Tuesday, 30 June 2020
Grant Hart put this song out back in 2009 on an album called Hot Wax. The lyrics are based on a Buddhist meditation.
'You're the reflection of the moon on the water
But you're not the moon.
You are the scent of the sea on the night wind
But you're not the sea
You are the shadows from the light of a fire
But you're not the light
You are the sound of the rain on the dry earth
But you're not the rain'
Sung in Grant's familiar edge- of- his- register voice and surrounded by the fuzz of guitars and the rattle of drums, an organic sounding, circular song and a four and a half minute white knuckle ride. It popped up on an old CD compilation I found recently and I thought it was definitely worth a re-post. The last time I posted it was back in March 2010 which as I keep noting is a fairly long time ago. The album is well worth tracking down, not least for this and closing song My Regrets.
You're The Reflection of The Moon On the Water
Monday, 29 June 2020
The new album from The Long Champs has been occupying chunks of my listening time since it arrived a week ago, eight songs that find the sweet spot between chuggy dance music, late 80s indie and shoegaze. Next Stop Nowhere opens the album in fine style with glistening peels of guitar, a filthy bassline and synth washes over a thumping rhythm, a streamlined, dancefloor facing Sonic Youth.
Across Straight To Audio's next six songs the guitars are equal parts fuzz and shimmer, there are layers and washes of sound that trigger a range of emotions, all underpinned by the slow- mo, chugging drums. The closing song and title track pairs Ocean Rain era Will Sergeant tremelo with a lovely chilled out bassline and sets sail for somewhere on the horizon.
You can buy the CD or download from Tici Taci.
Sunday, 28 June 2020
Green Gartside, the voice of Scritti Politti, has unexpectedly released a 7" single through Rough Trade. If you're quick you might be able to track a copy down. The release has two songs, both covers of songs originally by legendary English folk singer Anne Briggs. There is a lot of back story to the single involving Green's pre- punk love for folk music, Morris dancing, dressing as a 19th century farm labourer but with eye liner, Fairport Convention and Martin Carthy. Green's Scritti bandmate Rhodri Marsden had been asked to do an arrangement of an Anne Briggs song and asked Green if he'd like to sing on it.
Tangled Man is the A-side, a gorgeous take on the original with Green's voice sounding as ace as ever over some lushly recorded acoustic guitar.
The B-side is Wishing Well, less instant than Tangled Man but with some dubby FX alongside the guitar and multi- tracked vocals.
Saturday, 27 June 2020
No Isolation Mix today. With Thursday's bumper Weatherall/ Glade post there are more than enough mixes to go around and frankly I'm not going even attempt to compete with that line up. Instead I have a story about an encounter with Hugo Nicolson and the small part we played in getting his solo album released this week.
Hugo Nicolson is the man who engineered many of Andrew Weatherall's early records. He started out as a tape- op working at The Town House, working on some of Julian Cope's late 80s records. In the early 90s Hugo and Andrew met and Hugo became the man who turned Andrew's ideas into reality, becoming the co- producer on Screamadelica, some of the One Dove tracks and a slew of remixes from the period, remixes of bands like That Petrol Emotion, Finitribe, Jah Wobble, My Bloody Valentine and The Drum by The Impossibles. A couple of weeks ago Hugo offered to hold a Zoom meeting to talk about his work and in particular the records he made with Andrew Weatherall in exchange for a donation to the charity of his choice (Black Lives Matter). On Thursday night a group of us listened in intently as Hugo spoke from his kitchen in Los Angeles. He told us about his initial experience as a junior tape op, watching Adrian Sherwood and the way he used the mixing desk in the studio, throwing faders around and bringing instruments in and out of the mix. He talked about Andrew Weatherall's passion and fervour, the depth of knowledge about music he brought to the studio and the skill Andrew had for bringing people together. He described the making of Come Together (a song I have previously described as the my favourite ten minutes of recorded sound) and Don't Fight It, Feel It (a song that took just four hours to do). He talked about the spirit that he and Andrew developed with remixing, that you should take the original song to pieces and create something entirely new.
Hugo described his own lack of confidence in his abilities and how Andrew encouraged him, how he developed the programming and sampling in the studio, the moment they realised Higher Than The Sun needed something else and Weatherall phoning Jah Wobble, who he'd met recently, and getting him down to play the bass on Higher Than The Sun. He discussed how he then joined Primal Scream on tour as part of the band. Hugo's job was to be the man on stage responsible for all the Midi, the man who pushed the buttons to play the spaced out, cosmic, technicolour aspects of Screamadelica- in other words, everything on Screamadelica when played live that wasn't either a guitar or the drums. Midi in a live environment in the 90s was unreliable and if the technology failed, the songs couldn't be played. At that point, everyone turned round a looked at Hugo. That, coupled with being on tour with Primal Scream during one of their most hedonistic periods, brought its problems and pressures. He discussed his love and admiration for the late Throb Young and his growing realisation he couldn't live like Throb.
Hugo engineered the Hallelujah ep for Happy Mondays and told us being in the studio, the chance to work with Martin Hannett, and waiting for the drummer to appear who had 'popped out'. The longer the wait, the more substances the Mondays consumed. Hannett, ostensibly in charge as producer, observed the madness going on, as the wait went from an hour to two days, participated. Hugo's chief interaction with Hannett was when the legendary producer came into the kitchen where Hugo was making a cup of tea and asking him, completely seriously, if he'd seen the aliens land on the lawn the afternoon before. Nevertheless, a successful e.p. was recorded and Hugo talked about his pride at working on Clap Your Hands. He worked on Julian Cope's Peggy Suicide and Jehovakill, two of the Archdrude's best records, and on Bjork's Debut.
His position in Primal Scream's touring band took him with them to Memphis to record the Dixie Narco record, a trip that was beyond hedonistic and involved everyone getting tattooed in Memphis (except Bobby), various chaos including at least one stabbing incident and a twelve minute masterpiece being recorded, the title song that wasn't on the Screamadelica album (a song Hugo had actually forgotten about and he recalled didn't think at the time was very good- some of us in the meeting begged to differ). As the tour continued to Australia and the band's lifestyles spiralled into daily lunacy Hugo had a drug induced breakdown in Sydney and was seen trying to find the Sydney Opera House's steering wheel so he could drive it into the water and (and here's where the laughter stops) he had a nervous breakdown that hospitalised him and took him out of action for four years.
Since the late 90s Hugo has worked again with Primal Scream (on 2000's XTRMNTR) and with Radiohead, in cinema and on soundtracks, not least with David Holmes. He took questions from us about all sorts of nerdy things and at times was reminded by us of records he had made and remixes he was responsible for but had forgotten about. We had a long chat about this, one of Andrew and Hugo's best remixes from 1991 (a cover of a Slapp Happy song by a girl duo from Edinburgh). Hugo said that the song wasn't recorded to a click so there were timing issues and that to put the vocal into time would be a day's work and a real ballache so they dropped it in as it was, beautifully and brilliantly out of time.
The Drum (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
Hugo also told us about an album he made as Spark Sparkle in 1999 which he'd never released. He emailed us all the same day with a link to the album and following our encouragement and feedback he's now released it on Bandcamp.
The twelve songs on Crank combine 60s Wrecking Crew sounds with a sort of West Coast exotica, dive bars and the Sunset Strip, and an experimental sheen. The production, as you'd expect from the man who engineered Screamadelica and One Dove's Fallen and Breakdown, is superb and it's incredible that has languished largely unheard for the best part of two decades. It sounds like it comes from from a similar place as David Holmes' Unloved project and if you like that, you'll find a lot here to enjoy. There's some real magic and moments of beauty in the songs, orchestral sounds and huge quantities of echo, gorgeous piano, layered voices and a kind of cosmic- folkiness to it in places. Hugo's siblings Claire and Krissie appear on vocals along with Martin Duffy (of Primal Scream) and Donald Skinner (who played with Cope). I thoroughly recommend it.
Friday, 26 June 2020
It's now over four months since Andrew Weatherall's passing. This weekend would have been the 50th Glastonbury festival. Former Sabres office man Andrew Curley has been working with the Glade Area Glastonbury to put together a day long tribute featuring an all star list of Lord Sabre's musical compadres from the past three decades, each contributing a mix in his honour, for a virtual festival. They dropped at various times yesterday, a Three O'Clock Drop, a Six O'Clock Drop and a Nine O'Clock Drop. All are available at Mixcloud for repeat listening. Obviously it's too soon for me to review each one- there are thirteen in total and I have other things in my life which restrict me from enjoying DJ mixes in permanent rotation for twenty one hours. And I need to sleep. These mixes will be enjoyed slowly over the days and weeks to come but there must be something for everyone here- Sherman at the Controls with an outstanding hour of dub, The Orb's Alex Paterson, a blistering set from Richard Sen, dance magic from Scott Fraser, Sabresonic's Alex Knight, former Sabre Of Paradise Jagz Kooner and Primal Scream's Andrew Innes rock 'n' roll/ northern soul extravaganza, Rico Vincent's Double Gone Chapel mix, Rick Hopkins bringing the Blood Sugar, fellow- Asphodell Timothy J Fairplay, ALFOS stalwart Sean Johnston, Keith Tenniswood with a Two Lone Swordsmen set that starts at 0 bpm and builds from there and something truly special from David Holmes. The full line up is below. All the sets can be found here.
Edit: I'm three sets in, spacing them out so as to enjoy them each fully. The Sherman dub set is a joy, an hour of serious dub vibes and several tunes with Andrew's stamp on them, some Clash and Killing Joke, King Tubby's Dub Fi Gwan and plenty more besides. Alex Paterson's house music funfest sounded great in the garden last night. Any set that opens with Ralphi Rosario's You Used To Hold Me is setting out its stall. Rico's Double Gone Chapel mix is sixty minutes of hotwired blues and amped up rockabilly. Tremendous stuff and testament to Andrew Weatherall's tastes, influence and impact. Andrew Curley has done an amazing job putting this together and pulled it off with aplomb. I'm sure that Andrew would shake his head a little and smile, downplay it- 'it's just playing records in a disco, dear boy'- but the spirit of the man and his thirty years in music is shot through these mixes in huge measures.
Thursday, 25 June 2020
Fresh from contributing to the soundtrack Killing Eve South London's Fireflies released an e.p. at the start of the month called The Machine Stops. Recorded at Nina Walsh's Facility 4 the e.p. is led by their spooked cover of Kip Tyler's She's My Witch. Tucked away at the end of the four songs is the fuzzed up, smouldering garage rock of Heidi, four minutes of snarl and menace, a song which blows my cobwebs away each time I play it, thumping drums, a vicious guitar solo and lyrics about escape. The Machine Stops is at Bandcamp and there's a video for Heidi here which isn't available to embed at the moment.
Wednesday, 24 June 2020
The Twilight Sad's No One Can Ever Know came out in 2012 and is about to be re- issued. It came with the line that it had been 'anti- produced' by Andrew Weatherall. I was never absolutely sure what this meant but according to the internet he gave the group some advice about analogue synths and some words of wisdom. He had apparently been lined up to produce the album but for whatever reason this didn't happen. Several years later, in 2018, a remix by Andrew of their song Videograms appeared, a seven minute piston- powered drum machine excursion with a huge synth riff and early 980s New Order/ Depeche Mode vibe. Lovely stuff.
Back to 2012. No One Can Ever Know was paired with a vinyl only remix album release, nine reworkings of the songs from the album by sympathetic remixers such as Liars, Com Truise, The Horrors and Optimo. The remixes are club based, pushing the darker, more industrial sound the band were experimenting with further. Tom Furse of The Horrors took them to a sleek, cosmische place, somewhere in the spiritual vicinity of West Germany in the 1970s.
Not Sleeping (The Horrors Dub Mix)
JD Twitch fired up the kick drum and sent them out onto the floor in the early hours.
Alphabet (JD Twitch/Optimo Remix)
Tuesday, 23 June 2020
Back in March Timothy J. Fairplay relaunched three albums on Bandcamp that were previously only available on cassette. All three are packed full of drama, tension, melodies, retro- futuristic synths, ideas and noises bouncing around.
The title track to the seven track False Visions album, originally out in 2015, is an intense ride into electronic sound, all bouncing synths, keyboards, drum pads and compressed noise. It's quite a trip. Timothy has always been a king of song titles and False Visions maintains his strike rate with Bizarre Fables and Watergate Metaphor Love Scene up there with his best.
The Promise Of Midi, released for Cassette Store Day in 2014, seven more songs for cassette. This mini- album is slower and moodier, with John Carpenter vibes to the fore. Rooftop Meeting could soundtrack a spy exchange in 1980s Berlin or the final moments of the alien invasion. Given the state of the world at the moment, I'm sure some of us would welcome our extra- terrestrial overlords putting us out of our misery.
The final track on The Promise Of Midi was/is Sleighride/ Blizzard and it was remixed by Andrew Weatherall. In Lord Sabre's hands it becomes a magnificent, twice the length bass- led, dub FX grind and prowl.
The third of the three cassette releases is Good For Driving In The Night, first out in 2013, seven more slices of twisted, nocturnal synth- based exploration, finding room for disco, techno, electro, soundtrack melodies and chillwave. This is Deserted Trawler, a twinkly synth part over ominous chords and a general sense of foreboding.
Monday, 22 June 2020
It's a common feeling round here to think a song/film/album is recent and then to check and be reminded it came out ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. The 21st century is a fifth of the way through and I still think of things that were made and released in its first decade as recent. Time is relative I guess.
Back in 2010 A Mountain Of One were remixed by The Time And Space Machine at least twice and one of the results was this seven minutes excursion, a slow burning, simmering piece of psychedelic Balearica, Richard Norris setting the controls for the heart of the sun.
Bones (The Time And Space Machine Remix)
There's something about artists that use A as their prefix, they are almost always top quality musical outfits- A Certain Ratio, A Tribe Called Quest, A Guy Called Gerald, A Mountain of Rimowa, A Place To Bury Strangers, A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
Sunday, 21 June 2020
On Friday night Public Enemy returned with a new single, State Of The Union, Flavor Flav and Chuck D at the forefront with DJ Premier at the decks.
There's no nuance or subtlety about this song, it is direct and furious and confrontational. It is a message aimed directly at Donald Trump and the USA's white supremacists. The chorus leaves no room for doubt 'State of the union/ Shut the fuck up/ Sorry ass motherfucker/ Stay away from me'.
In a brief message to go with the song Public Enemy said this...
'All we know is Trump has gotta go…. We shot this video in secret in the dead of the night. PEace Chuck D and Flavor Flav'
Chuck D at sixty still raging with the energy of a man forty years his junior.
Back in 2007 Public Enemy proved they were still alive and kicking with the Shirley Bassey horn sampling Harder than You Think. The song had a UK resurgence in 2010 when it was used as the music for Channel 4's TV coverage of the London Paralympics. It still sounds magnificent today.
Harder Than You Think
In 1990 Public Enemy released their third album, Fear Of A Black Planet, a dense, sample heavy, layered album with hard, funky loops underpinning the rhymes. Among the lyrics were calls to organise and become self sufficient, samples dealing with the treatment of black men by white police forces and media coverage of race issues, songs about the stereotypical portrayal of black people in Hollywood films and the inadequacy of the emergency services. Public Enemy made Fear Of A Black Planet thirty years ago. State of The Union is partly asking the question 'what has really changed?' and the answer is nothing, in fact, things under Trump are worse.
Saturday, 20 June 2020
I'm not sure that the title of these mixes holds true any more but onward we go. This week's hour of music is coming from the punk and post- punk world and the long tail that snakes from the plugging of a guitar into an amplifier and someone with something to say stepping up to the microphone. Some Spaghetti Western as an intro, some friendship, some politics, some anger, some exhilaration, some questions, some disillusionment, some psychedelic exploration and some optimism to end with.
In History Lesson Part 2 D. Boon explains his friendship with Mike Watt, the importance of punk in changing their lives, the singers and players in the bands that inspired him and, in the first line, the essence of punk as he experienced it.
Ennio Morricone: For A Few Dollars More
Minutemen: History Lesson Part 2
Joe Strummer/Electric Dog House: Generations
X: In This House That I Call Home
The Replacements: Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Outtake Version)
Husker Du: Keep Hanging On
The Redskins: Kick Over The Statues
The Woodentops: Why (Live)
The Vacant Lots: Bells
The Third Sound: For A While
Spacemen 3: Revolution
Poltergeist: Your Mind Is A Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder)
Echo And The Bunnymen: Ocean Rain (Alt Version)
Pete Wylie: Sinful
Carbon/Silicon: Big Surprise
Friday, 19 June 2020
Jah Wobble posted his latest lockdown tune, this one titled Post Lockdown Dub, the most upbeat of the eight songs he's written and recorded since mid- March. It's a great little song with a sprightly tempo, horns, uplifting piano and keys and a nice bubbling bassline.
Despite my love of the tune I'm not sure if the optimism is that well placed. The lockdown has seemed over for a lot of people since Dominic Cummins got busted and Johnson defended his senior adviser's right to do what he liked. Now it looks like for many people it's over completely. Shops may be set up for social distancing but on the streets and in public places it looks like many people think it doesn't apply to them. We are still shielding so for us very little has changed. When everyone was in the same boat it seemed much easier. Now through loosening the lockdown and the government's mixed messages and incompetence everyone is in different boats. The UK has the highest death toll in Europe which ever way you slice the figures, whichever set of statistics you use, and the third highest in the world. Countries that looked like they had beaten the virus are now reporting outbreaks again and having to reintroduce measures- New Zealand, Germany, China. The criticism for not prioritising schools is being deflected onto the teaching unions and the Labour Party (schools have had guidelines from government about social distancing- the government's own guidelines are why they've been unable to re- open). The UK's supposedly 'world beating' track and trace system won't work fully until the autumn and the government has gone on to prioritise re- opening the economy over public health. Queues formed early on Monday morning as non- essential shops re- opened. Talk of reducing the 2 metre guideline to 1 metre is giving out the message that getting pubs and restaurants serving again is more important than controlling the virus.
Eat out. Forget the virus. Fuck the NHS.
Maybe everything will be ok.
Thursday, 18 June 2020
The new album from husband and wife duo Peaking Lights, a thirteen song psychedelic dub pop trip with layers of tape loops, FX, compression and the dreamily drifting vocals of Indra making for a very pleasant way to escape. Opener Dharma sets the tone for an album of Californian sunshine with the haze and half light of the rehearsal room/ studio. Third song EVP is propulsive, escapist dance pop with drones and processed backing vocals. The Damned is the early 80s crossed with Mediterranean Euro-pop. Dreams has delayed guitars and a dub bounce. By the end and final song Change Always Comes we're deep into proggy, sail away territory, floating out on piano and waves of gentle noise.
Wednesday, 17 June 2020
A month ago JC, The Vinyl Villain, posted some songs from the first flush of Ian McCulloch's post- Bunnymen solo career, a single from late summer of 1989. It's here, a comprehensive post about Faith And Healing, Candleland and it's B-sides. I was about to post something very similar so pushed my post back a bit and then re-wrote it. I have a lot of affection for Candleland, an album that JC notes sold fairly well and got good reviews but came and went very quickly. Tastes were changing quickly in the autumn of 1989, in the world of guitar bands very quickly indeed, and at the ripe old age of thirty Ian was looking like one of yesterday's men.
Candleland stands up as a decent collection of Ian McCulloch songs, some have a late days Bunnymen feel, not least in his voice and the lyrics. The single Faith And Healing is a particular favourite, sounding as it does like Mac fronting late 80s New Order. It's nothing groundbreaking, nothing out of the groove he was in by that point, it's just pushes my buttons (in a good way). The flow of words and themes remind me of The Game re-worked for '89.
Faith And Healing
Ian did a Peel Session in December 1989 with his new band, The Prodigal Sons. The session version is very different from the album one, the New Order synths and bass sound removed and the fuzz guitars turned up, sounding alive and tuned in. The whole session is much rawer, rehearsal room stuff rather than the more smoothed out sound of the Candleland album and thirty one years later these versions sound fairly fresh.
Faith And Healing (Peel Session)
The Flickering Wall (Peel Session)
Damnation (Peel Session)
Candleland (Peel Session)
The 12" release of Faith And Healing came with several remixes. This one, The Carpenter's Son Mix (by Mark Saunders), is a typical late 80s remix- extended with the guitars and bass separated and moved around.
Faith And Healing (The Carpenter's Son Mix)
Tuesday, 16 June 2020
I was watching an episode of Sounds Of The Sixties late at night over the weekend. It was a 1964- 66 episode called The Beat Room and featured John Lee Hooker suited and booted, The Rolling Stones in their mid 60s mod/ pop- art glory miming to Get Off Of My Cloud, all fringes, cords and trebly guitars, The Pretty Things with recently departed Phil May and his long hair, and The Kinks blasting their way through the screen with You Really Got Me. I fast forwarded past Tom Jones having never seen the appeal. Manfred Mann were on with their 1964 single Come Tomorrow, singer Paul Jones having his trousers tugged at by two girls dancing by the stage. Naughty.
Manfred Mann aren't a group I've ever had that much interest in. Doo Wah Diddy doesn't do much for me. It did then occur to me that I had the soundtrack to the 1968 film Up The Junction, all the songs written and recorded by the London group after original vocalist Paul Jones had left and a new one, Mike d'Abo, joined. The film version of Up The Junction stars Suzy Kendall and Dennis Waterman, Kendall playing upper class heiress Polly Dean who forsakes her privilege and moves to Battersea. The soundtrack, Manfred Mann's fourth album, has some jazzy songs and some very nice, slightly psychedelic songs, acoustic guitars and melodic basslines, light vocals and breezy choruses- a bit Beach Boys, a touch slightly stoned in the park on a summer's day.
Just For Me
When I retraced my steps with the soundtrack and the songs I remembered that this song and the title track were both played by Andrew Weatherall, once on his 6 Mix residency about a decade ago and once on a radio programme with Terry Farley and Gary Crowley he discussed and played songs about London. In an edition of Record Collector he said this about it
'When I moved to London I got sucked into the centre of the cyclone because of the nightclubs I DJed at. I knew what I was involved with was something really important, it was proto acid house. Just For Me goes “Soon the world was a better place/It appeared to have changed its ugly face”. I always associate it with the feeling I’d have as the sun was coming up and I was walking through the city; that this is my town now; I’m shaping it. I think it plays during a scene in the film when Dennis Waterman’s walking through London at dawn, and it’s still bombsites. Though it doesn’t mention any landmarks, this is my archetypal London record'.
Monday, 15 June 2020
Thurston Moore's Strawberry Moon, a nine minute piece played on/for three guitars, in that New York, experimental minimalism, Glenn Branca, Spirit Counsel vein he's been exploring. Thurston is a resident of London right now not New York. You can take the boy our of New York but you can't take New York out of the boy. Strawberry Moon was recorded and released the same day, 3rd June, a celebration of the first full moon of June 2020. A good, go with the flow, piece of music.
Sunday, 14 June 2020
Daughter and second child Eliza is seventeen today. Once upon a time, aged five, she would entertain herself by sitting in the car with a Finding Nemo bucket on her head. Now she is a risk taking, danger seeking young adult who sticks up two fingers to the Ministry of Defence and their signs. The year 2003 when she was born seems a very long time ago and much has happened in between then and now it has also shot by very quickly. Happy birthday Eliza, have a great day despite the restrictions of lockdown. Keep doing what you're doing and you'll turn out just fine.
Eliza shares a birthday with George O'Dowd, better known as Boy George (born in 1961 so turning fifty nine today- happy birthday George). I've been meaning to post something by his late 80s acid house outfit Jesus Loves You for ages. The song here, remixed by Paul Oakenfold, is an upbeat seven minutes of Balearic dance pop, powered by a bassline that hits the groove and some rattling snares. Over this George sings a soulful plea for tolerance and understanding, as relevant now as it was in 1990 when optimism and positivity were all the rage and genuinely felt.
Generations Of Love (Oakenfold Mix)
'The Jew and the Gentile, the black and the gay
The lost and the futile, they've all got something to say
The African nation, the sword of Islam
The rebels in China, the Sikhs and the Tams'
Saturday, 13 June 2020
This week's mix is made up entirely of songs released during lockdown, since mid- March 2020. Some of them have been written and recorded during this period. I could easily have doubled the length of this so maybe I'll come back to this and do a part two. This one has the trippy psyche of Sonic Boom, dusty funk desert blues from Ess O Ess, some dubby jazz (or jazzy dub) courtesy of Jah Wobble, Number's post- punk dance stance, yet more excellence from Weatherall and Walsh's Woodleigh Research Facility, Justin Robertson and Sofia Hedblom's blend of Nigerian rhythms and electronic dub, Dan Wainwright's pagan chug and some Balearic bliss from Joe Morris, Rich Lane, The Long Champs and a cover by Rheinzand. There's one segue which is a bit of a mess but it'll have to do. Life has surface noise and all that.
Sonic Boom: Just Imagine
Ess O Ess and Saul Richards: Totem (Swamp Crawl)
Jah Wobble: Lockdown 5 (Forbearance)
Number: Red Flag
Woodleigh Research Facility: Karra Mesh
Formerlover: Correction Dub
Dan Wainwright: A Blessing
Joe Morris: The New Dawn Will Come
Rich Lane: Barry Island (The Long Champs Dub)
Rheinzand: All By Myself
Friday, 12 June 2020
Nick Drake's 1969 song 'Cello Song has been one of lockdown's songs for me. It was on my daily radar back in late March and I'm still coming back to it again now. There's a real melancholy about the song, one of those songs to wallow in for the few minutes it lasts. The lyrics are littered with poetic imagery that also give some insight into Nick Drake's state of mind- 'the cold of the night/when the armies of emotion/go out to fight' and 'forget this cruel world/where I belong... and if one day you should see me in the crowd/lend a hand and lift me/to your place in the cloud' both stand out. One of the things with listening to Nick Drake is, like Ian Curtis, it's difficult to separate the person from the ending.
The music and the sound has a similarly sad feel. The album Five Leaves Left was produced by Joe Boyd and he tried various arrangements on the songs. This one is really close and intimate and has a real weight to it, Nick's voice and fast finger picking folk guitar, accompanied by Claire Lowther's cello and the congas and shaker played by Rocky Dzidzornu. Back in March 'Cello Song sounded like life and society shutting down, the dusk falling early and the fear of going out. Now it sounds like night falling later and some warmer nights but coupled with the fears of lockdown loosening and coming out.
Thursday, 11 June 2020
Sister Ray is a seventeen minute, recorded in one take avant- rock dance song that completes their 1968 album White Light/ White Heat. Lou Reed said that it was done 'as a joke- no, not as a joke... but as a scene of total debauchery and decay'. It was intended to be confrontational. The group agreed to keep playing for the duration and leave in whatever mistakes were made. The engineer pressed record and then walked out. Reed and Sterling Morrison batter the fuck out of the riff and John Cale plays organ hooked up through a distorted guitar amp. The guitar playing is simple and percussive and completely overloaded and the organ is completely in the red, distorted and wailing.
Lou Reed had written a lyric about 'a transvestite smack dealer' and in the song 'a bunch of drag queens take some sailors home... and start shooting up on smack and having this orgy when the police appear'. In the song Lou's characters include Doc and Sally, Rosie and Miss Rayon, a sailor who's dressed in pink and leather, Cecil with a new gun with which he shoots a sailor and makes a mess of the carpet. Amongst all this Lou drawls about 'I'm too busy searching for my mainline/ I couldn't hit it sideways' and 'she's too busy sucking on my ding- dong'.
While this is the noisy side of The Velvets at their most extreme the song when played live was often the one that would get the audience up out of their seats dancing. There are multiple live versions out there lasting for up to and beyond half an hour, like this one recorded live at The Matrix in San Francisco in 1969. Starts out slow and sparse and builds but with a noticeably different feel compared to the album version.
Sister Ray (Live)
I'm fairly sure though that the first version I would have heard of the song would have been a cover, probably this one by New Order at Glastonbury in 1987. They had played Sister Ray live as Joy Division and there's a version on Still which I might have heard earlier but I know I had a tape of the 1987 Glastonbury set because it was recorded by Radio 1 and transmitted as part of their Live In Concert series and I taped the set straight from the radio. New Order's version is a comparatively short eight minutes and is a bass, guitar, drums finale after a set chock full of mid 80s dance- pop brilliance that opens with Touched By The Hand Of God and takes in Temptation, True Faith, Your Silent Face, Every Little Counts, Bizarre Love Triangle, Perfect Kiss and Age Of Consent. The group kick up a solid racket, sounding quite like Joy Division in parts, Hooky's ascending and descending bass riding in and out of the mix and Bernard making up the words as he goes along and then sampled voices being dropped in at the end. It captures the spirit and intention of Sister Ray as Lou and The Velvets set out to I think.
Sister Ray (Live at Glastonbury 1987)
Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Dan Wainwright has been in flood mode during lockdown, a torrent of releases and tracks on Bandcamp. The latest is his best yet, a four track e.p. on Amsterdam's Night Noise label. The opener is Raindance, a full on chugging piano banger, night noise indeed. Second track Ceremony, which grows in intensity, has didgeridoo, space, bass, Space Invaders FX and eventually a violin, a controlled freak out. The Joe Morris Dubwise remix of Raindance is exactly what it says, Joe slowing it down, spacing everything out, dropping some lovely trippy piano in and piling the echo onto the drums and percussion. It's a funny coincidence that when I last posted something by Dan I paired his Peace Of Mind and Get Higher releases with a new two track release from Joe, the laid back Balearica of The New Dawn Will Come. Now the two of them are united on one release.
The track that really raises the hairs and hits the heights at the moment is the third one, A Blessing, which starts out as an acid monster, dark noises likely to end up with the carpet worn out under your feet, synth sounds beamed in from left and right, the tension building for several minutes. Then unexpectedly the ceremony begins with bells, finger cymbals and chanting and the definite whiff of incense before the groove returns and the dark acid kicks back in. 2020 dance music and ancient ritual combined.
Tuesday, 9 June 2020
The photos show the car park above the Merseyway shopping centre in Stockport and it's magnificent concrete screen wall (designed by Alan Boyson). One of the upsides of lockdown has been deserted public spaces and the opportunity to explore them with no cars or people around.
Back in April I posted Jah Wobble's first lockdown recording, an meandering jazzy dub instrumental he called Lockdown, recorded in his home in Stockport. Since then he has added several other new recordings, Lockdowns 2- 5 (all available at Bandcamp for a pound each). This one, Lockdown 5 (Forbearance) is my current favourite, a bit ambient, a bit dub, a bit some of those jazz sounds he's been experimenting with.
Jah has making the best of it and his time adding Lockdown 6 (End Of Lockdown) and Lockdown (Reprise). Sequenced together on a playlist/CD the seven songs make for a good mini- album. Stockport vibes are good for the soul.
Monday, 8 June 2020
This is an epic twenty one minutes of sound, a wrap around, found sound collage called We Are Stardust, with voices flitting in and out, layers of radio static, echo, bursts of transmissions, the sudden appearance of strings or guitars, Geiger counter noise, alien sounds, the distant remains of Joe Meek's New World reverberating. It was written, recorded and produced by Mat Ducasse who some might remember as DJ, producer and musician Skylab.
Mat also recently released this one, Lord Of The Cosmos, twenty one minutes of ambient, cosmic drift, the soundtrack to a film about space exploration that hasn't been made yet. This one is more musical, synth sounds, drones and chimes.
At a pound each they're excellent value for money. Played back to back they make a very good, forty minute way to kick off your day. Maybe put some appropriate visuals on at the same time and sink into space.
Sunday, 7 June 2020
West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys recently topped The Guardian's countdown of The 100 Greatest UK Number 1 Singles. The article is here. Cue obviously much gnashing of teeth and wailing in certain quarters, not least in the comments below the article, often from rejected and upset Beatles fans, people crying about the 1960s and 'real' music, someone saying that West End Girls is 'plastic music for plastic times' (as if music that is real and emotive can only be made by men with bits of wood with six strings attached to them). The list and placings are neither here nor there really but well done to the writers who put this song at number 1 and Ghost Town at number 2 (and for that matter choosing She Loves You as the sole Beatles song, thus upsetting the really serious Beatles fans). It's all good fun.
West End Girls as some people said may not even be the best Pet Shop Boys number 1 single. That honour could go to It's A Sin or Heart or even Always On My Mind (and how it irritates some people that that song kept The Pogues off the Christmas number 1 slot in 1987). But West End Girls is a superb song and I have no problem with it being rated so highly. The opening seconds are an announcement, cinematic and prowling, and the release of tension when the three note bass riff comes is exciting enough even before Neil enters with his deadpan singing and rap. West End Girls made London in 1986 sound impossibly electrifying and dangerous, especially for those of us up north, and the culture clash he describes using a variety of voices- West End Boys and East End Girls, nightclubs, dive bars and casual sex, the 'just you wait til I get you home' line, the gangland stuff about guns, police and madmen- is all brilliantly realised, inspired Neil said later by T.S. Elliot's The Wasteland and the sound and rhythms of the words of that poem. Once I also twigged in later years that the line about 'from Lake Geneva to the Finland Station' referred to Lenin's secret journey on a sealed train across Europe back to Russia, sanctioned by the Germans, to take charge of the Bolsheviks in 1917, it flipped my mind a little- a synthpop song about clubs and (to quote Neil) 'rough boys getting a bit of posh' that is also about the Russian Revolution! Neil took it up a level later on with the 'Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat' line, one of my favourite lyrics by anyone.
It's a great dance record as well as a great pop single. The 12" carried the Dance Mix as the A-side to make the point. There's a seven minute mix from the 10" release which comes in more slowly with a lovely, twinkling piano part before lift off at one minute thirty and a great rap with extra lyrics in the breakdown. When I saw them play Blackpool Empress Ballroom a couple of years ago they played a sleek modernised, upgraded version of West End Girls. Maybe the sign of a great song is one which can be re-figured and remixed, pulled apart and reassembled, and sound equally good in multiple forms and formats. Chris Lowe's music is superb, keyboards, synths and drum machines, the full shebang. Producer Stephen Hague must take a share of the credit too. The earlier Bobby Orlando version just doesn't have the same menace or sex appeal. Not that it's bad by any means, it just isn't quite there. Hague finds the drama, depth and sheen that it needed, pushing it all out front but with layers of intricacy. The video is a big part of the song's success too, Neil and Chris stalking the streets of London, Neil in front in long black coat and Chris hatless (for the only time) and sulky (like every time thereafter). It established the deadpan, standing still delivery as they fade in and out in front of shuttered shops.
In 1986 the release of Disco, a six song remix album with some blinding songs and versions not least In The Night and Paninaro, included the nine minute Shep Pettibone version of West End Girls. More cowbell.
West End Girls (Shep Pettibone Master Mix)
In The Night, let's not forget, was used as the theme tune to the BBC's Clothes Show and lyrically dealt with French proto- Beatniks in Nazi occupied Paris and the nature of resistance and collaboration, ultimately criticising them for their existential angst preventing them from engaging with the real life struggle. Paninaro was about an Italian 80s youth subculture with a preference for expensive casual wear, boating shoes and Italo disco. 'Armani, Armani, ah- ah Armani'. This collision of interests and lyrical concerns with modern music is one of the things that marked them out as being different from the pack and one of the biggest things I've got from them.
With fortuitous timing Neil and Chris have recorded a new version, a 2020 lockdown take on West End Girls. Seek and with an air of sadness, West End Girls and East End Boys shut away and in isolation.
Saturday, 6 June 2020
I started compiling this one in my head when the sun was shining and it was hot enough to sit in the garden at night until it went dark without the need for a coat or sweatshirt. Since I started actually putting it together the sun has vanished and the temperature has halved but I've ploughed on anyway. It's a ten song mix with sunshine and balmy nights in mind from the political/ absurdist post- punk/ dub of Meatraffle, the finger picked acoustic guitar and Mellotron magic of Steve Cobby, some chuggy Scandi- disco/house, 80s heroes The Woodentops, a blissed out re- edit of Brian Eno, Andrew Weatherall spinning Toy into a chilled krautrock groove, some Belgian New Beat from 1989 and Grace Jones backed by Sly and Robbie.
Meatraffle: Meatraffle On The Moon
Steve Cobby: As Good As Gold
The Woodentops: Give It Time (Adrian Sherwood Mix)
Brian Eno: Another Green World (The Blue Realm) Mojo Filter Edit
Fjordfunk: Exile (Hardway Bros Remix)
LAARS: None (Full Pupp)
Chayell: Don’t Even Think About It
Toy: Dead And Gone (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
Grace Jones: Walking In The Rain
Friday, 5 June 2020
Yesterday- early 80s punk from Los Angeles. Today- trance house from San Francisco in 1993. The Delusions of Grandeur album, a double vinyl compilation, came out in '93. It pulled together releases from Rabbit In The Moon, Hawke, The Drum Club and God Within, all out on the Hardkiss label. Hardkiss were pioneers of US dance music, the brainchild of Scott, Robbie and Gavin Hardkiss. This track by Hawke (Gavin's pseudonym) is a peak on an album that has plenty of peaks, a thumping, rolling, full on sound that comes in waves and doesn't let go. Big, tribal drums. Percussion at the top end. Throbbing bassline. Trippy, trancey acid sounds. Big breakdowns and re- entries. A saxophone all bent out of shape. Perfect for Friday nights and losing yourself in.
3 Nudes Having Sax On Acid (Scott Hardkiss remix)
Thursday, 4 June 2020
Punk, in it's 1976- 1980 form, was expressing some very universal attitudes through the lyrics, the sound and the presentation- boredom, dissatisfaction, rejection of authority, two fingers to the world. But the different scenes and places it took hold seem very local. Sex Pistols and their entourage were London. Buzzcocks could only be Manchester. The CBGB punks could only have come from a particular part of New York (wherever they all migrated from originally). The world was less globalised and less connected. Word of mouth spread more slowly. Local scenes had their own character based on the views and outlook of the participants. The punk scene as it developed in California and specifically in Los Angeles looks so much the product of late 70s LA that the bands could only have been spawned by that city at that time. According to those who were there and accounts of it, the new LA punk scene was suburban and from the sprawl, negative, against everything, especially the 'older' bands from the Hollywood part of town, who were more glam, more fashion conscious. These southern Californian suburban punk bands became faster, narrower, more hardcore. The animosity between the two punk camps and then the violent actions of the LAPD made California punk a genuinely dangerous scene to be a part of.
X formed in 1977, founded by singer- bassist John Doe and guitarist Billy Zoom. Doe's girlfriend Exene Cervenka joined on vocals and drummer D.J. Bonebrake arrived (who also played with Germs). X would go on to outlive the early LA punk scene and make records through the 1980s with re- unions in the 90s and 2000s. X could play loud and fast and their debut and it's follow up are full of loud, fast, short songs. What sets them apart from the hardcore bands is the country and rockabilly tinges to their music- you can feel it in Bonebrake's motorised drumming, Zoom's guitars and Doe's voice. Exene added urgency and a wail, her poetry and lyrics stand out, and the off kilter twin vocals give them another layer. The presence of producer Ray Manzarek and his Doors organ sound on their albums adds an unexpected swampy murk to their electric LA punk. Mostly though they just sound alive.
Two songs, one from 1980's Los Angeles album...
The World's A Mess, It's In My Kiss
And one from 1981's Wild Gift...
When Our Love Passed Out On The Couch
Wednesday, 3 June 2020
I'm a little late with this but thought it was worth paying tribute to a star of African music, Mory Kante, a singer and musician who had a genuine late 80s/ early 90s crossover hit. Mory's death was on 22nd May, caused by underlying health issues which were complicated by being unable to travel to France for treatment due to Covid- 19 restrictions. Mory was born and raised in Guinea, West Africa, brought up in the Mandinka griot tradition (a griot is a hereditary role, a storyteller, musician, historian, poet). His song Yé Ké Yé Ké became a huge hit, the first African single to sell a million copies, and was a top end of the charts record in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. The album Akwaba Beach, his third, sold in large numbers as a result of the single. Yé Ké Yé Ké was also a major club song, being in tune with the expansive, open Balearic sounds of the late 80s and was remixed several times. The chanted vocal and pounding rhythms caused mayhem in clubs, an uplifting and intense experience when surrounded by like minded souls, dry ice and strobes.
This version came out in 1987, remixed by Martyn Young of Colourbox and MARRS (and engineered by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins), the bassline and acid sounds perfectly married to the Mandinka vocals and West African rhythms.
Yé Ké Yé Ké (Afro Acid Mix)
In 1994 German duo Hardfloor remixed it and sent it out around the world's dancefloors again. A harder, more techno version.
Yé Ké Yé Ké (Hardfloor Remix)
R.I.P. Mory Kante.
Tuesday, 2 June 2020
Sometimes you need a healthy does of bile and anger in your music and your art. The world is a fucked up, unpleasant place at the moment, not least the coverage of what is happening in the USA with the protests and riots following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The racism that blights the history of the USA never seems too far from the surface, a reminder that for all our pretence of 21st century modernity and sophistication attitudes formed over a few hundred years have very deep roots. You never have to dig very far to find racists and supremacists on social media. The absence of moral leadership at the top of US politics is obvious. Worse, the president encourages further, state sponsored violence by quoting racists in his Tweets. There is footage of policemen making white supremacist hand symbols to protesters. The president hides in the White House, issuing demands to State Governors to 'dominate' the protesters. In the past, even at moments of crisis- 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King or the Rodney King beating by the LA police- there was a sense that the President should act for the good of all Americans, provide some kind of re-assurance, attempt to unite. Trump does none of this. He separates, he divides, he incites, he fuels hatred. He should be removed.
Escaping through music that takes us away from this is the answer sometimes but it's also essential to listen to music that reflects the other side of human nature, society, governments and the way that we have chosen to organise ourselves. Beasley Street was written by John Cooper Clarke in response to the poverty of 1970s Salford and Margaret Thatcher's government and social polices but it's themes and imagery are universal. Released on his 1980 album Snap, Crackle And Bop and produced by Martin Hannett, it's a poem/ song with enough lines to ensure John immortality, not least 'Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies/In a box on Beasley Street'. A contemporary equivalent could be Matt Hancock laughing his way through an interview where he was confronted with a UK death toll of 38, 000 people.
Beasley Street is a torrent of words, JCC painting pictures of squalor, decay and suffering, indelible images of dead men's overcoats, riff joints, rats with rickets, broken teeth, shit stoppered drains, boys on the wagon and girls on the shelf, poison, lager turning to piss, ageing savages, yellow cats, the smell of cabbage, dead canaries and 'the fecal dreams of Mr Freud'.
Monday, 1 June 2020
Another Monday, another Weatherall remix. This one came out in 1995, a Sabres of Paradise remix of Fun>Da>Mental. At seven and a half minutes long it's in no rush to get anywhere very quickly and has some very dusty and lazy sounds floating on top of the stoned groove. In fact, the title Mother In India (Sabres At Dusk Mix) is a pretty accurate description of what it sounds like.
Mother India (Sabres At Dusk)
It was coupled with the eight minute Sabres At Dawn Mix, a similar but less sleepy version.
Mother India (Sabres At Dawn)
The sleeve listed inspirational mothers, sisters and daughters throughout history that Fun>Da>Mental wanted to pay tribute to, from Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto to Boudica, Marie Curie, Betty Shabazz, Joan of Arc, Miriam Makeba, Mahalia Jackson, Emily and Sylvia Pankhurst, Angela Davies, Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King and Alice Walker.
This remix was one of the last Sabres of Paradise ones and I'm sure I read somewhere recently that it was the first tie that Andrew and Keith Tenniswood really worked together one to one so in some ways the Two Lone Swordsmen were born here. In 1995 the Sabres studio was above a dry cleaners in Hounslow, on the Flightpath Estate and I can hear some of the sound of the first Two Lone Swordsmen album, 1996's The 5th Mission (Return To The Flightpath Estate), in these two remixes.
To come bang up to date the fifth monthly Woodleigh Research Facility three track ep came out on Friday, a set of songs called Karra Mesh. Sonically and thematically the title track fits in very well with the two Fun>Da>Mental remixes above, the sounds he was exploring two and a half decades ago still circling.