Friday, 31 July 2020
Shielding ends today. Our son Isaac is classed as an extremely vulnerable person and we have been in lockdown since the middle of March. The last few weeks have been very frustrating as we have watched the rest of the world start to go back to some kind of normality, people going to pubs and restaurants, people going on holiday, the roads filling up again, streets getting busy, while we feel left behind. I drove through the town centre last weekend and it looked like a bank holiday, people all over the streets, outside pubs and milling about. I'll leave to one side the rights and wrongs of all of this, or my perceptions of right and wrong. One thing I don't like about the last few weeks has been the way that it's got so easy to become judgemental about anyone doing things differently to yourself and I've tried hard to stop myself from doing it but I know I've failed at times. This isn't any easier when you see people whining about having to wear a face covering for a few minutes in a shop as if it's some major infringement of their civil liberties. Shopping, unless it's for food, is a leisure activity, something to pass the time, so to refuse to put other people's safety first by wearing a mask while shopping for something to cheer you up is just wrong. Of all the hills to take a stand on, refusing to wear a mask to slow down transmission of a potentially fatal disease seems a bizarre one. The libertarian right wing are a poor bunch with a shit value system- they take the view that their 'freedoms' are more important than everybody else's health.
The reality of stepping out of shielding is pretty worrying, going from no contact with anyone outside the household to some contact with other people, at a time when it's clear the virus has not gone away. On the other hand, he (and we) can't stay locked down forever, we have to start to step out into the world again. There is some advice from the government about this, opening up to a group of people in outdoor settings, going back to work or day care if they are Covid secure etc but frankly taking advice from the current government seems like the last thing you'd want to do. The ONS reported yesterday that England had the highest levels of excess deaths in Europe in the first half of 2020. The people responsible for that are the current elected government, the same ones giving us advice about coming out of shielding. It was much easier back in April and May when everyone was in the same boat and dealing with the same set of rules (and the government fucked that too with the Cummings episode). Meanwhile talk of a second wave and spikes is rife and rates are rising in various places, some not very far from us. The re- opening of pubs will inevitably lead to a rise in transmission. It looks premature to talk of a second wave when in England we don't seem to be out of the first wave yet. Further lockdown beckons. Grim.
We will be taking entry out of shielding slowly. We have booked a caravan for three nights in a remote location, South West Scotland, not so far away that we'll need a service station stop on the way. We can wipe down the caravan on entering it, take walks in some remote places and possibly risk buying fish and chips. I think it's fair to say the last four months have left us fairly institutionalised and risk averse but if nothing else the view from a caravan on the Solway Firth for three nights will be different from the view from our front room.
I've been enjoying the latest release from the prolific and talented Ripley Johnson, a man who just doesn't stop. After 2018's Wooden Shjips album and tour and the same last year as Moon Duo he now has an album out as Rose City Band. Psyche country and western, some very laid back late 60s Laurel canyon vibes crossed with that motorik drumbeat, droplets of guitar and those whispered vox. This one, album closer Wildflowers, is a beaut.
Edit: various changes to restrictions were announced last night affecting the north west of England. I find it hard it understand how the new restrictions mean you can't meet in people's homes but you can still meet in pubs. Where's the risk and where's the priority, public health or the economy?
Thursday, 30 July 2020
This arrived via email and has gone straight to the top of my listening list, a sharp focussed four minutes of fun from Number (Rich Thair and Ali Friend, both also of Red Snapper). Number's album Binary came out earlier this year, an exhilarating blast of punk- funk, dance rhythms, live drums, grooves and DIY, songs you can dance to. The song Wedge has now been rejigged by A Certain Ratio, a partnership that seems blindingly obviously really and the end result is this...
And if that doesn't shine some light into your day and set you off with a bounce in your step I don't know what will. Wedge (ACR Rework) sounds like exactly the sort of tune that should soundtrack a party at The Face magazine's end of year knees up in 1983 while also being bang on the 2020 money. A vibrant and energetic re-working, vocals and whistles and laser noises riding over a funked up rhythm and squelchy bassline. And yet more proof that ACR are firing on all cylinders.
Wednesday, 29 July 2020
African Head Charge's 1990 album Songs Of Praise is on my stereo a lot at the moment. Adrian Sherwood has been re- issuing the AHC albums in sequence and the double vinyl brings together the eight songs from the original vinyl release, the extra six from the CD/cassette release and three further ones, seventeen songs in total. Sherwood and percussionist Bonjo Ivabinghi Noah had turned African Head Charge into a group by 1990, rather than just a Sherwood studio project, and they found a ready crowd at festivals. For Songs Of Praise they pulled together a dizzying array of sounds and influences to make a masterpiece. Using Sherwood's record collection as a sample library they found various religious vocals- chants, hymns, gospel voices, many from Alan Lomax's field recordings- and set them to some stunning pieces of music- African drums and percussion, Niyabinghi rhythms and dub basslines. On top of these songs various On U Sound members add further instrumental parts, such as Skip McDonald's fuzz guitar lines. The result is a genuine brilliant, mystical, psychedelic dub album, an album open to all the possibilities of the world's music, adventurous, accessible, weird and trippy and completely absorbing, the deep bass, African rhythms and the voices perfectly complementing each other, suggesting some ritual and celebration that draws in folk from all cultures into an On U tribe.
Tuesday, 28 July 2020
It was genuinely shocking and so sad to read yesterday afternoon of the sudden death of Denise Johnson. Denise was a feature of the Manchester music scene for the last three decades and her voice is scattered through my record collection, from Hypnotone's Dream Beam in 1990 to singing on Primal Scream's Screamadelica album, especially Don't Fight It, Feel It single, the wondrous Screamadelica song from the 1992 e.p. and the Give Out But Don't Give Up lp (and the recently released original version The Memphis Recordings where her voice really shines), Electronic's 1991 single Get The Message and then the many years she spent singing as a member of A Certain Ratio. Her voice is all over the ACR: MCR album and the Won't Stop Loving You single and it's remixes, all personal favourites. She sings on Ian Brown's Unfinished Monkey Business (the first and best Ian Brown solo album). In 1994 she released a solo single Rays Of The Rising Sun, a song with Johnny Marr on guitars and with an epic thirteen minute remix by The Joy.
Rays Of The Rising Sun (The Joy Remix)
In the last few years I've seen Denise sing with ACR on several occasions, at Gorilla (above), in Blackburn, at the university and The Ritz (below). She was always an engaging stage presence, smiling and waving at people in the front row. What's particularly cruel about her passing now is that ACR have a new album ready for release in the autumn and she had very recently announced the imminent release of her debut solo album, a collection of cover versions of songs, just her voice and acoustic guitar.
Her singing with Primal Scream, especially on this song, was a breakthrough for the group. No Bobby Gillespie, no guitars, just Denise's voice and Andrew Weatherall and Hugo Nicolson's production- that juddering rhythm, house pianos and those spacey noises and Denise singing 'rama lama lama fa fa fi/ I'm gonna get high 'til the day I die'. The remix for the 12" was even better and further out than the single mix, her voice chopped up, rejigged and sprinkled throughout the song.
Don't Fight It, Feel It (Scat Mix)
At all their recent gigs A Certain Ratio have finished their set with Shack Up, their cover of Banbarra's funk song, remade in early 80s Manchester as scratchy, punk- funk song. THis clip shows them back in 1990 on MTV, Denise centre stage...
Denise used to live round the corner from us and we were on smiling and saying hello terms but not much more than that. At ACR's gig at The Band On The Wall in 2002 launching their Soul Jazz compilation, the moment when they really began to get recognition for their role and music, she clocked us from the stage and winked and smiled. She was an active and lovely presence on Twitter, always positive and giving her views on politics, football and music. She came across as a genuine, friendly and lovely person. Social media was awash with tributes to Denise yesterday and reactions to the awful news and from people who were close to her and who worked with her. She was spoken of with real warmth and it was clear what she meant to people. She will be hugely missed. I'm sure everyone will join in sending their condolences to her family, friends and bandmates. What a shitty year 2020 has been.
Monday, 27 July 2020
I found this over the weekend, posted at the excellent Ban Ban Ton Ton website, and it has occupied my head quite a bit since. Italian DJ and producer Manuel Fogliata has recorded as Nuel and back in 2011 he released Trance Mutation, an album of minimal, organic repetition. Recorded round a single microphone in his home town near Rimini, Vibration and the other six tracks on the album take the structure electronic music but the instruments of much earlier times, rhythms and repeating melodies, something that sounds very old and also very new. Vibration has hand drums and a stringed instrument, a piano motif, some bells and shakers, lots of natural echo and, I think this is the word I'm looking for, flow.
The whole album is available digitally at Bandcamp. Ban Ban Ton Ton said that this is one album crying out for a vinyl repressing and I second that.
Sunday, 26 July 2020
Out a couple of weeks ago and revealing new layers with each play, the new album from Future Beat Alliance is a keeper. Two years ago he (Matthew Purfett/ Future Beat Alliance) released Black Acid, a seven minute slice of Detroit inspired sleek, intense, hypnotic, acid techno. That track features on Beginner's Mind but stands out as the only one in that vein. Much of the rest of the nine pieces of music are slowed down, contemplative electronic music, more ambient than techno- seascapes rather than strobe lights. Layers of synths and strings, warm bass, percussion, melodic woodblocks tumbling, chimes, the echo and space of dub with the long chords of Detroit techno, an album that works as a long player (something that seems to be making a comeback).
Saturday, 25 July 2020
Two weeks ago I posted my fourteenth Isolation Mix, Songs The Lord Sabre Taught Us, an hour of music from Andrew Weatherall's record box, as featured on his radio shows, playlists, interviews and mixes, mixed together seamlessly (vaguely). Today's mix is a second edition, fifteen songs he played, raved about or sampled, most of them first heard via him (I was listening to Stockholm Monsters before I was a fan of Mr Weatherall, a long lost Factory band who made a bunch of good singles and a fine album called Alma Matter and also the best band to come out of Burnage). It's a tribute to the man and his record collection that there are so many great records from his back pages to sift through and then sequence into some kind of pleasing order. Rockabilly, dub, Factory, post- punk, krautrock legends, Weller spinning out through the Kosmos...
Cowboys International: The ‘No’ Tune
Sparkle Moore: Skull And Crossbones
The Pistoleers: Bank Robber
The Johnny Burnette Trio: Honey Hush
Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze: Dubwise
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Disco Devil
African Head Charge: Dervish Chant
Big Youth: Hotter Fire
Colourbox: Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse
Stockholm Monsters: All At Once
Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit: How Much Are They?
White Williams: Route To Palm
Paul Weller: Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats)
A R Kane: A Love From Outer Space
Chris And Cosey: October (Love Song) ‘86
Friday, 24 July 2020
In May I posted two songs from the Lol Hammond and Duncan Forbes album Who Will Stop The Robots?- the shoegaze plus 808s shimmer of Sorry Kids We left You With A Black Sun and the more ethereal The Sky Is Falling (the post is here). The album is released today digitally, eleven tracks that definitely tap into something of the times we live in, ambient lockdown psychedelia maybe. The album's closer is this one, Lights Out (Return To Strawberry Fields), four minutes of gentle, blissful noise, some evocative Mellotron notes (hence what's referred to in the brackets) and the overall feeling that things might just turn out OK in the end.
Thursday, 23 July 2020
More new stuff for this week in the shape of a multi- guest star release from The Avalanches. Sometimes projects with large numbers of guests feel a bit overwhelmed or weighed down them but that isn't the case here. Wherever You Go is expansive electronic music, taking off with a sample from the Voyager Project, music sent into space with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1977. Co- produced by Jamie xx and with Neneh Cherry and Clypso on vox and with piano from Mick Jones it sounds like a meeting of minds and talents, a song that picks up the pioneering spirit that sent music out of orbit and into the solar system and runs with it. The children's voices suggest '70s TV shows, the drums coming in just after two minutes and the pumping bassline make it more contemporary, and the layering of sounds, Clypso's rap and sheer bounce of the last couple of minutes plant it in now. The promise of space exploration coupled with the sort of sounds that should be heard from a car radio passing by in the street.
'Why do we send music to the stars? Is it because we want our voices to live forever? How else should we become pure spirits, singing forever in the dark?'
The Avalanches, July 2020
Wednesday, 22 July 2020
Second summer of love vibes from opposite sides of the world- Halifax, West Yorkshire and Brisbane, Australia- and the combined talents of The Orielles and Confidence Man, out last month on Heavenly. The Orielles' single Bobbi's Second World came out in 2018, now followed by this remix by Confidence Man. Piano and synth bass building nicely with the Halifax teenager's yelps and whoops mixed in and out. A highly infectious six minutes encapsulating the fun of dancing outdoors to loud music.
Tuesday, 21 July 2020
This has bubbling around on social media and some DJ mixes for a few weeks and has now been released digitally with a vinyl release to follow- Ewan Pearson's remix of Hallelujah, the lead song from the Mondays breakthrough release at the tail end of the 80s, the Madchester Rave On e.p. Across three different mixes Ewan has taken parts from the 7" version (the MacColl mix where Kirsty's husband Steve Lillywhite pushed her backing vocals forwards a bit and smoothed out some of the sheer lunacy of the Mondays' sound in '89) and some of the Club Mix (where Paul Oakenfold and Andrew Weatherall sampled some chanting monks, added some Italo piano stabs and dusted it down for dance floors) and added a snippet of Tony Wilson talking about twenty- four track recording. Shaun sounds as dangerous and off it as he did thirty years ago over the enormous re- figured bassline and Mark Day's guitar lines still sound unique. The past rebuilt for the present. Double double good.
Given that this song was produced in its original mix by Martin Hannett, sung on by Kirsty MacColl, released on Tony Wilson's record label and remixed by Andrew Weatherall it's also a tribute to four people who have gone before their time.
This five minute edit version is good, a five minute bug eyed dance but if you're going to go full Bez you're going to want the nine minute mix, available from all the usual places. There's a nine minute dub mix too.
Just so you can compare and contrast, here's the Oakenfold/ Weatherall remix from 1990, the Monday's ramshackle Little Hulton funk streamlined and intensified, hypnotically.
Hallelujah (Club Mix)
Monday, 20 July 2020
This long song came out in 1989, the first solo single by Sonic Boom. He recorded it while still in Spacemen 3 and put it out on 12" and then also as a song on his 1989 album, an album called Spectrum which later became the name of his post- Spacemen 3 project. It's all part of the same body of work I think. The album and single version were over seven minutes long but the 12" had this extended version, nine minutes forty seconds of Sonic's slow burning plea for redemption/ ode to heroin. Beginning with finger snaps and then a muted guitar riff rising and falling, Sonic speaks his way through the song. A guitar solo long, slightly distorted notes kicks in. After an age an organ and a heavenly choir join and the whole thing repeats through to the fade out hypnotically.
Angel (Extended 12" Version)
Sunday, 19 July 2020
After last month's Flightpath Estate Zoom meeting with Hugo Nicolson (Andrew Weatherall's engineer and co-producer on Screamadelica, One Dove and a host of classic late 80s/ early 90s remixes) another Andrew Weatherall collaborator, David Harrow, offered to spend an evening talking to anyone who was interested in listening. On Wednesday night a group of us listened to David talk at length- he said at one point 'I warned you I can talk'- about his life, from London in the 80s to LA now, a fascinating account of a life spent in music, at times living in a fairly hand- to- mouth kind of way, trying to make a living from what you love. He talked about the problems encountered when musicians have to decide whose work the music is, who contributed what and who gets credited, whose name goes on the front of the record and whose goes in small letters on the back and how this is a big deal when you're young and hungry- and the problems those things can cause. He found his way in to music working with Anne Clark and then Jah Wobble. David spent a few years in the second half of the 1980s in West Berlin, asking for his tour pay and passport when a tour he was part of the band for ended in the divided city (an Anne Clark tour I think). He described his life as a 'full on West Berlin goth' and then his re- entry into London, first with Wobble, and then as acid house kicked off a visit to Shoom and The Clink and the subsequent change in outlook, mood and dress. In a matter of weeks he went from the long black hair and leather trousers of Berlin to brightly coloured cycling jerseys and caps, and the accompanying changes in drug of choice. David ended up not being invited to be part of Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart band and looking for something else began to work with Adrian Sherwood and On U Sound. He talked in depth about his role at On U Sound, what he learnt from watching Adrian Sherwood and working with him and the combustible mix of characters that made up the On U Sound groups- the On U Sound touring sound system, Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge, Tackhead, Gary Clail (and there was much about Gary and the situation that developed there). David's role in the On U Sound world was pretty central, playing keyboards (and being shown how to do this 'properly' by one of the On U team at one point), songwriting, programming and co- producing.
David and Andrew Weatherall's paths crossed in London in the early 90s and they worked together at various points. In 1990 David produced the London group Deep Joy, a three piece fired up by the acid house revolution and its possibilities. David's produced their song Fall which was remixed by Weatherall, a chunky 1990 floor filler with saxophone, a choppy guitar riff, some Italo piano, an example of Weatherall's expansive widescreen remix style in full effect.
Fall (Let There Be Drums)
Fall (Chunky Vocal)
Andrew said he'd release David's own music on his label, putting out various Technova releases on Sabres Of Paradise, memorably the Tantra 12" and Tantric album. They went on to develop the Blood Sugar sound, minimal, deep house/ techno, gritty but seductive music for nights in dark basements. David recalled Andrew telling him in the studio that they could only have four musical elements in a track at any one time and that if they wanted to bring another element in, something else had to be removed from the mix, the sort of detail that when you then go back and listen to Blood Sugar's Levels double pack or the releases they made together as Deanne Day, illuminates the music and its creation.
There are many parts of the story I can only remember sketchily- I should have taken notes I suppose. David wrote Your Loving Arms for Billie Ray Martin (a worldwide hit thanks to its inclusion on multiple compilations), a song David described as financially 'the best forty five minutes work I've ever done'. He talked about his decisions with humour and occasionally a rueful smile. He played keytar bass for Bjork but then turned down the position doing that on an eighteen month tour. He advised Tackhead singer Bernard Fowler not to take up the position of backing singer for The Rolling Stones (Bernard has sung back up for The Stones worldwide since the 90s and now lives among the super rich in LA). He found another musical life after hearing drum and bass and beginning to make music under the name James Hardway, a jazz/ drum and bass project that brought success around the world. He talked about his devastation at the death of Jamaican singer Bim Sherman in 2000 and his subsequent move to Los Angeles. This track has recently been finished, a song with the late Bim Sherman on vocals, remixed by The Orb, and it hits all the spots you'd expect it to.
David has continued to put music out. Sitting in his studio talking to us he laughed about the amount of technology available now compared to the kit available thirty years ago- a sampler, a drum machine, some records, a keyboard. David continues to make music as Oicho, and with Ghetto Priest, and has just put several dubs recorded during lockdown onto Bandcamp. This one, Main Earth Dub, has an elastic bassline, some distant percussion and then some of those rattling snares and kickdrums, dub techno sounds that aren't a million miles from the Blood Sugar sound of the mid 90s.
101 Steps (Lockdown 2) is cut from similar cloth, a deep, dubby, experimental drive round a city at night, the echo and stop- start rhythms building the tension.
David talked to us for what ended up being three hours, taking questions and speaking honestly about his life making music since the early 80s. There's loads more he talked about that I haven't mentioned not least his time with Psychic TV (a big influence on Andrew Weatherall too), the gentrification of Los Angeles, the club Flying Lotus emerged from and Billie Eilish and her mum, and some I've left out, but it was an entertaining and fascinating way to spend a Wednesday night.
Saturday, 18 July 2020
I haven't had the time or the inclination this week to put together an Isolation Mix. The end of the school year brought a lot of jobs to do and working from home has eaten up a lot of time. Instead I offer you a brand new song from some Balearic legends and a long mix from one of them from 2016.
Leo Mas and Fabrice are a pair of Italian DJs and producers who found their way to Ibiza in the 80s and have been quietly making gentle waves ever since, playing records at Amnesia from '85 onward and making Italo/Balearic records when the mood takes them. They have recently hooked up with Sally Rodgers, one half of A Man Called Adam, for a single called This Unspoken Love. The song opens up like a lost Pet Shop Boys classic before heading into cosmic disco territory, analogue synths and a pulsing bass and warm drum pads pushing it into the night sky. Perfect for that start of the summer holiday feeling.
In 2016 Leo Mas assembled an eighty minute mix for Proper Magazine, titled Fine Dust. Ambient, chilled out sounds, waves of synth and long chords, Mediterranean songs, beach tunes, drifting soundscapes, the full shebang- free download too.
Friday, 17 July 2020
This song turned up out of the blue while looking for something else, on a Beth Orton CD single from 1997. Someone's Daughter was on Beth's debut album, Trailer Park, an album partly produced by Andrew Weatherall and Keith Tenniswood. It's This I Find I Am is a cover of a song originally by American singer- songwriter Evie Sands, a B-side to a 1970 single (Evie's own background was in folk/ soul/ 60s pop and rock, a career that took her from the mid 1960s as a teenager through the '70s and then a 90s revival). The instrumentation and arrangement, double bass and brushed drums, slightly folky/ trip hop sound, spaced out jazz folk, all suggest it was recorded at the same time as the album. Red Snapper's Ali Friend played double bass on Trailer Park and it sounds like him here too, with Weatherall and Tenniswood's production skills working their magic.
It's This I Find I Am
Thursday, 16 July 2020
The Cramps have reared their heads and music at a couple of blogs recently which sent me back in a Lux and Ivy direction. While looking through my CDs I discovered I have, as well as 'proper' studio albums, four Cramps compilations, all of their early works- Songs The Lord Taught Us, Bad Music For Bad People, Off The Bone and File Under Sacred Music. The tracklistings are pretty identical, give or take. Why have I bought so many Cramps compilations with such similar tracklistings? In my defence, if there is such a thing, two were bought cheaply at Fopp or somewhere similar when I was in the habit of buying CDs of albums I owned on vinyl for car listening. At some point in the shop I must have realised I didn't own Bad Music For Bad People and I liked the cover (although obviously the cover would work much better on vinyl than CD).
I own two of these compilations on vinyl, purchases that pre- date the CD ones- Off The Bone and Songs The Lord Taught Us (plus several other Cramps albums- Smell Of Female, Rockin' And Reelin' In Auckland, New Zealand, Psychedelic Jungle, A Date With Elvis and Stay Sick!).
In 1978 The Cramps released a 12" called Gravest Hits. I do not have a copy of this record but it's surely only a matter of time. Gravest Hits was a compilation of their two 7" singles that came out on Vengeance Records in '78, four covers and one original (Human Fly, The Way I Walk, Domino, Surfin Bird and Lonesome Town). In many ways The Cramps are a perfect band. Lux and Ivy, a couple, with a deep knowledge of the roots of the music (50s rock 'n' roll and rockabilly, 60s garage, some country and blues) filtered through some sci fi, golden age comics, horror movies and outsider culture. Along with Bryan Gregory and Nick Knox and produced by Alex Chilton this line up made many great songs and none greater than Human Fly.
The reverb heavy guitar line crawling it's way down the fretboard. The splash of cymbals and thud of the drums. Lux's quivering vocal.
'Well I'm a human fly/ I spell it F-L-Y/ I say buzz buzz buzz/ and it's just because/ I'm a human fly/ and I don't know why/ I got 96 tears and 96 eyes'.
Well worth owning across five different compilations in two different formats- and worth every penny.
Wednesday, 15 July 2020
Daniel Avery released a new album suddenly last week which makes it two albums this year following his collaboration with Alessandro Cortini that came out in March just as lockdown kicked in. The new one, Love + Light, has been worked on through lockdown so it's at least in part a response to the situation. It's also an emotional call to what we've lost- coming together- and a eulogy of kinds to nights lost dancing in basements. The second half (what will be side two of the vinyl release (out in September) features some of those absorbing, intense, emotive, ghostly ambient drones that make this record a clear successor to Illusion Of Time and 2018's Song For Alpha. The first half has pulsing synths, kick drums, euphoric bleeps and acid squiggles, the sounds of the dance floor, dry ice and strobe. It's a complete piece of work that draws you in and carries you along. Opener London Island is gentle but insistent, waves of sound building for five minutes. As it ends there's a slight pause, a moment of stillness, before the sudden, heart-stopping arrival of the bass drum and a siren kick in, second song Dusting For Smoke. Tension and release. Even though I now know it's coming, it gets me every time- and I love it.
Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Green Gartside's recent 7" single for Rough Trade, a pair of covers of Anne Briggs folk songs, had me reaching into his back catalogue for the album Scritti Politti released in 2006. White Bread Black Beer was put out as Scritti Politti but was effectively a solo album. Green singing and playing all the instruments, recorded at home in Dalston. The fourteen songs are minimal, sparse recordings but lushly produced, Green's honeyed voice centre stage with acoustic guitars and keyboards. It's intimate but warm and a long way from the layered productions the 80s pop Scritti.
Fourteen songs feels a few too many now, a shorter album may have been worked better but there are some moments where the combination of voice, songwriting and production reach the heights. Dr Abernathy is one, named after an 18th century English surgeon but borrowing lines from 80s rap- 'punks jump up to get beat down/ all the days of my life'- and with lyrics about the Owl of Minerva (a symbol of knowledge and wisdom) and meth amphetamine. Album opener is another, a love letter to golden age hip hop, the drum machine that gives it its title and the songs of Run DMC. Green sings softly over some lovely synth chords for texture and a touch of echo, 'the boom boom bap/ the rat- a- tat- tat/ that's the beat of my life' and later 'the Yes Yes y'all/ was the siren call/ to come around to my life'. At the end he quotes Run DMC song titles in that softly sung way, 'Hard Times, Sucker MCs/ Jay's Game, 30 days/ Wake Up Hollis Crew/ Rock Box, It's Like That.... I love you still/ I always will'. Gorgeous stuff.
The Boom Boom Bap
Monday, 13 July 2020
Raspberry Beret is not an especially long song by Monday's standards and it's an 80s 12" version which takes the original single and stretches it out adding three minutes in but it's an irrepressibly upbeat summer song and we could all do with some good vibes at the moment. In 1985 Prince was in his psychedelic pop phase. Raspberry Beret is the pinnacle of this sound, a cherry coloured pop song about teenage romance, first love, Saturday jobs that drag, second hand hats and the kind of girl who 'comes in through the out door'.
The 12" version has an extended intro with finger cymbals clacking before the strings come in, the song bursting at it's seams, and an lengthy instrumental section at the end with the finger bell percussion (sounding like the bell on he bicycle he gave her a backie on as they rode down to Old Man Johnson's farm coughing) some coughing and shakers, wheezy harmonica, the strings being brought back in and then dropped out again. Effortless brilliance.
Raspberry Beret (12" Version)
Sunday, 12 July 2020
Hypnotone were a dance act signed to Creation Records in 1990 when Alan McGee and the Creation crew got into acid house. Hypnotone were mainly the work of Tony Martin with Intastella's Martin Mittler involved and keyboards by former Quando Quango member Gonnie Reitveld. In 1990 Hypnotone released Dream Beam, a single with Denise Johnson on vocals and remixed by Danny Rampling and Ben Chapman, a futuristic, laid back piece of acid house that was popular in Ibiza. I saw them perform it live in Liverpool's Sefton Park in summer 1990 at an annual event called Larks In The Park. The bleeps drifted out across the boating lake, sounding massive and superb. Everyone was very relaxed.
Hypnotone were one of Creation's go to remixers during this period producing a string of outstanding remixes, versions of Cascades by Sheer Taft, Primal Scream's Come Together and Dreaming by The Lilac Time. Their own album, self titled and also released in 1990, is a short but highly evocative slice of the period with several tracks that are worth revisiting.
It is my firm belief that anything from the late 80s/ early 90s with the word Italia in the title is going to be good and this is no exception, dreamy Italo pianos, huge bouncy bass, a rattling 808 and a whispered vocal part.
Album closer Sub is an after hours, comedown beauty with long synth chords and a sampled voice intoning 'you feel, you feel, you feel' while a bleepy arpeggio dances about.
Saturday, 11 July 2020
Isolation Mix 14 or Songs The Lord Sabre Taught Us. Fourteen songs, an hour and a quarter mix of records played by Andrew Weatherall. Most of them, not quite all but most, I heard first because he included them in a set or a mix on the internet or one of his radio shows, for 6 Mix or Music's Not For Everyone, or he referred to them in an interview. The quality of the songs and the breadth of genres and styles tells you everything you need to know about his taste and ear for a tune. The selection of songs here spans 1956 to 2019 and covers rockabilly, blues, 60s modbeat, post- punk, weird southern blues/ rock/ gumbo, 80s dance and proto- house, krautrock, Paisley Underground guitar heroics, 21st century fuzz rockers and electro- cosmische funkers, ambient- drone, avant- disco and a 70s country tinged ballad. Something for everyone.
Cowboys International: The ‘No’ Tune
James Luther Dickinson: O How She Dances
Wayne Walker: All I Can Do Is Cry
The Animals: Outcast
Johnny Jenkins: Walk On Gilded Splinters
The Dream Syndicate: John Coltrane Stereo Blues
Crocodiles: Foolin’ Around
Liaisons Dangereuses: Los Ninos Del Parque
Fujiya & Miyagi: Extended Dance Mix
La Dusseldorf: Rheinita
Piano Fantasia: Song For Denise (Maxi Version)
Rich Ruth: Coming Down
Donnie Fritts: We Had It All
Friday, 10 July 2020
Back at the start of lockdown in March, when the evenings were chilly and it was still going dark early and no one really knew what any of this was going to be like, I listened to an upload of an interview Nina Walsh did with an internet radio station (a Brighton based radio station I think). The interview was a couple of years old and some of what she discussed and played was put into stark light by the then recent passing of Andrew Weatherall. Some of what she played also struck a chord with me as I was finding bits and bobs of folk music were suiting the days and the times really well- Nick Drake for one which I wrote about here.
This song really grabbed me and I went and ordered a copy of the CD almost straight away. In 1992 Buffy Sainte- Marie, 60s folk and psychedelic pop singer and life long advocate of the rights of North America's indigenous peoples, had entered artistic semi- retirement and spent much of the 1980s raising her son. Buffy was an early adopter of computers in home -recording and making art and her 1992 album was recorded at her home in 1990 and then sent to London for some further production and mixing via something called the internet, using something called a modum. The album- Coincidence And Likely Stories- her first for sixteen years, makes use of sequencers, programming and keyboards but is also an early 90s folk record, some traditional instruments, some New Age element and some early 90s sonics too. In places it is stunning, a moving and emotional comeback, with songs that deal with the plight of the Native Americans (Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee), politics, greed and big business. There's nothing fey or timid about the album, Buffy's songs are hard hitting, modernised folk music. Some of it sounds a bit too stuck in the early 90s now but this song made a deep impression, especially back in March when we were suddenly confronted with lockdown and everything it brought with it.
I'm Going Home
Thursday, 9 July 2020
Neil Young's new/old album Homegrown came out last month. It was recorded in 1974 and 1975 and then Neil shelved it, despite the quality of the songs and the presence of both Crazy Horse and his other rotating cast of musicians including the likes of Ben Keith, Emmylou Harris and Robbie Robertson. It was too personal for Neil, some of the songs dealing with his recent breakup with Carrie Snodgrass and the pain and anguish it caused him.
A handful of the songs recorded for Homegrown made it onto other albums- Star of Bethlehem, White Line, Little Wing and Love Is A Rose all turned up elsewhere throughout the next decade and a half- but seven of them sat in Neil's house unheard and unshared, until Neil's decision to release Homegrown as he intended it to be back in 1975 but in 2020. This one has been worth the wait. Vacancy sounds as fresh as it was the day it was recorded, the band crunching their way through a mid- paced, twin guitar, stomp with Neil's voice floating over the top, 'I look in your eyes/ and I don't know what's there...'. The way the guitars lock together after the verses and the ringing guitar solo at the end is wonderful, pure Neil Young in '75.
The only moment on Homegrown that misfires is Florida, a two minute soundscape with Neil muttering over the top about cities and gliders but if you're on the homegrown there's a good chance some stoned ramblings will occur. Even so, it somehow works in the context of the album.
Homegrown should have been released after Harvest, when his acoustic guitar, singer- songwriter star was at its highest. Instead it lay in the vault for forty five years and he put out On The Beach (an album that deals with Charles Manson and has songs called Vampire Blues and Revolution Blues) and Tonight's The Night (and album recorded in the direct aftermath of the deaths of roadie Bruce Berry and guitarist Danny Whitten, Neil shaken to the core by both). Having shelved Homegrown for being too raw, he released two of the bleakest albums he ever made. That's where Neil was in 1975.
For The Turnstiles was on On The Beach, a sparse but sprightly banjo moan, Neil lamenting the price of fame and the artistic costs of arena rock via the metaphor of baseball.
For The Turnstiles
Wednesday, 8 July 2020
Back in the mid- 90s when the Beastie Boys were the best band in the world they release a run of albums- Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty- that were effortlessly brilliant. Mixing rap, funk, punk, dub, scratching and sampling with live instruments, adding Money Mark on keys and their own particular, cockeyed worldview- anything from science fiction films, late 60s/ early 70s fashions, golf visors, ramen, the mullet hairstyle, Lee Perry- they had a golden streak where it seemed like everything they did was a brilliant idea and that you were in on the joke even if you only got 25% of the references. Anyone else from the same period that could be considered for the 'best band in the world' title had nothing on the Beastie Boys.
Their golden phase was heralded in 1989 by the album they made when they took themselves away from Def Jam and off to Los Angeles and re- thought everything they did. Hooking up with the Dust Brothers (the real Dust Brothers) they rented a villa with a pool and the owners wardrobes, stuffed full of 70s clothing, and made Paul's Boutique. This album showed they were not the one- joke frat boys of Licensed To Ill and that they were not going to be one hit wonders. Paul's Boutique is a rich, complex- but- simple, layered record, samples from one hundred and five different records sprinkled over backing tracks The Dust Brothers had already created. On top of this multi- coloured, vibrant album where songs are constructed with split second timing, the three Beasties placed their three way rhymes, adding another layer to an already dense record. Not that it sounds too dense, it's all done with amazing beats, a sense of humour, innovation and a lightness of touch that draw you in from the moment the needle finds the groove (and this is very much an album that should be listened to on vinyl).
Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun is one of the most straight ahead songs on Paul's Boutique, a dusty rock drum beat (borrowed from Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band and their song Last Bongo In Belgium) rumbles away for a couple bars before the heavy guitar riff comes in, sounding like it's on a turntable that is slowing down, and then the Beasties and their whining NYC rapping and smothered in echo describing the stupidity of violence...
'Rolling down the hill snowball getting bigger
An explosion in the chamber the hammer from the trigger...'
There's a Pink Floyd sample in there, the piano chord from Time, clanging away. The super heavy Black Sabbath rock vibes continue through til the tension snaps at one minute fifty...
'Looking down the barrel of a gun
Son of a gun son of a bitch
Getting paid getting rich'
A pause, then the drums beat doubles and a guitar chord crashes in- both stolen from Mississippi Queen by Mountain- and the second half gets underway. Rambo, Bruce Willis, Son Of Sam and Clockwork Orange get name checked and the crunching riff and rolling drums carry us through...
'You’re a headless chicken chasin’ a sucker freebasing
Looking for a fist to put your face in
Get hip don’t slip knuckle heads
Racism is schism on the serious tip'
The vocals finish at that point but there's still a seriously deranged guitar riff to deal with, circling down the plughole, before the drum beat comes to dead stop.
Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun
Tuesday, 7 July 2020
I've posted music by Ennio Morricone recently, back in May as part of a tribute to his Spaghetti Western soundtracks and the sampling of them by various bands (which you can find here) and also as part of at least two of my Isolation mixes. His death was announced yesterday. Ennio died aged 91 in hospital following a fall a few days earlier. It's fair to say that his soundtrack scores for Sergio Leone's Man With No Name trilogy redefined what a composer could do in cinema and Morricone went on to score over 500 films. In a lot of ways, for people around my age, his work was one of the sounds of our youth- the whip cracks, the whistling, the twangy guitars, the sweeping strings and the chanting. The songs stand alone too, as pieces of music to listen to away from the brilliance of Leone's films. A pioneer. RIP Ennio.
Watch Chimes (From For A Few Dollars More)
Monday, 6 July 2020
This is Albert Bridge House in Manchester, an eighteen storey office building with lower level ones around it- check out the wave roof on the building at the fore in my photo, overlooking the River Irwell. It's housed various government departments over the years and has been described as 'the best modern building in Manchester' and 'an outstanding example of what good proportions and straightforward design'. Obviously it is currently under threat of demolition. Manchester City Council bend over backwards for anyone with money who want to demolish anything that is 'outdated' or 'ugly' and replace them with enormous glass towers that offer 'mixed use' development (this is usually un- affordable housing plus restaurants and/or a huge hotel). Recent reports have detailed how the planning committee has been meeting behind closed doors, as a response to Covid, and has been waving through developments that would have been held up to greater scrutiny otherwise. I've said before, I don't think that cities can or should be preserved in aspic and that cities are organic and change, buildings are put up, taken down, replaced and demolished, but the rate of change, kowtowing to private enterprise and lack of coherence in Manchester is out of control.
Here's some totally unconnected music for the Monday long song slot. In 1993 a single was released by the Peace Together project, a charity aimed at raising funds for cross- community activities for young people in Northern Ireland. The Peace Together single, Be Still, involved a huge cast of musicians and characters including Sinead O'Connor, Jah Wobble, Clive Langer, Nanci Griffiths, Feargal Sharkey, Peter Gabriel and Therapy? The CD single had remixes of Be Still by Robin Guthire with Liz Fraser on vocals and this epic Sabres Of Paradise remix.
Be Still (Sabres Of Paradise Remix)
This is one of the lost/overlooked Weatherall remixes from the 1990s, a twelve minute tour de force of Gaelic dub, tin whistles, echoing rimshots, bodhran, descending bass from Wobble, waves of synth and long, sustained keyboard chords and some of those trademark Sabres production touches from Gary Burns and Jagz Kooner. This remix often gets missed out of the round ups and retrospectives and it's a mystery to me why it does because it's Sabres Of Paradise at their extended dubby best.
Sunday, 5 July 2020
This recent release from Apiento and Tepper is a three track triumph despite it's functional title 17:44:58. The opener 3030 Dog is a beauty, all warm electronic bass, precision hi- hats tsking away and waves of synthesised sound, a merging of Balearica and deep house. It's followed by the abstract bleepy Bash and completed by House Bells, which opens with whoosshing sounds and distorted vocals and heads into repetitive, ghostly slow techno territory. Sunday sounds that both comfort and increase the weirdness.
Saturday, 4 July 2020
Lockdown ends today- at least, that's how the government and the media have been portraying it with occasional reminders that social distancing and a 2 metre gap might be important. The government have largely dropped the daily infection figures and death toll from their bulletins. You don't want to be depressing people at this stage of proceedings with doom and gloom, not when there are pints to be drunk! The media have been splashing stories about Super Saturday, Independence Day and the End Of Hibernation. It does look like they deliberately chose July 4th so they could call it an Independence Day. Meanwhile, Leicester is in lockdown, the R rate in London is apparently creeping above 1, there are Covid hotspots around the country, the deaths are still well over one hundred every day, and lots of people are talking about a second wave and a second spike without the people in charge actually wanting to do anything about it. We are still shielding, the medical advice we received this week is that due to our son Isaac being in the extremely vulnerable category we should stay in isolation until August 1st. Despite a few minor changes to our lockdown lives, we are still very much in isolation.
This mix is an hour and eight minutes of music with a folky, ambient, pastoral tinge with some Balearica and guitars thrown in, some old stuff and some brand new- some birdsong and synth ambience to start and finish, blissed out tracks from Seahawks, Apiento and Ultramarine, Green Gartside solo and as Scritti Politti, acoustic guitars courtesy of Nancy Noise, Michael Head and Barry Woolnough, some understated brilliance from The Clash and Sandinista!, Julian Cope covering Roky Erickson, Thurston Moore covering New Order and Jane Weaver's cosmic/folky weirdness.
Stubbleman: 4am Conversation
Nancy Noise: Kaia
Green Gartside: Tangled Man
Barry Woolnough: Great Spirit Father In The Sky
The Clash: Rebel Waltz
Thurston Moore: Leave Me Alone
Julian Cope: I Have Always Been Here Before
Jane Weaver: Slow Motion (Loops Variation)
Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band: Picasso
Scritti Pollitti: The Boom Boom Bap
Apiento: Things You Do For Love
Ultramarine: Stella (Stella Connects)Stubbleman: 6am Chorus
Friday, 3 July 2020
It's a funny thing- over the years since Daydream Nation came out I've fluctuated in my appreciation of Sonic Youth. Working backwards from Daydream Nation threw up lots to enjoy (Bad Moon Rising, EVOL, Sister) and then forwards as well but with more mixed results. I loved Goo but there are swathes of their albums from the 1990s and 2000s I missed and was fine about missing. I bought and enjoyed NYC Ghosts And Flowers and Murray Street but completely missed and still haven't heard Washing Machine and A Thousand Leaves (both highly rated I think). I sometimes think they seem like style over substance but when they hit the target they hit it good and proper.
Thurston Moore doesn't come out of Kim Gordon's 2015 autobiography Girl In A Band too well and he can come across as bit worthy on punk documentaries. I saw him play with his group in Manchester last year. I'd gone along on a whim in a way and was glad I did. It looked interesting, the venue is a former garage across the road from Strangeways prison, MBV's Debbie Googe plays bass in the band and his Spirit Counsel album last year was a good if infrequent listen. His cover version of New Order's Leave Me Alone had pricked my attention too, a really good take on the song. Sometimes maybe you're just more in tune with things than at other times. Three weeks ago I posted his lockdown release, a nine minute instrumental for three guitars called Strawberry Moon. Last week Thurston announced the release of an album recorded back in March, just before lockdown hit. By The Fire has Debbie on bass and Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley on the drums on some songs plus Jon from Negativland. In advance he put out this single, Hashish. According to Thurston the song is 'an ode to the narcotic of love in our shared responsibility to each other during isolation'. The opening guitar drones and atonal picked notes followed by the thumping drums and wasted vocals are exactly what you'd expect from Thurston Moore and if this had been a few years ago I could easily have shrugged and moved on but right now they are hitting the spot completely.
Thursday, 2 July 2020
Last Thursday the incredible twenty one hours of mixes put together by Andrew Weatherall's former colleagues and friends, pulled together by Andrew Curley for the Glade Area at the virtual Glastonbury, went live at Mixcloud. There's is so much to enjoy in them- Timothy J Fairplay's mix, a heady, sticky ninety minutes of electronic dance music, Richard Sen's barnstorming ride through dance music littered with samples Andrew used and songs he played and Justin Robertson's masterclass in bumpity bumpity house music have been getting plays round here this week.
In the early 1990s Andrew worked with David Harrow in various guises- as the Planet 4 Folk Quartet, as Deanne Day and as Blood Sugar. The pair released a superb double pack of 12" singles as Blood Sugar, Levels, scratchy deep house meets dub techno. The Blood Sugar night is represented in the Glade mixes with ninety minutes of outstanding digital dub techno, Basic Channel sounds, from the hands of Rick Hopkins (here). The Blood Sugar mixes were the type of thing that got passed around on cassette, nth generation copies with tape hiss as an indelible part of the experience. David Harrow, now resident in LA, has put together his own mix, half an hour of tracks he and Andrew made together. See it as an encore, digital dub techno, intense, minimal, glide by grooves, including the sweet deep house majesty of Deanne Day's Hardly Breathe.
David is still very productive and his Bandcamp page regularly sees new and old music posted. You can find music he made with the late Bim Sherman there and this release, Machine Dubs. Headspinning, experimental, ambient techno with dubby basslines.
Wednesday, 1 July 2020
This song was on the same CD as the Grant Hart one I posted yesterday, a 2012 album from Chuck Prophet. Chuck was lead guitarist in Green On Red and lives in San Francisco. The album Temple Beautiful, which this song comes from, was a tribute to a long gone punk rock club which was in the basement of a building occupied by Jim Jones' People's Temple, a place where Chuck saw his first punk gigs. The opener on Temple Beautiful was this, Play That Song Again, a straight ahead, guitar rock 'n' roll song with a clanging riff and memorable vocal lines thrown out left, right and centre.
Play That Song Again
And suddenly it's July.