does matter that Tory MPs from the Shires are being bombarded with letters and emails from constituents, people who followed the lockdown instructions to the letter and didn't go to comfort family members when they were in hospital, didn't attend their parent's funeral, or their child's. I just hope all those people remember this and that it fuels them when they have the chance to do something about it. I hope that the government's inability to care about how this looks and the way they clearly despise us, coupled with the rage that people are feeling about this, sticks and wears away at them, burning them slowly, from the inside.
If all of that doesn't require the need of long- form, calming music to still the dread, the anger and anxiety, I don't know what does.
Sunday, 24 May 2020
Saturday, 23 May 2020
An hour and five minutes of lockdown vibes and an attempt to lift the spirits and up the tempo a bit this week. This one is a global trawl of tunes taking in Dubwood Allstars and their splicing together of King Tubby, Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton, a classic 70s Lee Perry production from the Black Ark in Kingston, Jamaica, Moon Duo doing Black Sabbath in very laid back style, groove- based melodic noise from Scotland (Mogwai) and Norway (Mythologen), some funky 80s crossover dance pop from NYC, Natasha Khan and Toy as Sexwitch, Paris duo Acid Arab and South London's Rude Audio, all on a Middle Eastern tip, and early 90s Balearic dub house majesty from Sheer Taft (Glasgow) and Underworld (Essex). Bank holiday weekend. Take it easy. Stay safe.
Dubwood Allstars: Under Dubwood
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Zap- Pow: Riverstone
Moon Duo: Planet Caravan
Mogwai: The Sun Smells Too Loud
Tom Tom Club: Wordy Rappinghood
Sexwitch: Ha Howa Ha Howa
Acid Arab: Club DZ
Rude Audio: Rumble On Arab Street
Sheer Taft: Cascades (Hypnotone Mix)
Friday, 22 May 2020
I heard this playing recently, I think it was an Andrew Weatherall radio show, possibly one his 6 Mix shows, and it was one of those 'stop what you're doing and enjoy the music' moments. Lee 'Scratch' Perry in full dub remix mode, full of fire and smoke, pushing the faders and the echo all over the place. Psychedelic dub, warped and twisted and stretched into new shapes. At three and half minutes the track lurches to a halt, a bell rings and everything slows right down before the reverb- heavy vocals and rhythms re- appear and it's as if the ground shifts beneath your feet. Weatherall used to say in interviews that dub was like a religious experience for him. This is the sort of thing I imagine he was referring to.
Disco Devil is a remixed, dubbed out version of Max Romeo's 1976 Chase The Devil with it's famous 'I'm gonna put on an iron shirt/and chase the devil out of earth' refrain. Lee Perry recorded and produced the original with The Upsetters and the 1977 remix is credited to Lee Perry and The Full Experiences. It was sampled memorably too by The Prodigy for their Out Of Space single in 1992.
Thursday, 21 May 2020
Thirty years ago this week Adamski's Killer was number one in the UK. It felt like the future, electronic modernity and mass market popularity had come together. From the opening throb of electricity and the sheer jolt of the thumping bassline, Killer is right there, present, startling and in your ears. The bursts of high and low synth sounds are joined by Seal's vocal, his deep voice giving the rave energy a melancholic undertow, something less than shiny and happy lurking beneath the smiley faces. At just after a minute a snare rattles in and then some synth strings adding to the disquiet. 'Solitary brother, is there still a part of you that wants to live?'' Sad dance music. The juddering bass breakdown and beep- beep- beep parts add to the tension.
Adamski, already performing at raves and with a hit with N- R-G already in his bag, met Seal on New Year's Eve 1989 at a club in London and they agreed to work together. Seal had been singing in blues bands but a year travelling in Asia and then attending raves on returning to London had cured him of that. The lyrics were all Seal's and sung over an existing track Adamski had called The Killer, recorded using only a keyboard and a Roland 909 drum machine. Seal says the lyrics are about transcending your circumstances. 'Tainted hearts heal with time' he sings and 'live your lives the way you wanna be'. Coming out of Thatcher's 80s the new year and new decade seemed to offer some hope, especially with the wave of revolutions sweeping through Eastern Europe and South Africa and the new music and scene growing and gathering force. The summer of 1990 would become the Second Summer Of Love. Killer was a proper crossover hit and sat at the top of the charts, blaring out of radios and through open windows until June when it was replaced at the top of the charts by England/ New Order's World In Motion.
Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Wednesday again. I don't know where the time goes. Lockdown started in March and now suddenly it's getting on for late May.
Lots of people, myself included, have expressed opinions about how our experience in lockdown might lead to some restructuring of the world or changes in the way we do things, some re-configuring of the ultra- rapid life we all lived in before mid- March 2020. Out in the car at the weekend we passed a huge queue of people in cars, stacked up one after the other, twenty or thirty cars long, and the only places they can have been queuing for were the newly re-opened drive though Krispy Kreme and/or the drive through Starbucks. That's straight back where we left off isn't it?
This is the AsTRiD by Golden Fang, a chilled but with an edge instrumental- sleek and layered. Detroit x Cologne.
Tuesday, 19 May 2020
I am fifty today. When we were young, people who were fifty seemed to have reached an old age but I don't know if I now feel as old as they seemed then. It's just a number I suppose, and I've been to quite a few 50ths in the last year and none of those people seem old, but reaching the half a century mark makes it sound quite old. Lots of aspects of the world of 1970 do seem like a very long time ago. I haven't really been much bothered about this as the months and weeks have shortened and there have been lots of other things that have been more pressing and more important but I did wake up yesterday morning thinking, 'fuck, this is the last day of my forties. Fuck'. Any way it's here, I am fifty.
Factory Records numerical cataloguing system is a good place to stop in today as any. FAC 49 was a single by Swamp Children, produced by Simon Topping. It's successor, FACT 50, came out in November 1981, New Order's first album- Movement. The sleeve is a beautiful Peter Saville design with the sideways F at the top (F for Factory) and a sideways L at the bottom (L being the Roman numeral for 50). The design was borrowed from an Italian Futurist poster by Fortunato Depero. In the US it was released in a brown and ivory sleeve.
The cassette cover, the most throwaway of format artefacts, was beautiful too. I always liked how Factory placed the barcode down the spine on their tapes. Post- modern, probably.
The album isn't much rated by the band and they admit to being confused musically, off balance due to the loss of Ian's presence, voice, lyrics and ear for spotting riffs. The position of being singer had been resolved to some extent although Hooky sings lead vocals on two songs. Gillian had joined enabling Bernard to sing and play guitar, something he couldn't do simultaneously at gigs, and she'd add depth on guitar or keyboards. They also found themselves at odds with Martin Hannett, who was deeply affected by Ian's suicide and deeply into a mess of drink and drugs. They produced themselves after Movement. There are some really good sounding guitars, bass, keys and drums on Movement but the songs on the whole don't stick long in the memory after playing them. There are hints at their future sound and brief flashes or moments but nothing that really matches the songs released as singles and B-sides before it, Ceremony, Procession, Mesh, Cries And Whispers and Everything's Gone Green. Except the opener, the only genuine moment of greatness on FACT 50, three minutes of post- Joy Division perfection. Bernard and Hooky's echo- laden guitars wrap themselves around each other, up and down and in and around for the intro. Stephen comes in drums adding momentum before they all lock in and take off at 53 seconds and then it really is post- Joy Division New Order in full flight. Hooky's vocals suit the song too, indebted to Ian but looking for a way out.
Dreams Never End
Monday, 18 May 2020
Ian Curtis died forty years ago today. The details are public knowledge- found by his wife in his kitchen in Macclesfield, a cord around his neck tied to the clothes drying rack, Iggy's The Idiot on the turntable, a Werner Herzog film the last thing he watched.
The Ian Curtis death cult is a bizarre thing. You can find it easily on the internet, people from all over the world who have taken on the view first expressed by Paul Morley at the time, that 'he died for you', that he was too pure a soul for this world. Anton Corbijn's 2007 film Control, made with the full co- operation of family and bandmates, has fed into this myth- beautiful, romantic, poetic, doomed Ian. It's a stunning bit of filmmaking and the performances are sincere and sympathetic. I'm not sure though that it's healthy to portray suicide this way. It's pretty clear that Ian's suicide has had a huge impact on those he left behind. His widow Deborah couldn't stand to listen to New Order between Ceremony and True Faith. His daughter Natalie grew up without knowing her father. Bernard has said the suicide has affected him ever since. Hooky has often referred to the shadow Ian's death has cast. This isn't the 'romantic' side of suicide. It's people left behind not knowing why he did it and the guilt that they could have done more to prevent it. The Joy Division industry and the endless Unknown Pleasures merchandising is a spin off that I don't think anyone on the evening of 18th May 1980 would have seen coming.
Joy Division Oven Gloves (Peel Session)
The Joy Division publishing industry has given us the autobiographies of the main players- Bernard Sumner, Deborah Curtis, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris. So many other people around the band have also now passed away- Rob Gretton, Martin Hannett, Tony Wilson- who would surely have written their versions had they lived. Wilson wrote the book version of Twenty Four Hour Party People which also covered the events.
All of which sometimes overshadows the sheer dark brilliance of Joy Division and their music, a band who were more than just Ian Curtis and three mates despite what Hannett said about them being 'a genius and three Man United fans'. Ian's untutored voice, Bernard's rhythm guitar, Hooky's melodic bass and Steve's lead drumming, perfectly balanced, each contributing 25% to the whole and Hannett's production giving them that extra quality, the dark stardust. The fact that Ian's death is now forty years old underlines just how young everyone involved was and maybe how difficult it was in 1980 for anyone around to have been able to do anything to stop him as his marriage collapsed, his illness got worse and his medication exacerbated his problems, and the US tour loomed. Recent gigs had been chaotic as he had seizures on stage. Mental health services in 1980 were not like they are today. Young men didn't talk about these things. They didn't even take his lyrics at face value despite Closer reading like a forty minute suicide note.
R.I.P. Ian. Remember him, listen to the music, dance to the radio but let's not fall into the trap of the romantic suicide. It's a dead end with no way out for those left behind.
This is a dub cover version of their most famous song by a New York group called Jah Divison. This isn't a novelty cover by any means.
Dub Will Tear Us Apart
This is She's Lost Control, live on Something Else in 1979, the real thing, northern post- punk, a reflection of the post- industrial city they were formed in and formed by, what Wilson called 'the last true story in rock 'n' roll'.
Sunday, 17 May 2020
One of the defining features of popular culture for those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s was the Western. My Mum was/is a Western obsessive, a huge fan of Bonanza, The High Chaparral and the whole gamut of Western films. The theme tunes to those TV shows are some of my earliest musical memories and the actors from those shows singing country 'n' western songs ran through my Mum's record collection (along with The Beatles and Nancy Sinatra). Musically, Lorne Greene singing cowboy songs hasn't really stuck with me but the partnership between Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone has. The Spaghetti Western films, especially the core Dollar trilogy films made in the 1960s- A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)- were late night BBC2 films, taped and re-watched. The style of the films, hard boiled anti- heroic, Clint Eastwood's poncho wearing Man With No Name, Mexicans, feuds over gold, bounty hunters, Lee van Cleef, changed the popular view of the Western completely, from the clean living, homespun, family oriented shows to something grittier and ambiguous. The music, scored by composer Ennio Morricone, was something else as well, no rousing orchestral fanfares or campfire singalongs but sparse, dramatic, low budget tunes with whipcracks, gunshots, chanting voices and whistling.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
The Ecstasy Of Gold
The various Morricone songs from the soundtracks have re-appeared throughout pop culture ever since. The Clash used it as their walk on theme and the Ramones as their walk off stage music. They've been sampled by widely including by Bomb The Bass, Cameo, various hip hop artists and Big Audio Dynamite. Two lesser known versions of Medicine Show for you...
Medicine Show (UK Remix)
Medicine Show (New York Remix)
'Wanted in fourteen counties of this state, the condemned is found guilty of the crimes of murder; armed robbery of citizens, state banks, and post offices; the theft of sacred objects; arson in a state prison; perjury; bigamy; deserting his wife and children; inciting prostitution; kidnapping; extortion; receiving stolen goods; selling stolen goods; passing counterfeit money; and, contrary to the laws of this state, the condemned is guilty of using marked cards and loaded dice. Therefore, according to the power invested in us, we sentence the accused here before us, Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez..."
"...known as the Rat..."
"...and any other aliases he might have, to hang by the neck until dead. May God have mercy on his soul. Proceed!'
Saturday, 16 May 2020
An hour and a minute of stitched together songs for Saturday. This one caused me a bit of a headache at times. It was an attempt I think at first to try to join some dots together in terms of feel or sounds, with a nod to Kraftwerk following Florian Schneider's death last week. There was an earlier version that went quite techno/dance for the last twenty minutes but I then went back and did the end section again. I'm still not sure I got it quite right, and think I may have tried to cover too many bases stylistically, but my self imposed deadline was approaching so 'publish and be damned', as the Duke of Wellington said. Although he wasn't dealing with the business of trying to get spaghetti westerns, indie dance, shoegaze and leftfield electronic music to sit together in one mix was he?
Ennio Morricone: Watch Chimes (From ‘For A Few Dollars More’)
David Sylvian and Robert Fripp: Endgame
Talk Talk: Life’s What You Make It
Saint Etienne: Kiss And Make Up (Midsummer Madness Mix)
Spacemen 3: Big City (Everyone I Know Can Be Found Here)
Beyond The Wizards Sleeve: Diagram Girl (Beyond The Wizards Sleeve Re- Animation)
My Bloody Valentine: Don’t Ask Why
Jon Hopkins and Kelly Lee Owens: Luminous Spaces
Death In Vegas: Consequences Of Love (Chris and Cosey Remix)
Chris Carter: Moonlight
Simple Minds: Theme For Great Cities
Durutti Column: It’s Wonderful
I have a significant birthday fast approaching. A few months ago we had planned that today would be a day of celebrating with anyone who wanted to join us, starting with lunch and few beers in town and then a tram pub crawl southbound out of the city centre towards Sale, stopping off in Old Trafford (maybe) and Stretford (definitely) before some drinks locally in the evening. That obviously isn't happening. I'll have to re-schedule for my 51st.
Friday, 15 May 2020
Chris Rotter was the guitarist on the live band version of Two Lone Swordsmen and plays on the Wrong Meeting albums and Andrew's solo record from 2009 A Pox On The Pioneers. He has his own outfit, The Bad Meat Club. This song, 86'd, was previously only available on one of Andrew's 6 Music 6 Mix shows, a shimmering, pulsing piece of music from the point where kraut, psyche and shoegaze crossover. With the blessing of Andrew's family Chris has made it available at Bandcamp with the proceeds going to MIND. It's five and a half minutes of joy that you'll come back to time and again.
Play it back to back with this for some Friday in lockdown fun. The Lucid Dream, Carlisle's finest acid house/ noise rock four piece, had plans to release a new album this year which have been scuppered by Coronavirus but they've put out a new song anyway, something to whet the appetite. Sunrise is seven minutes of acid house, thumping drums, acid squiggle madness, synthlines and energy rush.
Thursday, 14 May 2020
These photographs were published as part of a much larger set in a Clash group I'm a member of, the band in Monterey, California on September 9th 1979. As a set of pictures of four men who have absolutely nailed a look and that four men against the world mentality they take some beating and the sheer colour, excitement and drama of The Clash on the road is evident. Joe in red and white with white brothel creepers and ending up in the crowd, Paul all in black with jeans tucked into his biker boots and quiff perfectly in place, Mick in black and white with sunburst Les Paul, and Topper in pink.
The Tribal Stomp was an attempt to put on a festival reviving something of the spirit of the hippies but attracting some of the punks. It was poorly attended than the organisers hoped and they lost loads of money. The Clash played it as part of their first big US tour, after recording London Calling in the summer of '79 but not yet releasing it until December. Peter Tosh, Robert Fripp, Canned Heat, Country Joe and The Fish and Big Mama Thornton also played and it was MCed by original Woodstock MC Wavy Gravy. Taking the stage Joe told the audience “We brought some cheap gasoline with us and we’re selling it at the side of the stage for 50 cents a gallon”. They then charge into a largely pre- London Calling set, an hour of high octane punk rock energy, built around the songs and singles from 1977 and 1978- I'm So bored With The USA, Complete Control, London Calling, Jail Guitar Doors, (White Man In) Hammersmith Palais, Drug Stabbing Time, Police And Thieves, Stay Free, Safe European Home, Capital Radio, Clash City Rockers, What's My Name, Janie Jones, Garageland, Armagideon Time and Career Opportunities. Joe Ely joins them for Fingernails and then the obligatory ending of White Riot. It is fast and loud and close to the edge and at times almost out of control, the pedal well and truly pushed down to the floor. The set has been widely bootlegged and the recording is pretty rough and ready. If you want the entire set it's here but these four are among the best in terms of sound and listenability (if you accept that it's a bit like listening to The Clash on a transistor radio in the next room- but maybe that adds to the authenticity of the experience).
Wednesday, 13 May 2020
In the middle of the following year The Stooges would release Funhouse, a perfect distillation of voice, guitar, bass, drums and raw repetition, machine like riffs and stripped down simplicity. In the studio they pulled out all of the wall coverings, all the baffles and carpets, got rid of the screens that separate the musicians from each other. They set up the kit close together as if to play as they would at a gig. Iggy would record his vocals holding the microphone in his hands as if singing live to an audience, no pop shield or mic stand. He'd gave the band their cue, his vocals leading the songs. They were drilled. On the album's song named for the new decade they added the free jazz skronk of saxophonist Steve Mackey.
1970 (Take 1)
The sound of The Stooges on Funhouse is the very essence of punk rock, the primordial swamp from which everything else eventually crawled, a sound that by the end of the century could sell out stadiums and soundtrack adverts on TV. At the tail end of the 60s however it was music for freaks and weirdos, made with single minded obsession by a group of musicians who almost everyone else derided and dismissed. The Funhouse box set contains the entire session, every take of every song, each barely distinguishable from the next.
Loose (Take 4)
Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Larry Heard as Mr Fingers invented house music. Can You Feel It? and Washing Machine are two of the core parts of house music's DNA. In 1996 under his own name he released an album of science fiction instrumentals called Alien, inspired by Ridley Scott's 1979 film. Using minimal kit, just three pieces of equipment (Korg O1/W workstation keyboard, a Roland d550 and Oberheim Matrix 1000 for those that are technology fans) he created nine tracks of synth led, space age musings. At times it skims the edges of 80s jazz fusion and occasionally it shows some of his proggy influences but it's an album that has some real moments of beauty, melody and clarity. On the whole, it doesn't sound dated either. This one is especially good, gliding in from deep space and through the outer edges of the atmosphere.
The roll-call of death keeps getting longer, depressing and yet somehow completely fitting with the times we live in: R.I.P. Dave Greenfield of The Stranglers. Golden Brown was the first 7" single I bought with my own money, a giant hit in 1981 and a song largely written by keyboards player Dave, his distinctive harpsichord and the odd time signature making it stand out on the radio.
Millie Small, the voice and spirit of My Boy Lollipop died last week too. The 1964 single was the first massive ska hit in the UK and around the world, so much of what followed that came from Jamaica came in Millie's footsteps and as a direct result of her. R.I.P. Millie.
Funk and soul singer Betty Wright passed away from cancer at the weekend. R.I.P. Betty.
And last but definitely not least, one of the absolute pioneers of rock 'n' roll Little Richard died on Saturday, a gay, black, cross dressing star whose influence is immeasurable. R.I.P Little Richard.
Monday, 11 May 2020
Today's long song is an unreleased Andrew Weatherall remix from 2016, ripped from one of Andrew's monthly Music's Not For Everyone shows for NTS (and the absence of those is a massive monthly gap in my life). Piano Magic were a London based band who started out in the summer of 1996 and wrapped things up in 2016. In between they recorded umpteen albums starting out as a bedroom project centred around Glen Johnson and a four track portastudio and evolving into a full band, eventually at the turn of the millennium landing on 4AD before departing again. At some point in the 2000s Frank Alba joined them on guitar- he would later be involved in Weatherall and Nina Walsh's excursions with Woodleigh Research Facility and Moine Dubh (and I'm guessing he was part of the mysterious Fort Beulah N.U. collective). There's a detailed biography of the group's history at their website here.
Weatherall's unreleased remix dates from 2016. His nine minute re-work of Exile is slower paced and languorous, with a sultry live bassline and a moody guitar part. It's quite unlike his other remixes from that year- New Order's Restless, Solar Bears' Separate From The Arc, The Liminanas and Peter Hook's Garden Of Love, Craig Bratley's Play The Game, Unloved's When A Woman Is Around. Andrew released his Convenanza solo album and the debut album by WRF that year too, a fruitful and golden period. Mind you, looking at that list the remixes Andrew completed in 2016 are a very varied bunch.
Exile (Andrew Weatherall Remix unreleased)
I've no idea why this remix didn't get a proper release. Piano Magic called it a day in December 2016 so that may have had something to do with it. Their website is still being updated and there's material on Bandcamp along with the original song the remix comes from.
Sunday, 10 May 2020
Some new music for Sunday, downtempo, blissed out and chasing the Balearic beat. Joe Morris is a Leeds based DJ and producer who has created two new tracks quickly during the lockdown and they are a perfect sounding pair, bass and drums padding away and some lovely optimistic piano.
Dan Wainwright is on a creative roll, producing one new thing after another. Peace Of Mind is a slowed down, cosmic, synth voyage, like sunshine coming through the trees, a feeling of contentment and the knowledge that whatever comes tomorrow can be dealt with.
Get High is more direct and built for dancing, wonky, off kilter new beat.
Saturday, 9 May 2020
I got this dramatic shot of the sky over the Mersey on Thursday night. One habit I hope I manage to maintain once this is all over, whenever that is, is taking regular walks. You miss so much sitting inside and even the most familiar and mundane places can look different when caught at a particular time. This week's Isolation Mix is a dubwise and post punk excursion from The Clash, some dubbed out Joy Division covers, Bauhaus, The Slits, Killing Joke remixed by Thrash, a bunch of Andrew Weatherall dub versions and some On U Sound from Dub Syndicate.
The Clash: The Crooked Beat
Steve Mason: Boys Outside (Andrew Weatherall Dub 2)
Jah Division: Dub Will Tear Us Apart
Jah Division: Dub Disorder
Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi’s Dead
The Slits: I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Dub Syndicate: Ravi Shankar Part.1
Sabres Of Paradise: Ysaebud
New Order: Regret (Sabres Slow ‘n’ Lo)
Lark: Can I Colour In Your Hair (Andrew Weatherall Version)
Killing Joke: Requiem (A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea Dub Mix)
Friday, 8 May 2020
I wrote this, went back to it, re-wrote it, nearly deleted it and then went back to it again and decided to go with it.
Today is a bank holiday in the UK. The traditional May Day bank holiday that should have been on Monday moved to today- not that it matters very much at the moment, almost everyday's the same anyway. Today's bank holiday celebrates the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, the defeat of the Nazis and the end of the Second World War in Europe. This day will be celebrated by some with bunting and socially distant street parties and cosy 1940s vibes, speeches by Churchill and a general sense of national satisfaction. It is a Daily Mail, Tory Party, Brexit, picture postcard version of 1945- cheerful British crowds, Spitfires, the King and Queen waving from the balcony, cucumber sandwiches. I'm uncomfortable with it because it is based on a number of lies and distortions.
The Blitz brought untold suffering to the people of Britain. Two million houses destroyed, 32, 000 people killed and 87, 000 seriously injured by bombs. Cities were flattened. When it began there was no real plan at central or local government level for how to deal with bombing or its aftermath. When the first air raids wiped out whole streets, the local authorities had to invent a response. Clearing bomb sites, digging out survivors and bodies, providing medical care and shelter. Blackout, evacuation, fire wardens and so on were all put in place. Whole families and entire streets were lost. There's a memorial in Stretford cemetery, just up the road from here, to the residents of Lime Road where multiple houses were flattened by a bomber returning from delivering it's load to Trafford Park. The wall records the names of fifty people and 'seventeen unidentified persons' who were killed in their beds at Christmas 1940, in some cases every member of a family. The trauma that these raids brought is generally overshadowed by the so- called Spirit of the Blitz. Counselling didn't exist. Dealing with PTSD wasn't a priority. People buried didn't talk about it. Even at the time the Spirit of the Blitz was a myth, a propaganda campaign conducted by Lord Beaverbrook, the Daily Express newspaper owner brought into the National Government, to keep spirits up and help win the war. Crime increased during the Blitz. The black market flourished. The King and Queen were booed and jeered by ordinary Londoners when they visited the East End. Evacuees were often resented by communities and many were treated badly. Public air raid shelters were not widely used, they were often cheaply built, water logged and had a reputation for collapsing. Many people, the poor in the cities, had little or no access to shelters anyway. All in it together?
Newspapers that supported left wing parties were banned under wartime legislation. Churchill wanted to extended the ban to include the Daily Mirror when it published a cartoon critical of his policies in 1942 (above). Under Beaverbrook the newspapers staged photographs of milkmen delivering the daily pint over the wreckage of a bombing raid to keep spirits up. They'd already had to spin the defeat at Dunkirk into a victory. The war was almost lost before it began, 350, 000 troops retreating from the oncoming German army and trapped between them and the sea. This is not to deny the bravery of the men involved but the Dunkirk myth is one of the biggest propaganda spins the British media has ever created. This isn't to say that keeping spirits up and raising morale aren't an important job during wartime but the lie has become the truth, officially repeated and that's the version of the war that is being celebrated today.
During the war some members of the government began to plan for afterwards and there was a growing view that things had to change. The poverty of the 1930s, unemployment, children going hungry, slum housing, no security, were all seen as the old way. There was talk of a new world, of doing away with the old guard and getting it right. Win the war and then win the peace. People started to talk of a welfare state and Sir William Beveridge was asked to write a report. He said that Britain could afford a welfare state and had to afford it, for the national good. Churchill was against it and he began to be seen as the man for the war but not the man for the peace. The British people agreed, removing him from office at the first post- war general election. Ernest Bevin, the trade union leader who was brought into the Wartime Cabinet and in charge of the Ministry of Labour, argued strongly for a welfare state and for post- war security for all, the idea that poverty should be eradicated and that government and the people had a duty to build a fairer society. After all, what was the suffering for, if not this? This has been successively undermined from the 1970s onwards by the right wing press and right wing politicians, with repeated stories of benefit cheats, dependency culture and dole dossers, a concerted campaign to forget that the welfare state was a reaction to the absolute poverty of the 1920s and 1930s and a commonly held desire to provide security for people who had none, who could not afford to visit a doctor, who died because they could not afford medicines, who went hungry when they had no work. The Daily Mail and the Tories who want us to celebrate V.E. Day are the same who want to undermine and override the Second World War's most long lasting social impact in this country. The causes of the welfare state- war, poverty, inequality, injustice- are ignored in favour of sentimental flag waving and a notion of togetherness. The real togetherness, if it existed, was the sense among politicians and people in 1945 that when Hitler was defeated there had to be fundamental changes in the way the UK and society were organised and the way it treated people. In this new world there was no place for Winston Churchill who was against it anyway. Our current PM's hero is Winston Churchill. The talk is that he wants to loosen the lockdown, get the economy going again, and that he will announce this on Sunday- backed up by the flag waving Tory press. Many feel that this is too soon. If Johnson sees this as his Churchill moment he may find that a resulting second wave of Covid infections becomes the equivalent of the V2 flying rockets that destroyed neighbourhoods in London 1944 and 1945.
The V.E. Day celebrations also add to the idea of British exceptionalism, that 'we' won the war. Yes, the Battle of Britain was a significant moment, Hitler's plan to invade Britain postponed, but it was his decision to invade the Soviet Union that the war hinges on militarily. The Russian people fought street by street, house by house, cellar by cellar. Russian women served at the fontline. They lost 20 million people as a result. The Red Army, the defence of Stalingrad, the horrors of the Eastern Front and the advance towards Berlin turned the tide of the war. In the west the D- Day landings started to squeeze the Nazis out of France. U.S. soldiers make up two thirds of the 10, 000 casualties from the landings. None of this is adequately represented by the Spitfires, sandwiches and bunting portrayal of V.E. Day.
The newspapers and politicians who want us to celebrate this parochial, one eyed view of the past are the same ones who want to take us out of Europe, who want us to prioritise business over human lives by lifting the lockdown and who want to turn back the clock to a land that never existed. Jon Savage tweeted a comment earlier this week and it's something that I've felt for some time. Jon's Tweet reads-
'Have suddenly focussed on the fact that the usual May Day holiday on Monday has been moved by this shower of shit government to next Friday for VE Day: this country has been totally infantilised. GET OVER THE FUCKING SECOND WORLD WAR'
And who can disagree?
Actually loads of people would disagree I'm sure.
Anyway, that's my take. I'll inevitably end up feeling like the V.E. Day Grinch when the genuine sense of community down our road that has been fostered during lockdown becomes a socially distanced street party later on today, people drinking and waving flags in their front gardens and there's some communal Vera Lynn and Churchill broadcasts.
Here are some London Irish trad- folk punks singing a song in 1988 about the serious business of public holidays in Almeria.
Thursday, 7 May 2020
This came as a slap in the face yesterday, the news that Florian Schneider, co- founder of Kraftwerk and as a result one of the most influential musicians in post- war Europe, has died at the age of 73. Kraftwerk's importance cannot be overstated. Their pioneering music, use of machine rhythms, synths and keyboards, vocoders more or less invented the genre of electornic music. That they then popularised it with a mass market and continued to experiment makes their achievements even greater. Their influence on other artists from the 1970s onward is immeasurable. Florian Schneider met Ralf Hutter when both were students in Dusseldorf. It was Schneider who first purchased a synthesiser and said that was the direction they should pursue. Autobahn. Radio- Activity. Trans- Europe Express. The Man Machine. Computer World. Tour de France.
I saw them play at the Apollo in March 2004, one of the most memorable shows I've ever seen, from the four men- machines in lit up suits at their work stations across the front of the stage to the films projected onto three giant screens behind them, to the run through their greatest songs and the robots appearing from behind the curtain for the encore.
This is an impossibly beautiful song, the topline melody is heartbreakingly gorgeous. It is even better sung in German.
R.I.P. Florian Schneider.
Equally sad (and equally pioneering) Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen died on April 30th of Covid 19 symptoms. I meant to do something about him sooner but things kept getting in the way so I'll pay tribute to him here. His work with Fela Kuti in the 1970s combined his Nigerian native music, Juju, with jazz and highlife. Fela's music and stance became increasingly militant especially with the Africa '70 group which Tony was the bandleader of. Brian Eno and Talking Heads were in awe of him. This one is from 1973 Tony drumming with Fela Kuti. I can't really do this music justice with a simple description. Just listen to it.
Jeun Ko Ku (Chop And Quench)
In recent times he worked with Damon Albarn in his The Good, The Bad And The Queen supergroup, his Africa Express project and Gorillaz. Following his death Damon released this Gorillaz song in honour of him, Tony Allen still the bang on those rhythms aged 79. This quote was put out with it-
“I want to take care of youngsters – they have messages and I want to bring them on my beat.” Tony Allen
R.I.P. Tony Allen
Wednesday, 6 May 2020
Some re-worked Detroit techno for you on this Wednesday in May in lockdown. Around 2015 Vince Watson was invited to re- work Derrick May's Icon, a Rhythim Is Rhythim track from 1996. It came out in 2017 backed with another re-working on the B-side, an updated version of Derrick's co- write with Carl Craig, Kao- Tic Harmony. Vince treats both tracks respectfully, rebuilding them without taking away the original feeling or energy. Some added drums, some strings maybe. Retro Techno/Detroit Definitive- Emotions Electric was the title of a 1991 compilation of the early Detroit techno and it fits this just as well. Dance music for the heart and the head as well as the feet.
Icon (Remixed and Reconstructed)
Tuesday, 5 May 2020
Brand new from Moon Duo is this ten minute odyssey, a very chilled psychedelic cover of Black Sabbath's Planet Caravan. It appears on a tribute album called What Is This That Stands Before Me?, a compilation of covers of Sabbath songs by bands on Sacred Bones Records. If you like Moon Duo (I know some of you do, and if you don't, you should) you'll love this. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Duo Blissed Out Duo. This is so good and so beautiful it practically works as medicine.
Monday, 4 May 2020
I posted this photo on Twitter last week, the contents of a box I found in the loft. These cassettes have survived numerous house moves and various culls. I was happy to find them, the Proustian rush was enjoyable. Many of them date from the late 80s when it was in lots of ways a different world and I was a different person. Someone called Jon Fugler saw the photo and commented 'good haul, the ladybird is my favourite...' to which I replied 'Fluke', a useful piece of information I thought as the band's name isn't on the front of the cassette. It was then pointed out to me by @AcidGrandads that Jon Fugler was the singer in Fluke. Sometimes you just have to give a virtual shrug, smile and face palm.
Fluke were ace, an acid house/ electronic band who crossed all the genres from techno to house to ambient, guitars, synths, samples, drum machines and vocals. Their song Pan Am Into Philly is one of the great lost ones of the era and the version on Creation's Keeping The Faith, Philly (Jamourphous Mix), is superb and a real personal favourite from that time. The album with the ladybird on it is from 1991,a live album from a time when people doubted whether this type of band could really perform live- the band doubted it as well as the computers weren't always reliable enough to survive a gig. Nevertheless the album, Out (In Essence) is a great snapshot of the group.
Garden Of Blighty (Out/In Essence)
What makes my inability to recognise Jon Fugler even worse is that in my final year at university I knew Hugh Bryder (who was Fluke's tour DJ and friend of a friend, and Hugh was supposed to be DJing at my wedding in 1995 but was stuck on a train).
Sunday, 3 May 2020
Playing around with the Harry Dean Stanton monologue from Paris, Texas when I was putting yesterday's Isolation Mix together last week caused me to play the entire soundtrack through a few times. It's not a very long album, only ten tracks and if it wasn't for 'I Knew These People...' which clocks in at over eight minutes it would be much shorter. Ry Cooder's guitar playing, all slide guitar, delicate finger picking, reverb and atmosphere, perfectly matches the moods and look of the film- the dust of the desert, the longing of the characters, the melancholy and loss of Travis and Jane. Ry Cooder said in 2018 that director Wim Wenders caught the ambience of the south west of the USA with the use of ambient microphones which picked up the sound of the desert and the wind, which he discovered is in E♭. So for the soundtrack they tuned all the instruments to E♭. That's the kind of detail I like, tuning your guitar to the key of the wind.
This song, Canción Mixteca, is ne of the highlights of the soundtrack and is little more than Ry Cooder's echo laden guitar, some piano and Harry Dean Stanton singing. The song is a Mexican folk song, written between 1912 and 1915 by Jose Lopez Alvarez. He wrote it in Mexico City suffering from homesickness for Oaxaca, his home. Since then it has been adopted by many Mexican exiles who long for their hometown.
'So far am I from the land where I was born!
Immense nostalgia invades my thoughts,
and, to see myself, as lone and dismal as leaf on the wind,
I would that I'd weep ‒ I would that I'd die ‒ out of sorrow!
Immense nostalgia invades my thoughts,
and, to see myself, as lone and dismal as leaf on the wind,
I would that I'd weep ‒ I would that I'd die ‒ out of sorrow!
O land of sunshine! I sigh for‐to see you.
Now that, far from you, I live without light ‒ without love.
And, to see myself, as lone and dismal as leaf on the wind,
I would that I'd weep ‒ I would that I'd die ‒ out of sorrow!'