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Wednesday 30 September 2020

Sally At The Disco

Last year A Man Called Adam returned from the Balearic wilderness with their excellent Farmarama album. Various songs have been remixed, reworked and dubbed out, by Sally and Steve themselves and by others including Prins Thomas. Covid and lockdown put paid to the original plans for release but now the entire package is out, eighteen remixes and dubs plus a fifty minute mixtape pulling them all together. The full release is at Bandcamp. The Prins Thomas remix is characteristically inventive and sprightly, a snaking guitar line, some analogue synths, Sally's part spoken, part sung vocal and a complex, twisting rhythm. 

The PV Lash Up of the same song, Paul Valery At The Disco, is a giddy floorfiller, a thumping house drumbeat and wonderfully silly keyboard part guaranteed to have you both dancing and smiling. 

Earlier this year Sally recorded a vocal for a new song written by Balearic militants Leo Mas and Fabrice. This Unspoken Love had summer written all over it- now in the darker days of autumn it's still working its magic. The dub version, also available at Bandcamp, a a dark, insistent house chugger pointing its face towards the night skies. 

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Virus And Tantra

David Harrow, resident of Los Angeles and purveyor of fine dub since the days of On U Sound in the late 80s, has been unleashing weekly releases into the ether, digital dub with acres of wide open space and pressure. The latest one, PurpleCircle (Virus Dub 5), is a delight and is on Bandcamp here. The previous week was Maskup (Virus Dub 4), all smoke, echo, bass and melodica. Nod your head here. They're a dollar each, roughly 98 pence for those of us in the UK. 

Less laid back but just as transportative is David's work in the mid- 90s as Technova (recording for Andrew Weatherall's Sabres Of Paradise and Emissions Audio Output labels. Andrew and David began to work together after bumping into each other London's clubs. When David said he had some music recorded Andrew said he'd put it out on Sabres without even hearing it). Tantra, a 1994 12" single and album, is especially good. This is the full twenty one minutes of Tantra, a late night, post club dub techno excursion.

On the B-side Innersphere remix Tantra as Tantrum, ten minutes of trancey- techno workout. Nothing wrong with some techno for Tuesday is there? Certainly puts your head in a different place and shifts things up a gear.

Monday 28 September 2020

Monday's Long Song

One of the things the UK should be very grateful for is that whilst we are in the midst of a world pandemic and a country whose own record of dealing with said pandemic is, to say the least, mixed, we are fortunate to have surfeit of celebrity epidemiologists, people who have somehow managed to combine careers in soap operas, as TV personalities and as the frontmen of rock 'n' roll bands (and doesn't that sound like a very 20th century occupation) with becoming experts in the transmission of disease and the social policies that should accompany infectious disease. How they've managed to find the time to gain their degrees and PhDs, not to say the hours of laboratory work involved, with the endless touring and rehearsing is a mystery. 

Many of them also seem to be under the impression that their edgy and free thinking views are hardly reported anywhere in the 'mainstream media' (or to quote Ian Brown the 'lamestream media'- nice one Ian). I think we've reached a point where anyone who uses the letters MSM or 'lamestream media' in a debate should be automatically disqualified from taking part in it. One thing the UK does not seem to be short of is libertarian right wing voices presenting their views in the mainstream- during the years of the Brexit debacle the BBC gave the right wing a voice every single day, time after time, on the news.  It gave Farage a voice on Question Time on over thirty occasions. That's all quite mainstream isn't it? The newspapers may be suffering from falling physical sales but their online presence is huge and they still play a key role in setting daily political agendas. At last reckoning the voices of the libertarian right can be found in The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, the Telegraph, The Times, The Sun and The Star not to mention magazines such as The Spectator where the views of maskless warriors like Toby Young are printed weekly. ITV and Sky News are available to fill in any gaps that these may have left. I think the mainstream media have this area fairly well covered. On the internet places such as Twitter, which has forty eight million daily users, are forums where 'non- MSM' voices are widely heard and amplified. If you're are a celebrity epidemiologist and you decide it's high time your important voice was heard on subjects such as wearing a small piece of cloth over the lower part of your face when in Sainsburys for fifteen minutes to prevent other people potentially catching your germs, there aren't exactly a shortage of places ready to report your wisdom. 

The same celebrity epidemiologists should also possibly take a look at their views and then enter a period of self- reflection, examining other well known figures who share them. If you find yourself on the same side of the fence re: mask wearing, as say Donald Trump (worst Covid 19 death rate in the world), David Icke (believes the world is ruled by a shadowy cabal of lizards) and Nick Griffin (disgraced racist and former leader of the fascist British National Party), maybe you need to think again. 

Ian Brown, former frontman of The Stone Roses, recently Tweeted about masks being muzzles and the removal of freedoms. If anyone was going to be susceptible to Youtube conspiracy theories it was going to be Ian but his increasingly demented defence of his opinions was sad to say the least (and in no way related to the release of a particularly poor single). Screaming into the internet with caps lock on, suggesting that Dave Haslam had no right to counter Ian's views because his Dad was a vicar from Birmingham, using the hashtag #researchanddestroy when it seemed his own research was a ten minute Youtube video, Ian looked less like the loose limbed, sugar spun hero from 1989 and more like an advert for the view that long term marijuana use really does damage cognitive function. In 1990 Ian famously said 'it's not where you're from, it's where you're at'. Ian is not at anywhere we would want to be. The frightening thing is the number of his followers who reply praising him for 'dropping truth bombs' and 'telling it how it is'. Funny how many of the free thinkers have to follow a leader and tow the line. 

I have no real love of Oasis so Noel Gallagher's continuing spiral into becoming the Rt. Hn. Member for Burnage (Con) doesn't dismay me that much but his small minded, infantile comments about masks recently were a new low. Noel doesn't want to wear a mask because 'there's too many fucking liberties being taken away from us now'. He was challenged for refusing to wear one on a train and said 'I choose not to  wear one and if I get the virus it's on me and not on everyone else. If every other cunt is wearing a mask I'm not going to catch it off them and if I've got it then they're not going to catch it off me'. An overindulged rock star who went straight from living with his Mum to living in a mansion in Primrose Hill thinks everyone else should wear one but him. There's this thing called society Noel, it's a community where we all to some extent do things that are for the good of everyone else. I wear a mask in the shops to protect you and you wear one to protect us. We all help each other by doing things which may be inconvenient but which are for the common good. However Noel thinks he is above this. His backbench Tory MP views would have found great favour with another heritage act, the 1980s Conservative Party, and its frontwoman's views that 'there is no such thing as society, only individual men and women'. 

Van Morrison, another over indulged rock 'n' roll 'maverick', has been throwing his views about lockdown into the ring. But, y'know, it's Van Morrison, who gives a fuck? There can't be many people who have paid much attention to what Van Morrison has said or done since Astral Weeks came out (1968 for the record), apart from being forced to endure Brown Eyed Girl at wedding receptions. 

Wearing a mask seems a bizarre hill to make your stand on. The view that you have suffered some essential loss of a fundamental freedom by wearing a face mask for ten minutes while in a shop is bewildering. There is also a view gathering pace that some shadowy, deep state overlords have invented the virus and are using it to remove all our freedoms, that the government wants to lock us all down and control us. The people sharing this view, like Ian, say that the Covid 19 app is being introduced to track your movements so 'they' know where you are. They always share these views on their mobile phones (which already have their data and can track their every movement and message) and on social media platforms (which, ditto). If the shadowy overlords really do want to control us all and this is the start of it, they couldn't have picked a worse government to do the job. I don't know if Ian et al have been so busy studying for their epidemiology degrees that they haven't seen any TV news but this government is wilfully incompetent, they can't control their advisors never mind the whole country. Their senior advisor can't cope with having to do a couple of days of primary childcare on his own without driving two hundred miles despite laws to the contrary. Look at them. Look at Matt Hancock and Dominic Raab, two men who seem to have gone directly from being deputy head boy at a minor private school to secretary of state. These overpromoted imposters are the men selected to shut us down and remove our freedoms forever? Really? 

Here is some music from Chocolate Hills. 

And At The Same Time

Sunday 27 September 2020

Electricity Comes From Other Planets

I haven't posted any Velvet Underground on a Sunday for ages (or any other day for that matter but there's something about the 1968- '69 era Velvets that seems very Sunday to me). This song, one of the last of the Cale- period Velvets, came out in the mid 80s as part of the VU album and then again in 2017 as part of the recreated 'lost' 1969 studio album. It's a blast, opening with a superb sounding clipped guitar chord, the sort of chord that makes people pick up a guitar in the first place. Almost immediately there's a funky riff joining in and that pacey rhythm. Lou Reed starts singing all kinds of nonsense while other voices join in off mic and several attempts at backing vocals are made, all very loose. Lou is riffing about where evil lurks and the mirror's edge, New York buildings, electricity coming from other planets, the Pope in a silver castle and Martha and The Vandellas. There's the descending 'wrong, wrong wrong' backing vox part that it's impossible not to join in with and which can get stuck in your head for days.  

Temptation Inside Your Heart

Saturday 26 September 2020

Talkin' Funny And Lookin' Funny

Mentioning Brian Eno and David Byrne's 1981 album My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts earlier this week sent me back to it once again, a record that still sounds fresh and contemporary despite being four decades old. Byrne and Eno's use of found voices and rhythms prefigured a lot of what would become standard later on in the decade and after. On Help Me Somebody they took a sample of the Reverend Paul Morton and laid him over some busy, funky percussion. Morton is all fire and brimstone while the guitar riff chatters away- 'you make yourself look bad/ help me somebody/ take a good look at yourself/  and see if you're the kind of person God wants you to be'. An African highlife guitar riff comes in. Ghostly noises echo around, like a short wave radio between stations. The combined effect is like standing and waiting to cross the road at a junction with three different buskers playing within earshot, a street preacher venting forth and the traffic flying past noisily- but in a way that makes you want to stop and dance and lose yourself rather than cross the road and get to wherever it is you are going

As the song gathers pace the Rev. Morton carries on , swallowed up at times by the incessant rhythms and looping melodies, 'There's no escape from Him/ He's so high you can't get over Him/ He's so low you can't get under Him/ He's so wide you can't get around Him/ If you make your bed in Heaven He's there/ If you make your bed in Hell He's there/ He's everywhere/ Help me somebody'. 

Friday 25 September 2020

Decline And Fall

Sean Johnston in his A Mountain Of Rimowa guise specialises in long, undulating tracks, melodic and euphoric chuggers, packed with those head tilted back, eyes closed beatific moments, where if you were in a club or in a crowd there would be an act of communion, of music transcending its surroundings. Under the circumstances, these moments aren't happening  but we can dream. 

The ep, titled The Decline And Fall of A Mountain Of Rimowa, has three new tracks plus a remix. No More (with a remix by Each Other) is all the above and more, a driving bassline and swooping synthlines, piano and some Joubert Singers style vocals for added bliss. Likely to provoke arms in the air, hairs on the nape of the neck raised, tell a random stranger you love him/her emotions. 

His Brothers And Sisters In The East starts out slow, ticking drum machine and piano chords and adds then drops in a gurning acid part, sneaking it in and it leaves it there, repeating, looping onwards and outwards.

The Joker builds slowly and intensely, spaced out bleeps and a deep, pulsing bassline. The breakdown at four minutes and subsequent re- entry of snare, bass and synths is like swimming through warm water towards the sun. The topline bounces around just out of reach. And then it's 5am and it's time to go home. 

Thursday 24 September 2020

Mixing Colours

Back in the spring I bought the then just released album by ambient/ piano brothers Brian and Roger Eno, Mixing Colours. Brian and Roger had swapped musical pieces back and forth for the previous fifteen years, Roger playing and recording piano pieces and sending them to Brian, who then manipulated them on his iPad. I'm sure Brian had a full philosophy and working practice to his manipulations of the sounds, a process, and that it wasn't just a case of fucking about with a few FX and virtual buttons. He used to work on them while on the train, the landscape rushing by as the piano and keyboard pieces played in his ears. 

The eighteen tracks/ soundscapes are all named after colours (Ultramarine, Blonde, Deep Saffron) or natural phenomena (Spring Frost, Snow, Sand) and sometimes when I listen to it, it sounds a bit like a paint colour chart catalogue pressed onto vinyl, too polite and too tasteful. Sometimes though, it is just what I need, a meditative, minimal collection of short pieces, sounds acting as balm that gently drift by. And if that sounds a bit New Age then so be it. 

This is Ultramarine, piano notes and keyboard chords taken slowly. 

Obsidian is a bit unsettling, a church organ sound playing, a gentle ambient thrum and the eerie landscape of the Fens.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Better Life


This Flowered Up single wasn't released until after the band split and then only on 7" in a run of 500 copies on Heavenly. The group's 1991 debut album A Life With Brian and the singles that preceded it, It's On and Phobia, were both awash with the spirit of the times, a post- Mondays, E- fuelled rush, keyboards and guitars swirling around in the mix with Liam Maher's drawled, sprawled vocals on top. The album felt a bit flat in comparison but they hit the bullseye with their 1992 single, the thirteen minute epic Weekender. Various difficulties followed, not least some debauched touring according to those involved which accelerated the habits of some of the members. They played Glastonbury and Madness' Madstock but some studio sessions produced little and inter- band tensions rose. They split up the following year. 

In 1994 Heavenly put Better Life out, the only real fruits of the post- Weekender recording sessions. It's a step on again from Weekender, Flowered Up moving towards an expanded sound with horns and dub influences. It's confident and assured and doesn't sound like a band about to call it a day, an indie- dance/ reggae groove, produced by Clive Langer (who'd produced Madness, Dexys, The Teardrop Explodes and Elvis Costello), guitars crashing in and out and Liam looking for an elusive better way. 

Better Life

Better Life (Instrumental)

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Very Moody

Thirty years ago a second wave of Manchester bands came through following in the footsteps of The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, who as far as guitar bands go had made 1989 their own. The city's practice rooms, rehearsal spaces and recording studios buzzed with people eager to get their sounds out into the world. The second wave included The Charlatans (not actually from Manchester), Northside, Paris Angels, World Of Twist and Rig. Looked at now these bands have little in common with each other musically. Rig, from the south side of the city, the Didsbury/ Withington/ Stockport area, were young and fired up by Talking Heads, ACR, the Mondays, ESG, Tackhead, James Brown, Public Enemy- noise plus funk is what they were aiming for. Several sessions in Stockport's Strawberry Studios and a record deal with Cut Deep and then with Dead Dead Good saw them put out some singles that have just been made available digitally for the first time. Debut Dig (on Cut Deep) in an eye catching, day glo pink and yellow sleeve, followed by Spank in 1991, a white label release for Moody and then the catchy Big Head in the same year. 

Moody, produced by A Certain Ratio's Martin Moscrop, is a cover of ESG's 1982 NYC proto- house/ disco/ hip hop classic. Rig's version, with a sample from Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, is a dancefloor groove, house rhythms and percussion, piano, wah wah guitar, cowbell and singer Adam's vocals floating on top, the sample weaving in and out. Sounds like a bit of a lost gem to me. 

Their back catalogue is on all the digital services and guitarist Darren is reliving the band's past in a blog here with stories, photos, posters, gig tickets and flyers. Dig in. 

Monday 21 September 2020

Monday's Long Song

The GLOK remix album, Dissident Remixed, continues to reveal its pleasures slowly. Every remix, all eleven of them, is a new and worthwhile take on the original. I've already written before about the ones by Andrew Weatherall, Richard Sen and Timothy Clerkin and the Leaf edit that came out last year too. The one that has been guiding me and my car to and from work recently, eating up the miles between home and the potential Covid storage facility/ school where I work is Andy Bell's own extended version of Pulsing. In it's original form it was nine minutes long. Andy stretches it out for another six, taking it to the full quarter of an hour, the krauty bassline pumping, a cosmic piano part dropping in and out, various guitars squalling about and synth sounds opening up. It ebbs and flows, parts appearing and re- appearing.  At nine minutes the bassline throbs back in for the closing section, the snare drum rattling away, the build up lasting for well over a minute, the keening synth sounds increasingly intense- very cosmische and very good indeed. Buy it at Bandcamp

Sunday 20 September 2020

Sketch For Vini

I've been playing a lot of Durutti Column recently. Their second album, 1981's LC, has been on a lot, as has 2010's Paean To Wilson, the 1984 12" single Without Mercy (two long form musical pieces recorded at Tony Wilson's suggestion with students from the Royal Northern College Of Music), the recent re- release 7" single Free From All The Chaos dropped through the letterbox not long ag and I keep returning to 1989's Vini Reilly album. 

In an attempt to pull some of this together into one place I've put together an hour of Durutti Column songs in the mix below, this selection all from the 1980s, and called it Sketch For Vini 1. It's not meant to be definitive or a Best Of The Durutti Column, just some of my favourites stitched together, starting with some of Vini's early work with Martin Hannett, then him being joined by Manchester legend Bruce Mitchell and the expanded line up in the mid-80s with viola player John Metcafe and Pol singing. Some of these songs are ones I've been listening to for the best part of three decades now and still don't get tired of- Sketch For Summer, Otis, For Belgian Friends, Bordeaux Sequence, Jacqueline, Sketch For Dawn 1. There's something unique and very affecting about Vini's endlessly inventive guitar playing, his tone and sound, his use of echo, delay and chorus, and despite what Tony Wilson said about it, his voice too. I'm going to follow it with Sketch For Vini 2 at some point, going into the 90s and beyond. The Mixcloud player won't embed- ongoing problems with the new Blogger- but you can find it and listen here. Hopefully it'll hit the spot for a bright autumn day in September. 

  1. The Second Aspect of the Same Thing
  2. Sketch for Summer
  3. Jacqueline
  4. For Belgian Friends
  5. The Missing Boy
  6. Enigma
  7. Tomorrow
  8. All That Love And Maths Can Do
  9. For Friends In Italy
  10. Otis
  11. When The World (Live in New York 1986)
  12. Bordeaux Sequence
  13. Sketch For Dawn 1
  14. Home
  15. Real Drums- Real Drummer

Saturday 19 September 2020

Gush Forth My Tears

In 1991 Barry Adamson heard three women singing/ busking on Portobello Road. The songs they were singing were Elizabethan madrigals, not the most obvious type of music to busk in the early 1990s. He was struck by their voices and they ended up working on a soundtrack he was making, signing to Mute Records, going in the studio with Danny Rampling to record their debut single Gush Forth My Tears and album Madra and going on tour supporting Blur (where on stage they received a barrage of sexist abuse from some of Blur's fanbase). The music press were all over Miranda Sex Garden briefly, partly because of their novelty value- three attractive young women with a memorable and provocative name singing Elizabethan madrigals a capella while supporting Blur at their drunkest was a story in the same way the NME and Melody Maker latched onto Dread Zeppelin (American rock band with a singer dressed as Vegas- era Elvis play Led Zep covers in reggae style). Miranda Sex Garden's career saw them expand and release several albums up until 1995 when they split and then Kathryn Blake formed a new group, Medieval Baebes. 

Their 1991 debut single, Gush Forth My Tears, was remixed by Orb man Thrash and Paul Kendall (who'd produced Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb). The remixes as reported at the time felt a bit desperate at first glance, as if Mute calculated that either by Rampling sticking a clubby drumbeat underneath the madrigal or by Thrash remixing it for the ambient crowd they'd end up with a crossover clubland hit one way or another. But that's to do Thrash and PK a disservice and the original record too because Gush Forth My Tears (Ambient Mix) is a bit of treat. 

Fluttering synth sounds, a warm kick drum, some trademark Orb ambience, the hiss of a hi hat, some distant violins and the trio of clear voices harmonising. There are several different mixes but this one is the pick and while you might not think you need a twenty nine year old Elizabethan madrigal revival/ ambient crossover record at this point in 2020, a sharp a rise in Coronavirus infections sweeping in and a new lockdown imminent, you actually do.  And, if you're going to have one, it should be this. 

Gush Forth My Tears (Ambient Mix)

Friday 18 September 2020

Woodleigh Lament

Recorded in August at Facility 1, this is a forlorn but beautiful instrumental from Nina Walsh, keeping the spirit and questing nature of the Woodleigh Research Facility alive despite the absence of WRF partner Andrew Weatherall. The title is Woodleigh Lament and it's obvious who it is a lament for. Brushed drums and slow rhythm ticking onward and the achingly sad melody on top. The new Google Blogger format/ interface is shit. It took me ages to be able to get the photo to upload- in the end I had to upload it to Google Photos and then upload it to here from there. The Bandcamp player has two options, to embed in either html or Wordpress. Neither works with the new Blogger (obviously I didn't expect the Wordpress one to). It's messed about with the formatting of text too. Why can't they just leave stuff alone? 

Woodleigh Lament at Bandcamp is here

Recorded this month and released at the same time is Ella Baila, pushed along by one of those steam powered drum machines with a circling topline and a bubbling, acidic synth coming in and out. 

Ella Baila at Bandcamp is here

Thursday 17 September 2020

From Left To Right

One of the legacies Andrew Weatherall has left us is that it is pretty essential to keep informed with what is coming out of Gothenburg's Hoga Nord label. The newest release is album number four from Rickard Jäverling, his latest emission cunningly titled Album 4. Radiation Dub is a very nice piece of echo and rhythm, dubbed out excellence.

From Left To Right is an experimental combination of dub, slow techno and cosmische- but mainly dub, Swedish style.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Pink Industries

I had a go at writing this post and putting the photo and the Bandcamp player in using Blogger's new dashboard and interface. I tried three different ways to get the picture attached but whatever I did it wouldn't upload, wouldn't Copy and Paste and wouldn't Drag and Drop. The Bandcamp player wouldn't work either- it just published it as a string of code. I need to persist because sooner or later the current format will be removed and we'll all be moved over to the new one but it's looking like a massive problem at the moment.

Manfredas put Pink Industries out in 2014, a weird, lurching crawl with grinding bass and industrial noises. He DJs and makes dance music but this is not conventional music for frugging to.

Richard Norris remixed it in 2017, a psyched out, stop- start chug with lots of droney, tripped out noises playing around at the peripheries and some ultra- reverb laden voices swirling about. I think they're voices, they could be the sound of the stars laughing or abandoned machinery on the edge of a forest crying. You can buy the pair for £2- probably the best value for money you'll find today.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Small Things

This path goes alongside the brilliantly named Kickety Brook, part of a network of paths, streams, meadows and wetlands that surround the River Mersey between Sale and Stretford. I can't as yet find out the origins of the Kickety but it's a great word/ name.

Small Things, an ep by Italian DJ and producer Gallo came out back in June, a release drenched in all things Balearic. The title track is a slow motion walk at sunset, rippling sounds and padding drums while the Balearic Gabba Sound System remix of it ups the ante even more, long synth notes, piano dropping in and some bubbling noises. The Vendetta Suite remix of Small Things is bass- led, with angelic cooing, rim shots echoing round and horns. Vortex has gentle house piano. Flensburg is Rimini at dusk and takes you someone were else for the duration. Very nice.

Monday 14 September 2020

Monday's Long Songs

This is a new edit from Dan Wainwright, a psychedelic Indian epic, Shanti Shanti Shanti. There's something about Indian sounds that lends themselves to trippy, long form music- the drones, the scales, the percussion and the strings- that goes back to the 60s and then the late 80s and early 90s.

Four Tet's music, especially his 2015 Morning/ Evening album is a delight, comes from a similar place, the Morning side especially, a piece of music I never tire of hearing. The looped vocal, a Lata Mangeshkar sample, played over Four Tet's intricate dance rhythms and raga mode, are a total joy. I've posted this fairly recently but it's too good not to share again.

Sunday 13 September 2020


Another legend gone, Toots Hibbert died yesterday aged 77 in hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, another musical figure taken this year and another lost to Covid. Toots And The Maytals have a back catalogue filled with great songs and top skanks- Pressure Drop, Monkey Man, 54- 46 (That's My Number), Sweet And Dandy, Funky Kingston and this one...

Reggae Got Soul

Toots And The Maytals were central to the dispersal of music from Jamaica to the world, the first to use the word reggae on record (1968's Do The Reggay), and Toots was regularly touring and performing  until recent years. Toots' music is upbeat, party music, tailor made for festival crowds and youth clubs, ska tribute bands in the car parks of pubs and jukeboxes. His voice and music have in lots of ways, always been there.

R.I.P. Toots Hibbert.

Pressure Drop was on the soundtrack of The Harder They Come, a record that did so much to popularise reggae, rocksteady and ska in the UK in the 1970s. The Clash were huge fans and their cover of Pressure Drop, the B-side to their 1978 English Civil War single, is one of their great rock- reggae moments. Joe sometimes called their covers trash reggae but this is an exhilarating, heartfelt rush through the song and more than stands up.

Pressure Drop

Saturday 12 September 2020


Very nice, slow moving, ambient music, cosmic in tone and scope, from Mat Ducasse (ex - Skylab).  The first one of the pair is cinematic, a widescreen instrumental theme for satellites spinning round the earth, asteroids shooting past the Milky Way, the International Space Station sweeping overhead. The second heads into the modern classical area, orchestral, swelling strings. All proceeds to Macmillan cancer support.

Friday 11 September 2020

Insect Near Piha Beach

One of the things I gained from lockdown was walking daily and despite being back at work now and being home later I've been trying to keep it going. I walked briefly on Wednesday night, just as it was going dark, and it suddenly felt autumnal with a definite chill in the air, the street lamps all on before nine and everywhere full of shadows. The roads are much busier than they were. Back in April and May another of the small joys of lockdown was he almost complete absence of cars. The A56 at the top our road (Washway Road/ Chester Road/ Cross Street) is four lanes of traffic. In April you could walk down the road- the middle of the actual road- safely. The silence out in the streets was startling. I got a touch of deja vu on Wednesday night, the rapidly falling dark, the chill and the quiet and the route I was taking, took me straight back to late March and those first few days and weeks in lockdown. Back in March I was listening to Four Tet's then recently released Sixteen Oceans album. I'm not sure that Sixteen Oceans breaks any new ground (and Four Tet is an artist who has broken new ground more than once I think) but it does pull together much of what makes him so good. This track particularly struck me- the instantly thumping rhythm track, the swell of finger picked guitars, the two note bassline, the Indian influenced instrumentation and the vibrancy and immediacy of the production- and although I didn't have it playing in my ears while walking on Wednesday night, I could hear it all as I walked.

Insect Near Piha Beach

Thursday 10 September 2020

One Dream Is Over Another One Begins

Simeon Coxe of Silver Apples has died aged 82. In the late 60s he pioneered a form of electronic music that has become massively influential. Using homemade synths, a salvaged 1940s oscillator and a visionary sense of what he could do Simeon made a new type of music, music we take for granted today, but which in the late 60s and early 70s was like a very quiet, hypnotic revolution. Just Simeon's voice, some synth lines and keyboards, basslines triggered by his own controllers and foot  pedals (all cased in boxes bought from army surplus) and a drummer. The lyrics are like little lysergic haikus, transmissions from out there. Gently psychedelic, space age pop music and optimistic, open ended futurism. Try these two for size.


Seagreen Serenades

Without Silver Apples Spacemen 3, Spectrum, Broadcast, Stereolab and Portishead would all have sounded very different. Andrew Weatherall was a fan- in fact it may have been due to him playing them or mentioning them in an interview that I first heard them. In 2019 Weatherall remixed Edge Of Wonder, a song from the 2016 Clinging To A Dream album. Weatherall's wheezy drum machine sets us off on a nine minute journey, melodies dancing about and a bumpity bassline carrying the song. Simeon sings a hymn to the oceans, a meditation on the waves, the lines chopped up and re- arranged

Neptune's metronome
Relentless heartbeat of the sea
One dream is over
Another one begins
Lingering on the edge of wonder'

Edge Of Wonder (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

R.I.P. Simeon.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

My Etherealrealness

This 2016 Timothy J. Fairplay track, My Etherealrealness, is a masterpiece of modern house/ new beat/ synthwave. It came out on Rotterdam label Charlois and there is something very Dutch about this track, very early 90s rave. It starts instantly, in on the beat almost taking you by surprise, then there's monster juddering bassline and the first of the synth toplines comes in. At one minute nineteen there's a second topline melody, a descending one, contrasting with the first. It's exhilarating, hair raising stuff even at less than ninety seconds in. Synapses popping, head nodding, fingers tracing lines in the air or tapping on imaginary percussion.

Then it happens- at two minutes seven seconds the hi- hats arrive. These aren't any old hi- hats, these aren't even Marks and Spencer hi- hats, these are my favourite hi- hats on any record ever.

They are right there at the top of the mix, sharp and with a bite, an attack most hi- hats just don't have. TSK TSK TSK TSK TSK TSK TSK TSK. They drop out at three minutes eleven. There's a bassline breakdown and a thrilling topline re- entry. The descending synthline comes back. It all builds in inensity and then at three fifty- nine a stop, a pause and... those fucking hi- hats come back in, unleashed, right back into my field of hearing, TSK TSK TSK TSK, opening and closing at the front of my brain. Fucking magic.

It may seem a bit odd, obsessive even, to have favourite hi- hats. If you mention this to your nearest and dearest you'll possibly see their eyes glaze over a little. You might actually see a thought bubble appear above their head with the words, 'what? Hi- hats? Favourite hi- hats? What's he on about?', inside it. But these are really, really exciting sounding hi- hats. They get a good ten seconds at the end almost on their own as well before the synth belch brings My Etherealrealness to a sudden halt. 

Tuesday 8 September 2020

I've Been Waiting To Hear Your Voice For Too Long Now

You'd expect a song called Sunrise to be a lament for the night just gone maybe or music trying to replicate the bliss of the feeling of the sun's rays on your face first thing, possibly the walk home after a night well spent. In 1985 New Order's Sunrise was something else, possibly the angriest and most aggressive thing they recorded. It's a full band performance starting with moody keyboards and an immediately distinctive, upper register Peter Hook bassline and then Bernard's scratchy, raw guitar, an angry urgent sound, harking back to their previous band but definitely bathed in the New Order's mid- 80s light. Speed, tempo, rhythm- lots of speed and some bile too. Bernard sings at an enemy about communication failures, insults and injuries and being the subject of hatred. It's all very specific.

'Why did you never speak my name in front of my family
You gave a gift then you took it away'

'Your name might be God but you don't say that much to me'

'We might be your black sheep
But you forgot us a long time ago'

Hooky's bass rises and falls, the guitar lines go ever upwards, Gillian's synths add weight and Stephen pushes everything on to its conclusion, the pile up at the end and the crash from going too fast, Sumner's guitar finally finishing in distortion as he thrashes away at the strings.


This version recorded live at The Hacienda in December 1985 shows the song's power played live and the effect it had on their fans- and the playing of the four members together, a modern rock band when they fancied it, as well as dance pioneers.

Monday 7 September 2020

Monday's Long Song

David Holmes' Unloved project is a 60s via the 21st century sound, L.A. girl groups and Jack Nitzsche filtered through his thirty year DJ/ production/ soundtrack career. To date Unloved are two albums in, several singles and remixes, and a large part of the soundtrack of BBC's Killing Eve. There's a nine track remix e.p. available with reworkings of the song Why Not by Gwenno, Phil Keiran, Hardway Bros and The Vendetta Suite plus this, almost nine minutes of throb, echo and mystery via Richard Sen (there's a remix and a dub version).

Phil Kieran's remix is shorter, just shy of six minutes, but it's a blast, a funked up 60s spy film bassline, some horns, clattering percussion and a mad, driving energy. Occasionally it surfaces, vocals drifting in, before everything submits again to the pulse of the rhythm.

The Hardway Bros, Vendetta Suite and Gwenno remixes, it goes without saying, are all excellent too. Buy the whole package at Bandcamp. There's a limited four track vinyl release too which may well be sold out.

Sunday 6 September 2020

Version City Version

Punk trumpeter Terry Edwards and his band The Scapegoats have done countless brilliant jazz- punk cover versions. A pair of 12" singles with covers of The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Fall are both essential. He has done Sex Machine, a Napalm Death medley and a wordless version of Five Years that is as moving as Bowie's original. The Punk Tributes had versions of Bodies (Sex Pistols), New Rose (The Damned) and Version City (The Clash).

Version City

Version City isn't necessarily the obvious choice for a Clash cover, especially when taken alongside Bodies and New Rose, both loud, fast blasts of 1977. It opens side six of Sandinista!, surely the least listened to side of any Clash record. That's some people's loss because side six definitely has its merits even if it could be mistaken for stoned, studio filler. Version City is a dubby rockabilly number, starting with slowed down and speeding up weirdness, plummy radio presenter voices and FX before Joe and the band come in (there is also some guest harmonica from Lew Lewis, an exile from Eddie And The Hot Rods). It concludes in a similar way. Terry Edwards takes the main melody and funks it up on his trumpet, riffing through the song, finding all sorts of edge and bite in it. In many ways Terry's cover is as much the spirit of Sandinista! as the songs on The Clash's own triple disc 1980 magnificence.

Saturday 5 September 2020


Richard Norris has already released twelve twenty minute long ambient pieces this year (Music For Healing 12 is here, work your way backwards from there).  He has now put out a five track record called Elements, beautifully packaged with artwork by Mark Golding. Analogue synths, drones and tones, repetition, warm ambient sounds, sequencers, ascending and descending melodies, two sides of vinyl deep listening. Describing it seems redundant really- you should just be listening to it and letting it wash over you.

Friday 4 September 2020

The Grey Weathered Stones You Shelter Behind

                                                         Bryn Celli Ddu, Anglesey

One of the side effects of this summer's Covid restrictions has been me dragging my family round a good number of Neolithic sites. These places have several Corona advantages- open air, free to visit, you can go without touching anything and they are crowd free. When we visited Castlerigg stone circle near Keswick in the Lake District (on the way to Scotland at the start of August) my seventeen year old daughter was genuinely surprised to find other people there as well as us. 'there are other people here' she said, slightly amazed, and then followed this with (in tones dripping with teenage sarcasm), 'I thought it was only us who were arsed about stone circles'.

   Castlerigg, Keswick

In the early summer we started by driving to Mellor, in the hills overlooking Stockport, which has an iron age hill fort and down the valley and up the hill a long barrow (the barrow is on private land behind barbed wire sadly). A week later we drove to The Bridestones, a chambered cairn on a hill overlooking Congleton and the Cheshire Plain, no one around. We got out of the car, walked through a field, ate our sandwiches, poked around the site and then went home. In August, before new restrictions were imposed on Greater Manchester, after stopping off at Castlerigg on our way to Scotland, we drove out to Wigtown Bay and up to see Cairn Holy I and II, a pair of magnificent chambered cairns, burial places, from four and a half thousand years ago. Cairn Holy I has some really dramatic upright stones at its entrance. Cairn Holy II has a huge cap stone. There were to our surprise another family visiting this site but social distancing was easy.

Cairn Holy II, Dumfries and Galloway

                                                  Cairn Holy I, Dumfries and Galloway

In Scotland we were also able to visit the Twelve Apostles, a large stone circle in a field just north of Dumfries. This site was were the rest of my parry's enthusiasm faded. Two of them refused to get out of the car, the third said she'd stay in the car to answer some text messages, leaving me to tramp around a slightly wet field on my own.

Since then we've been to Anglesey which has more Neolithic sites than you can shake a stick at- the amazing burial chamber with henge and stone circle Bryn Celli Ddu (pictured at the top of this post. We were down to three members for this visit, one not wanting to join our Neolithic road trip). Anglesey also gave us the three chambered barrow overlooking the aluminium works at Trefignath, the nearby standing stone Ty Mawr (now across the road from a service station) and the burial chamber at Ty Newydd.

Ty Newydd, Anglesey

Last weekend in a desperate bid to have one more day out before September brought us all back into the real world of work, college and increased risk of transmission of the disease, we headed out to Derbyshire and the double treat of Arbor Low stone circle, a large site in the Derbyshire Dales and the neighbouring barrow at Gib Hill. 

                Arbor Low, Derbyshire


                                                             Gib Hill Barrow, Derbyshire

I have a genuine fascination with these sites. Their age, four to five thousand years old, is one part of it. To stand at a barrow or stone circle and look at the landscape around them, to stand where our ancestors stood so many years ago, is in some ways magical. The view, give or take a few roads, hedges and fences, and fewer trees, is often what they might have seen. There is a sense of the unknown about them- we don't full know how they were constructed, what their use was, what people did there- and we probably never will. In a world that demands certainty it's good to have unanswered questions. Our Neolithic brothers and sisters had difficult, dangerous lives where starvation and disease were ever present threats but they had a desire to mark the lives of their people, to build and construct, to leave an imprint on the landscape they lived in, to create art of some kind. 

As I walked to and from these stone circles, barrows, standing stones and cairns I often found myself humming this 1992 Julian Cope cover of a 1977 Roky Erickson song, I Have Always Been Here Before. In Cope's hands it becomes an ode to the Neolithic peoples and the monuments they've left behind. He puts in some extra lines and stanzas, lines such as 'Like the grey weathered stones you shelter behind' and he adds an extra section to the start of the song-

'From the long barrows of Wiltshire to the pyramids
From the stone circles that challenge the scientists
And the Neolithics that tread the ancient avenues
And the children that died forever more exist'

Thursday 3 September 2020

Shape And Resolution

Back in 2015/ 16 (and doesn't that seem like a distant world now?) I posted some songs from a Manchester based guitar band called Multiplier who hit the spot with a sweeping shoegaze/ soundtrack influenced sound and who then called it a day in 2017. Guitarist Phil Hartley moved on to a new project, him and a new singer/ songwriting partner, but that was scuppered by Covid, so he struck out again, making music in lockdown with the self- imposed deadline of writing, recording and releasing a new piece of music every seven days from mid- May. The resulting works have been gathered together into an album under the title Audio/ Visual and using the name Shape And Resolution. Phil's shoegaze and post- punk influences peak through, the shimmer of the guitars, the odd spiky solo and the wash of FX pedals, peppered across the songs that make up the Audio side but just as clear is the influence of TV and film soundtracks as well, the twang of John Barry and echoes of Robert Fripp on the visual side of the album along with the tape loops and washes of ambient sound. Album closer The End. Of Everything is a lovely way to finish it, the cinematic sweep of the music and in your mind's eye the credits rolling, the ending of a film you haven't watched yet.

It's on Bandcamp, a pay what you like/freebie deal. Well worth exploring.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Lone Swordsman

Daniel Avery has a new record out in October, an intense and affecting techno/ ambient album produced in lockdown. Ahead of it he has just released this, a tribute to his friend and mentor Andrew Weatherall called Lone Swordsman...

Daniel said "I was in my studio the morning I heard about Andrew Weatherall’s passing. The track Lone Swordsman is what formed that day. Andrew was a hero, a friend and someone who regularly reminded us all how it should be done, not to mention the funniest fucker around. Proceeds from this record will be donated to Amnesty International in his memory. Thank you for everything."        

It is a moving and heartfelt piece of machine music, long waves of synth and a drumbeat with a rising and falling bleepy melody riding on top. The only drawback is that it is too short- it could happily be double the length.

Tuesday 1 September 2020


In 1974 Neu! guitarist Michael Rother visited the duo Cluster (Hans- Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Mobius) in Forst, the West German village the pair lived in. He wanted them to join Neu! but when they started playing together it became clear this was something new. Rother brought his gear with him, a Farfisa organ, a drum machine and a mixer, and they became Harmonia. Recording onto three Revox multi- track recorders Harmonia created an album that shifts between the mechanical sounds of Krautrock and the background presence of ambient. Shimmering keyboards, repetitive rhythm tracks, swirling melodies, simplicity and texture at the fore. This track, the opening one on their debut album Musik von Harmonia, is six minutes of off- kilter, weird bliss.


We're back into work today and it'll be the first time I've inside a building with more than a handful of people since 20th March. It all feels very weird. I was working full days at home from the Monday schools 'closed' through until the 19th July, teaching online lessons daily (plus plenty of Zoom meetings), and I've been into the building a few times in the last two weeks as we make it Covid secure, set up bubble areas, hand sanitising stations, new food arrangements, one way corridors and no entry signs, paint markings on the floor for staggered entries and exits and socially distanced classrooms. It really is another world we have entered and we won't know if we're getting it right until it happens, live and in real time with over a thousand teenagers. The New Normal is a phrase that's already become a cliche and at the moment none of this feels particularly 'normal'.