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Thursday, 31 December 2020

Lost Tracks

There were various posts running through my head for the final day of 2020 but in the end what does it matter? The year has concluded in sadly typical style with a day of rising Covid cases, tiering announcements and Brexit debacles. At this point, the year could only really reach a suitable climax if Godzilla and a plague of giant mutant locusts riding an asteroid crash landed in Piccadilly Gardens, proclaiming themselves the vanguard of an invading alien army, ready to enslave us all. 

There doesn't seem to be much to look forward to in the immediate weeks of 2021 but by this point it's all we can do to keep on trudging on, wrap up against the cold and wait for it to pass. Lockdown 1 started in March, ten months ago, which seems a long time ago now in some ways. The wheel keeps turning. It will eventually be the spring. I hope you see in the new year in whatever way you can tonight, thanks to everyone who comes here regularly and irregularly, and let's raise a glass to putting this year behind us, as much as we can. Happy new year to you all, when it comes. 

Aphex Twin still has a Soundcloud page up under the name User18081971, a dump for a multitude of lost tracks, unreleased gems, demo experiments and odd and ends. This one, 34 ibiza spliff, isn't there anymore and I don't seem to have an mp3 of it but it is a minor masterpiece, on the face of it just a lazy beat and some synth chords but it is much more than that. The very slight changes in the volume on the drums, the amount of reverb and the pauses between the notes, the space between the different elements, are all the touches of a master craftsman. 


Also from the Soundcloud page is this, cut from similar cloth- a rhythm track and some melodies that sound downbeat at first but end up feeling more positive.

lost track [dat 24] icbyd

There's all sorts of freebies in there- I can recommend 8 utopia, bimbongo2 and his Joni Mitchell sample track titled parking lot and the two minute sketch called 7 summer festival love in the country. Some of them sound like pieces he started, worked on for half an hour and then saved and forgot about. Some sound like they could have been poured over for ages and then abandoned when a new idea came along. Impossible to tell but all fascinating and typically streets ahead of most of the rest of the field. 

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Desir

System 7, formed in the early 90s by Steve Hillage and his partner Miquette Giraudy, were one of the obvious links between the late 60s/ early 70s hippy movement and acid house. Hillage and Giraudy were both members of Gong, purveyors of space rock/ jazz psychedelia, and in the late 70s Hillage had more or less invented The Orb's sound with his album Rainbow Dome Musick. In fact, it was hearing that album played by Alex Paterson at Heaven with a house kick drum underpinning it that led to Hillage meeting Paterson and Hillage forming System 7. The intention was for Paterson and Hillage to record ambient house with Hillage's guitar high in the mix. Paterson and fellow Orb man Kris 'Thrash' Weston both feature on System 7's self titled debut and the follow up 777 album, as well as Tony Thorpe of the Moody Boys and KLF, Youth and Derrick May. On 777 Paterson's credit is noted as 'ambience, navigation'. 

Steve Hillage was one of the people who was derided during punk, the Year Zero approach of 1976/77 designed to slam the door shut in his face and the generation gap swallow them whole. Finding favour a decade later with two ex- punks, Youth and Paterson, very much involved must have been very satisfying.  

Desir (Butterfly Remix)

Steve Hillage was instrumental in establishing the Dance Tent at Glastonbury (another hippy- acid house link) and went on to produce The Charlatans 1994 album Up To Our Hips, a dense, swirling, post- Madchester, pre- Britpop record that is much undervalued, some of which echoes the late 60s space rock of Gong and Hawkwind. Feel Flows wouldn't be out of place in Ladbroke Grove in 1968. Jesus Hairdo is more focussed but just as much a hippy 90s as anything.

Feel Flows

Jesus Hairdo


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Sunshine After The Rain


Denise Johnson's death in July came as a sudden and sad shock, the voice of so many records over the last three decades and a lovely person too- she was a voice of  reason and warmth on Twitter and someone about whom everyone says nice things. It's impossible to imagine Screamadelica, many of ACR's songs since 1990, Hypnotone's Dream Beam or Electronics' Get The Message without her voice on them. 

Her solo album was released posthumously in September and sold out immediately (leading to a second pressing). It is only seven songs long, some covers and some of her own songs, done acoustically with her voice at the fore. Three of the covers are of Manchester bands (Denise was a proud Mancunian) and show her roots and love for the songs- New Order's True Faith, Well I Wonder by The Smiths and I'm Not In Love by 10cc. The other cover was this, Sunshine After The Rain, stripped down and personal. 


Sunshine After The Rain was written and recorded by Ellie Greenwich in 1968, a slightly baroque mod- pop floor filler. The lyrics are classic, post- relationship break up and hoping for better days fayre.

The Sunshine After The Rain 

It's probably best known as a cover by Elkie Brooks a 1977 single and as a 1994 pop- rave single for Berri (which also borrowed from I Feel Love). Berri's version may not be great art but it is a highly effective piece of pop music, a song which soundtracks drunken nights out in 90s pub discos, ironing out the heartbreak in favour of hands in the air and fistpumps. 

Monday, 28 December 2020

Monday's Long Song

One of the joys of this time of year is the sense of not knowing what day it is, the blurring of all the days from Christmas Day to near New Year's Eve into one amorphous period of time, so apologies if the title of this post has brought an unwelcome burst of reality back. 

At one minute past midnight on Christmas Day Kieran Hebden released two new albums on Bandcamp. One of them is called Parallel and is led by this twenty- six minute piece of music called Parallel 1. 

After some answer phone messages at the start it settles into a slow moving pattern of notes and loops. Any changes are gradual and occasional. Elements drop in and out and at fifteen minutes in almost comes to a dead stop before picking up again. It gets much busier around nineteen minutes and then settles into being long single notes, drones with a voice. The rest of the album's tracks are Parallel 2 through to Parallel 10 and some of his familiar motifs, patterns, rhythms and melodic touches are present. All very cool and abstract. You can buy it at Bandcamp

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Golden Age

This is a little slice of early 80s lo- fi, D.I.Y., a one man band known as Lives Of Angels using just a drum machine, a keyboard, a guitar and a tape echo with some beautifully monotone, upper register vocals- motorik, alternative, a bit goth and a bit post- punk. The sort of song you hear in a strange little basement club on a midweek night and then never hear again until someone put it on a tape for you and then finally in the internet age you tracked it down. 

Golden Age

Gerald O'Connor recorded his album as Lives Of Angels, a record called Elevator To Eden. It came out on 1986 on Fire Records but he was never satisfied with the mix and Gerald abandoned Lives Of Angels not long after. In 2012 it was picked up by a US based label, remixed and re- issued in a form much closer to the cassette versions Gerald made in 1983. 

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Ooze Out And Away

When people say/ write, 'see you on the other side' about Christmas, it feels very apt when you emerge from the fug of Christmas Day into Boxing Day, waking up to a house littered with presents and bits of wrapping paper and gift tags that didn't get put into the bin yesterday, dirty glasses and mugs, and a fridge full of leftover food. This song, a 1986 collaboration between Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd was playing on the kitchen stereo this morning when I made a cup of tea and decided all I really wanted for breakfast was some toast with Marmite.  

Ooze Out And Away, Onehow

Friday, 25 December 2020

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Take Me Somewhere

Sonic Boom has a Christmas song out now, roping in Dean and Britta (from Galaxie 500 and Luna) for some vocal harmonies. It's a blissed out ode to finding some warmth in the middle of this winter. 'Take me somewhere' Pete sings, 'a lil' bit deeper', as the synths wash, the loops loop and the drum machine whirrs. Peace on earth and goodwill to all. Available at Bandcamp at a name- your- price deal with all the proceeds going to EarthIsland.

 
It's going to be a funny old Christmas for many of us but everyone seems to be determined to make the best of it and rightly so. Happy Christmas to you all, look after yourselves and each other. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

I Cry Glory And Wave My Flag

Back at the start of the year it was announced that Andrew Weatherall and Nina Walsh's Woodleigh Research Facility would be releasing a year long series of three track digital only EPs, one a month. The first one at the end of January was an EP called Into The Cosmic Hole. When it came out it was a fascinating piece of work, three sonic messages from Facility 2- the weird, shamanic title track, the robotic machine science fiction- electro of Phonox Special No 1 (Outer Space) and the homage to Stockholm Monsters and Martin Hannett of Birthday Three. Eleven more of these would be a superb way to mark the passing of the year, a year long advent calendar of the weird, the wired and the wonderful. Sadly, by the time the second release came out at the end of February he was gone. 

2020 has been coloured by Andrew's passing for me, even with everything else that has happened. It's a strange thing to be moved by the death of a person you don't know and it's not anything compared to what his family and close friends felt and are feeling still. His sudden death on February 17th brought a stream of loss and grief across social media. My Facebook and Twitter timelines were almost nothing but Andrew Weatherall for days. The broadsheet newspapers and the BBC news covered his life and career (he always baulked at that word when interviewed). Then the world then shut down. Events to celebrate Andrew's life were shelved. The Flightpath Estate (a Facebook group I co- moderate with another fan, Martin Brannagan) began to grow, from three hundred fans to well over a thousand. People from Andrew's real life began to join the group, the boundaries between fans and family and friends dissolving. Part of the increasing membership came from some press interest in the Weatherdrive, an online resource of Weatherall DJ mixes spanning the period from 1990 to 2020, from the heyday of acid house to ALFOS. Mixmag picked up on it and asked The Flightpath Estate if we'd like to write an article about the 10 best of Andrew's DJ sets on the Weatherdrive. 

The Woodleigh Research Facility release campaign continued, updates from Andrew's studio life, a monthly reminder that he was gone but still there. The recordings present a vast range of sounds but are clearly the work of the same people, Andrew's intuitive nature and vision along with Nina's creativity and studio production skills. As the months have ticked by I've played these EPs, some more than others admittedly, and noticed how the W.R.F. releases seem to echo music he made in the previous three decades, reverberations from the past into the present. The lengthy running times, like the remixes of the early 90s where the music has space and time to unfold at its own pace. David Harrow said that when they were in the studio making music as Blood Sugar listening to what they'd done, he'd often be ready to change the drum pattern or bring a new element in, and Andrew would say, 'let it go round again', and the track would be extended out for another pattern/ 12 bars. The trademark hissing drum machines and mechanical rhythms point back to the music he released on his three Emissions labels in the 1990s and the stranger, more abstract, one off recordings he made, such as the Glowing Trees 12" he put out as Meek. The topline melodies point to the sound of Sabres of Paradise, especially the Haunted Dancehall album, and the bass- heavy mutant electro of Two Lone Swordsmen records. The metallic hi- hats and rattling snares sound like the ones on the TLS remixes of twenty years ago. The dub influence resonates through the Woodleigh EPs and through so much of his previous work (and DJ sets). The esoteric song titles could come from any point in his back catalogue. 

The monthly EPs will have given us thirty six tracks by the end of the year, a huge amount of music from someone whose creative flow was clearly in full swing. Looking back, even if you pick four songs from completely different parts of his back pages, there's clearly a line running through everything. He reinvented his sound and moved from one identity to another, zigging when others zagged, from the remixes accompanied by Hugo Nicolson to Sabres of Paradise to Two Lone Swordsmen to The Asphodells to his solo records to WRF, but it's all part of a body of work with common themes and a unifying vision. Even the stuff that is outlying and on the fringes- the secret side projects, the machine funk aliases like Rude Solo and Frisch und Munter, the panel beating techno of Lords Of Afford, the odd folk music of his Moine Dubh label, the shadowy collective Fort Beulah N.U. who made five one sided white label 12" singles- fits into the world he created. He'd often play it down, be self- deprecating and modest, saying he was just a grand amateur, but the music is endlessly inventive. Even when he seemed to have driven himself down a one way road he'd manage to pull off a deft three point turn and come back with something else, something new. 

Jockey Slut, started in Manchester as a dance music fanzine and then became something much bigger, and interviewed the man many times. In the summer they announced they were going to publish a special edition book, Andrew's interviews for the magazine compiled along with some new material (including an oral history of the acid house and Sabres years and a Richard Norris article). The book began to drop through letterboxes last week. Towards the back there is a double page spread about The Flightpath Estate and the Weatherdrive and its thousand hours of DJ mixes spanning Weatherall's career, based around an interview with Martin. Towards the bottom of the page, and this was a surprise to me as I leafed through it for the first time, is my name and this blog's name. 

Which, as that man on The Fast Show used to say, was nice. 


It was more than nice, it was incredible. A few people have since commented on social media that they were drawn back into the orbit of Andrew's music because of this blog, which is amazing and lovely to hear. It's what music blogging is for, to share the music and the world it's created in with other people. In a way music blogs are just an updated version of the fanzines of the 1980s, but with far less photocopying and Letraset. That this blog has become a minor footnote in the story is crazy, humbling and when I think about it, a bit mind-blowing too. 

In an attempt to close the year in which he left I started to put together a mix of some of Andrew's music. I wondered if I could somehow manage to summarise his vast and varied back catalogue into one handy hour long compilation but I realised almost immediately this would be an impossible task. In the end I chose a couple of  Two Lone Swordsmen tracks as a starting point and then went where it took me, throwing in quite a few of the ones he sings on, some remixes, some tracks that only came out on compilations and often just went with whatever the previous track seemed to suggest as a follow up. It ended up being a little over ninety minutes long and you can find it at Mixcloud

Audrey Witherspoon’s Blues

  • Two Lone Swordsmen: Constant Reminder
  • Two Lone Swordsmen: Light The Last Flare
  • X- Press 2: Witchi Tai To (Two Lone Swordsmen Remix)
  • Two Lone Swordsmen: Patient Saints
  • Andrew Weatherall: The Confidence Man
  • Woodleigh Research Facility: Birthday Three
  • The Asphodells: One Minute’s Silence (Wooden Shjips Remix)
  • Andrew Weatherall: Kaif
  • Michael Smith and Andrew Weatherall: Water Music
  • Radioactive Man: Fed- Ex To Munchen (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
  • Andrew Weatherall: Youth Ozone Machine
  • Andrew Weatherall: Cosmonautrix
  • Andrew Weatherall: Saturday International
  • Two Lone Swordsmen: Tiny Reminder No 3 (Calexico Remix)
  • Two Lone Swordsmen: Sex Beat
  • Andrew Weatherall: Privately Electrified
  • Two Lone Swordsmen: Get Out Of My Kingdom

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

We Go On

The new album by The Avalanches came out recently. I haven't heard it yet but the single they released back in the summer, Wherever You Go, was a firm favourite, space age exploration and the quest for peace set to appropriately modern music with input from Neneh Cherry, Jamie Xx and CLYPSO. Last week We Go On came out as part of the twenty five track album (We Will Always Love You), a song with Cola Boyy (not the early 90s pop- rave St Etienne offshoot sadly) and Mick Jones on board. 

Mick Jones seems to have been in semi- retirement for the past few years but his London tone, familiar from The Clash and B.A.D., is clearly evident among the helium chanting and twinkling melodies. The album has guests to spare, the sort of list that makes me wonder if it can survive the weight of all those names- Johnny Marr, MGMT, Vashti Bunyan, Tricky, Perry Farrell, Kurt Vile, Karen O- but on the evidence of what I've heard so far, it seems that it can. 

Today, 22nd December, is the eighteenth anniversary of the death of Joe Strummer, Mick's song writing partner in The Clash. This is a Christmas card Joe hand painted and sent to his friends in 2002. 


I don't know whether Joe would have guested on The Avalanches album had he lived but Mick might have cajoled him into it. Mick and Paul both played with Gorillaz a few years ago and I could see Joe having been drawn into that, his voice on top of that sound. The pressure for a Clash re- union would have grown greater, the clamour for a slog around the world's arenas and festivals would have been huge. There were times when he was alive when he was up for a re- union, it was talked about and they were almost ready to do it once but Paul was the one to say no, who wanted to leave The Clash as they were. Joe would certainly have had opinions about 2020. I'll be raising a glass to him tonight. 

This is an early version/ drum machine demo of the song that became Burnin' Streets on his last album Streetcore, which was completed by The Mescaleros after his death. RIP Joe Strummer. 

London Is Burning

Monday, 21 December 2020

Solstice

Trying to keep the habit of lockdown walking going hasn't been easy especially in the last month. Working late, getting home in the dark and then forcing myself to go out at 9pm, even if it's just a circuit round the block takes a bit of effort when it's wet and cold out and warm inside. It's been important to look for little celebrations this year, moments of light to cheer the spirits slightly. Today is the winter solstice and that seems like something worth marking, the darkest of all the days but the turning point too, when it starts getting a little bit lighter for longer every day. 

Mark Peters album from 2018 Innerlands was an instrumental journey through the landscape and place names of the north west of England. He followed it with an ambient version, all the drums taken off and just the synths, chiming guitars and atmospherics. Both are winter solstice sounding to me. This track, Ashurst's Beacon, closes both albums. 


Ashurst's Beacon (Ambient Version)

Here's the flipside. Exactly six months ago Rich Lane released a gorgeous summer song to mark the summer solstice, a song for the longest day- slow motion, Balearic synthpop. Get it at Bandcamp. Rich has released several pieces of new music throughout 2020 and it's all worth exploring. 

Sunday, 20 December 2020

2020: Two Lists

2020, it goes without saying, has been a year unlike any other. When the first lockdown kicked in back in March, schools were closed and everyone bar essential workers was told to stay at home, I briefly wondered if writing a music blog was suddenly a redundant activity, a bit futile and inadequate in the face of what was happening. The fear back in March was real, the scenes of people dying in hospital corridors in Italy coupled with rising case numbers and deaths and the sheer ineptitude of our government made everything else- even Brexit- seem inconsequential. In fact, as the weeks of lockdown turned into months and now almost a year of lockdowns and Tiers, music has been one of the things that has helped and despite our individual isolation has been one of the things that has brought us together. Anyone that has logged onto one of Sean Johnston's Emergency Broadcast Sessions and seen a community coming together in the chat function, enjoying hours of Sean DJing and chatting away will have seen how important music is as a release, as a connection and as simple escapist enjoyment. And despite everything there has been loads of great music made, written, recorded, produced and released this year. In some ways, I've enjoyed more new music this year than in many recent ones. 

Albums Of The Year

The best albums this year seem to have reflected the year (some of been made as a result of lockdown and time artists have had to create). There are masses of albums that have been floating around and that caught my ear. Before I get into the list proper, these ones have all been part of 2020- Wedge by Number, an exuberant post- punk, dance album with an ACR remix to boot, Julian Cope's Self Civil War (my last gig before lockdown, in February, was Julian at Gorilla), Steve Roach's Tomorrow, Rickard Javerling's 4The Orb's Abolition Of The Royal Familia (or at least parts of it), Youth and Jah Wobble's Acid Punk Dub Apocalypse (an album with multiple guest stars, including Hollie Cook, Alex Paterson, Blue Pearl and beats from Andrew Weatherall and Nina Walsh and which sounds good when it's playing but which I can't remember much about when it's not), Rose City Band's Summerlong (the latest Ripley Johnson project, cosmic country/ boogie, some of which is superbly out there, a blissed out version of Laurel Canyon), the nine remixes that made up Unloved's Why Not release (including a superb Richard Sen remix and dub plus outstanding remixes from Phil Kieran, Hardway Bros and The Vendetta Suite), a similar release by Joe Morris, nine remixes of his Balearic album from the year before compiled as Exotic Remixes, and a follow up to his The Malcontent Volume 1 by Duncan Grey (who drip fed us some great standalone songs throughout 2020 before giving us The Malcontent Volume 2). An honourable mention too to three albums that were made decades ago but only saw the light of day this year- Neil Young's legendary Homegrown, Rig's Perfect and Bushpilot's 23, three very different but better late than never albums.  I also loved A Man Called Adam's career spanning oddities and extras round up Love Forgotten, a digital only release that packs a huge amount into it's twenty songs. 

I know that I should have heard Working Men's Club by now and just haven't got round to it despite them appearing to be right up my alley. They're on my list, as are Sault who everyone else I know raves about and I just haven't dived in there yet. 

These are the twelve albums that have been the pick of 2020 at Bagging Area, in roughly this order even if finding a meaningful way to rank them is really tricky. The albums at the top of the list could be placed either way round depending on which I'm listening to at the time. 

12. Future Beat Alliance 'Beginner's Mind'

An immersive nine track trip taking in ambient, drones, acid and the melodic futurism of 2th century Detroit techno.

11. Kelly Lee Owens 'Inner Song'

A strong set of electronic songs and grooves from Kelly and a step on from her debut (which I loved). Corner Of My Sky, intense, weather beaten 2020 techno with John Cale's vocals stood out but everything else on it, from the banging grooves of Melt! to the bleary eyed soundscapes, sounded as good.  


10. GLOK 'Dissident remixes'

GLOK's 2019 record was as good as anything else out last year. The remix album was trailed by one of the final Andrew Weatherall remixes, a beautiful but low key, urban ambient remix of Cloud Cover. Across the rest of the record were some equally innovative versions from Richard Sen, C.A.R., Leaf, Minotaur Shock and others and from GLOK (Andy Bell himself). 

9. Brian and Roger Eno 'Mixing Colours'

A beautifully meditative set of treated piano pieces that drift out of the speakers and around the room. Made perfect sense back in May when I was raging about VE Day and contemplating turning fifty.

8. Richard Norris 'Elements'

Five long tracks made with modular synths, lovely pulses and washes of sound, hypnotic analogue sequences and gentle drones that built on his Abstractions records from 2019 and his excellent Music For Healing series from the spring and summer- deep listening for difficult days. Richard has made some of the defining sounds of 2020 for me. 

9. The Long Champs 'Straight To Audio'

A one man band from Wales (Lloyd Jones) making chuggy, trippy instrumentals that found favour with Andrew Weatherall's Convenanza and the Weatherall/ Johnston travelling disco A Love From Outer Space. Multiple, shimmering guitar tracks, washes of FX, slow motion dance beats and a style of upbeat shoegaze that transported me when things seemed irredeemably gloomy. 

8. Four Tet 'Sixteen Oceans'

Released as lockdown struck Kieran Hebden's latest record, three sides of vinyl plus a fourth of locked grooves, is a distillation of everything that he's good at. Teenage Birdsong came out in 2019, those skippy beats and lighter- than- air melodies pointing the way, and the rest of the album lived up to it. When I was hearing this in March it seemed like it made a stake to be the year's defining record and it hasn't diminished that much in the time between. A cut above most of the rest.

7. Rheinzand 'Rheinzand'

Rheinzand are a trio from Belgian who have made the darkest disco and the headiest sounds of 2020, a stunning twelve song record with a hot, sticky cover of Talking Heads' Slippery People and in Fourteen Again a song to keep picking up the needle and putting it back to the start. One of those albums that made you/ me forget everything and just focus on being in the music, in the moment. 

6. Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini 'Illusion Of Life'

This record sound tracked March for me and will forever be the music of lockdown 1- drones, industrial ambience, some intense and dense atmospheres and mesmerising waves of noise. It is beautiful and ominous and sometimes a really difficult record to pin down. These are the sounds that increasingly have been where I've headed as the year has gone on and if Daniel hadn't recorded another album in lockdown that just pips this one, this could easily be my album of the year. 

5. Sonic Boom 'All Things Being Equal'

Pete Kember's first new album in decades, an analogue synth based set of songs that are exactly what he's been doing for three decades but which sound like a new idea. The lead single, Just Imagine, is one of my favourite songs of this year and it sits among the hypnotic, beguiling, psychedelic trip of the rest of the record. When it's on the turntable it engulfs you and fills the room, Pete seeing through his own hallucinations to deliver a political message of kinds- the way you live your life matters.


4. Roisin Murphy 'Roisin Machine'
The glitterball, dancefloor dynamics of Roisin and DJ Parrot turned into album form, songs segueing into each other, tension and release, and Roisin's singular vision front and centre. Dazzling in places and dizzying in others, 2019's single Incapable and 2020's Something More showcasing the just- this- side- of- demented disco pop that she's made her own. If New Year's Eve parties were a thing, this record would be best slipped on at about 10.45pm and then played through to midnight. This performance was filmed in lockdown in Ibiza. 


3: A Certain Ratio 'Loco'
Loco, the first ACR album for twelve years, came out in September, a ten song record that seems to try to fit onto one disc everything that makes them who they are: post- punk veterans, 80s funk experimenters, late 80s/ early 90s acid house dance movers, a motorik Berlin- inspired pop group and writers of Mancunian love songs. It's a completely self- contained record- it sounds like them and could only have been made by them, and Jez, Donald and Martin sound revitalised. Sadly, it came only weeks after the tragic death of Denise Johnson, who had sung with the band since the early 90s and who sings on four of the songs on Loco. Along with her solo album which came out at the same time, it's a fitting tribute. 

2: Daniel Avery 'Love + Light' 
In lockdown Daniel shut himself away in his studio, a shipping container overlooking the Thames and made music. Ghostly ambient moods, intense sounds that ripple and shudder out of the speakers, late night/ post- club washes of calming noise, bleepy melodies that pull at the emotions and some blistering techno capable with a few heart- stopping moments. A gorgeous, immersive record that sounds like the respite we've all needed this year. 

1. Andy Bell 'The View From Halfway Down'
Andy stopped off from the Ride re- union and his cosmic adventures as GLOK to make a solo album and it hasn't been far from my turntable since it's release in the autumn. Opened by the late 80s guitar attack bliss of Love Comes In Waves and then followed by the rolling reverse groove and backwards vocals of Indica, the album is the perfect marriage of texture, sound and feel with songs- Skywalker is beautiful, sun kissed psychedelia, Cherry Cola is upwards looking, dreamy psyche- pop and album closer Heat Haze On Wayland Road is seven minutes of shoegaze updated for 2020, a Hooky- esque bassline and some achingly lovely synth sounds. 



Neither Album Nor Single But Something Else Entirely Releases Of The Year
 
Richard Norris 'Music For Healing 1- 12'

In between my albums and singles of 2020 there is a series of releases by Richard Norris, twelve twenty minute ambient/ deep listening tracks, recorded and released with the intention of giving people music to help them switch off and to cope with the stresses of the first lockdown. The twelves pieces are all beautiful, meditative, immersive pieces of work that are as much part of 2020 for me as anything else I've written about here- they are neither albums nor singles but something else entirely (although the twelve have been edited down to much shorter pieces and compiled as a CD which is highly recommended).  


Singles/Songs / Remixes/ EPs Of The Year

I'm not sure what even constitutes a single anymore and it probably doesn't matter. Anyway, a top forty five, the number most associated with the single format (apologies to anything I've missed and there will be something).

45. Fireflies 'The Machine Stops'
44. Joe Morris 'The New Dawn Will Come' EP
43. Stray Harmonix 'Mountain Of One'
42. Apiento and Tepper '17- 44- 58' EP
41. A.M.O.R. 'The Decline And Fall Of A Mountain Of Rimowa'
40. Fontaines DC 'A Hero's Death'
39. Rich Lane 'Barry Island'
38. Michael Son of Michael 'Babylonian Beaches' Rude Audio Remix
37. Pye Corner Audio 'Where Things Are Hollow 2' EP
36. Golden Fang AsTRiD
35. Doves 'Carousels'
34. Sink Ya Teeth 'Somewhere Else'
33. The Orielles 'Bobbi's Secret World' Confidence Man Remix
32. Thurston Moore 'Hashish'
31. Sinead O'Connor 'Trouble Of The World'
30. Roisin Murphy 'Something More' Crooked Man Remixes
29. Massey v Sir Horatio 'Music Control'
28. Leo Mas and Fabrice ft. Sally Rodgers 'This Unspoken Love' and dub mix
27. Rich Lane 'Prusik' (Live From The Woods) from the Knots EP.
26. Dreems 'Shark Attack' EP
25. Night Noise 'Dancing In Space' EP
24. Fjordfunk 'It's All Black' Hardway Bros Remix
23. Woodleigh Research Facility 'Woodleigh's Lament' 
22. Number 'Wedge' A Certain Ratio v Number (ACR Rework)
21. Dan Wainwright 'Raindance' EP especially the pagan house of A Blessing
20. Duncan Grey 'Steve Killage'
19. The Avalanches ft. Jamie Xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO 'Wherever You Go'
18. Richard Norris 'Golden Waves' EP
17. Woodleigh Research Facility 'Medieval Dub'
16. The Venetians 'Son Sur Son' Andrew Weatherall Remixes
15. Django Django 'Marble Skies' Andrew Weatherall Remix (from 2018 but unreleased until this year).
14. Cantoma 'Closer' Apiento remix 

13. The Orb 'The Weekend It Rained Forever (The Ravens Have Left The Tower)'
An album track but I'm sneaking it in here because it shows what Dr. Alex Paterson can still do when he gets everything exactly right- a long, meandering, slightly spooky ambient future classic, Blade Runner and pouring rain, and another track that chimed in tune with lockdown in March. 

12. Moon Duo 'Planet Caravan'
A ten minute long cover of a 1970 Black Sabbath song that is the pinnacle of chilled out, take your time guitar playing and whispered vocals. From a Sacred Bones compilation. 

11. Andy Bell 'Chery Cola' Pye Corner Audio Remix
The album song made even better, layers of cosmic synths and the ending, where it breaks down into folky acoustic guitar, is sublime. 

10. Andy Bell 'Love Comes In Waves'
Shimmering guitar lines beamed in direct from 1989 and a vocal that surfs over the top. Euphoric guitar pop. Summer 2020.

9. Woodleigh Research Facility 'Monthly EP Series'
These should probably be presented above with Richard Norris's Music For Healing series. In January Andrew Weatherall and Nina Walsh began a series of digital only, three track EPs to be released monthly throughout 2020. Events overtook them but the releases kept coming and there are some magnificent pieces of music contained within the folders- a few highlights include Birthday Three from January, Fume Homage a month later, Somnium from March, the tracks from the autumn with Joe Duggan's poetry over the top (Downhill and Play Bingo With Me), the Karra Mesh EP in May and July's Substation Glow and from the latest release The Fallen. 

8. Bicep 'Atlas'
I slept on this a bit at first, thinking it was just another Bicep track, but its peaks, the ebb and flow, the rippling toplines, rattling drums, snatches of vocal and happy/ sad house music have been coming around again and again since it came out in March.

7. Formerlover 'Correction Dub'
A bonkers but enthralling collision of dub and Nigerian rhythms by Justin Robertson with his wife Sofia on vocals, speaking/ singing about domination and suchlike. 





6. Aimes 'A Star... In The Sky' plus Hardway Bros remix'
Massive sounding sci fi chuggy dance music with a bouncing bassline and portentous vocal sample. Ridiculously good and with Saturn and Jupiter about to be in close conjunction in the sky next week well timed for pulling out again.  

5. Sonic Boom 'Just Imagine'
I mentioned this in the album review above but it's such a wonderful, tripped out, wiggy song, Pete asking us to imagine being a tree/ simplicity/ being truly free as the analogies rhythms and synths whirr by.

4. Andrew Weatherall 'Unknown Plunderer/ End Times Sound
This pair of deep cuts, experimental end of the world dub with spaced out sound effects and some guitar from beyond the solar system by Andy Bell (him again), were released on February 21st, four days after Andrew died, a piece of timing no- one expected or wanted. The two tracks demonstrate why he was such a gifted producer and why he is so missed.


 
3. Green Gartside 'Tangled Man/ Wishing Well'
This came out of nowhere on 7" in the summer, a gorgeous pair of covers of songs by British folk singer Anne Briggs, the golden voice of Green Gartside reborn with some sumptuous dubby folk- pop music. I love it when a single blindsides me and this did exactly that. 


2. Andrew Weatherall 'The Moton 5' EP
Four slices of Lord Sabre's customary, easy brilliance, not least in the title track of this EP which glides in with a propulsive bassline, a mechanical rhythm and some very moody synths. The strings that come in at two minutes add some drama to the chug and then it all then glides on, seemingly endlessly but actually only for another five minutes. The Moton 5.2 strips it down and delivers an alternate take. The 12" EP came out in April, two months after he passed and sounds like what he always promised on his Music's Not For Everyone radio show for NTS- tomorrow's music today. 


1. Daniel Avery 'Lone Swordsman'

On the morning of February 17th Daniel Avery was in his metal box studio when he heard of the death of his friend and mentor Andrew Weatherall. He captured his feelings in this piece of music, four minutes of emotional, instrumental dance music that captures the spirit of the man and how many people felt with him suddenly gone- a breakbeat, some synths, an unfolding chord sequence and what appear to be the root notes of Smokebelch occasionally peaking through. In a year where emotions have often been very close to the surface, Daniel made a piece of music that is simple and minimal but layered and nuanced and extremely moving. Proof as well that music helps, and that when times are hard music is often the answer. 

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Tiers Mix

Another Bagging Area mix for you, an hour of old and new and fairly ambient/ drone/ instrumental based but with Mark E. Smith turning at the end to add his inimitable voice to proceedings. In fact the only other voice is Andrew Weatherall's, heard briefly at the end of Prana Crafter's Starlight, Sing Us A Lullaby, a moment that got to me the first time I heard it. You can find Tiers In December on Mixcloud

  • Kams: Hopfen (Richard Norris Remix)
  • Stray Harmonix: Mountain Of One
  • Harold Budd: The Pearl
  • A Winged Victory For The Sullen: Keep It Dark, Deutschland
  • Lol Hammond and Duncan Forbes: Angel Hill
  • Dreems: Shark Attack (Abyss Mix)
  • Daniel Avery: A Story In E5
  • Daniel Avery: Petrol Blue
  • Prana Crafter: Starlight, Sing Us A Lullaby
  • Radioactive Man: Goodnight Morton
  • Harmonia and Brian Eno: Atmosphere
  • Neotantra: Ataxy- Hills
  • Woodleigh Research Facility: The Fallen
  • The Fall: Bill Is Dead


Friday, 18 December 2020

Atmospheres

This ambient/ kraut hybrid was recorded by Brian Eno and Harmonia in 1976. Eno heard Harmonia in the early 1970s and said they were 'the most important band in the world'. A trio made up of Neu!'s Michael Rother and Cluster's Roedelius and Moebius has as good a claim to that title as anyone I guess. Eno eventually hooked up with them in Forst, in rural Lower Saxony, West Germany. They worked on some sessions for nearly two weeks before Eno headed onto Berlin to meet Bowie and begin work on what would become Bowie's Berlin Trilogy. Puzzlingly Harmonia '76 (as the Harmonia- Eno collaboration called themselves) then left the master tapes unreleased until 1997 when Roedelius rescued them and put them out as Tracks And Traces. A 2009 re- issue expanded the album with some digital clean up of the cassette recordings. Atmosphere was one of the additional 2009 tracks, three and  a half minutes of arpeggio, synth textures and a rhythm track that is made up of hiss and echo. 

Atmosphere

Harmonia's debut was the self- explanatory Musik von Harmonia, a record they put together in 1973 using a very basic mixer and three tape machines, a Farfisa organ, a piano, a rhythm machine and some guitars and a very open-ended approach to making music. 

Hausmusik

I finish work for two weeks today. I could add lots to that but for the moment I'll just say it's been a long time coming and a rest is very much needed. 

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Starlite


Twice now I've been in the Co- op and heard Paul Weller singing 'The sound of thunder on the ocean...' In late summer 2011 he released Starlite as a standalone 12" single, a song very at odds with the album that came after it (Sonik Kicks which had a much more guitar attack oriented sound and was led by That Dangerous Age, a middle age crisis, mod guitar- pop banger). Starlite harks back tot he more soulful sounds of The Style Council and the house music influenced album that was rejected by Polydor that contributed to the band coming to an end. The mid- pace groove, drum machine and squelchy bass, sultry acoustic guitar and Balearic vibes make this song a perfect summer evening tune, beers at the poolside bar as the sun melts into the Med, straw hats and flipflops. Instead it soundtracked buying a few odds and ends in a northern mini- supermarket wearing a winter coat and a facemask. Such is winter 2020. 

Starlite

I'm assuming, as my friend The Swede recounted recently, the song was playing because it's on the Co- op's inhouse radio station, Co- Op FM or somesuch or a compilation they provide to be played rather than sheer coincidence that a relatively obscure Weller solo song from nine years has been playing twice when I've shopped there. 

More power to Weller though and his refusal to play it straight. He mines many seams and has developed a real restlessness in his approach to making music. A few years after Starlite he was recording Ethiopian dub with The Stone Foundation and Krar Collective.


Wednesday, 16 December 2020

The Midnight Lamp

I heard this song fade into earshot on the tv the other night, The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, the grungy fat guitar note followed by Jimi's instantly recognisable harpsichord notes. A proper ears pricking up moment. The riff circles round twice, there's a burst of wah wah and Mitch and Noel pile in before Jimi starts singing. The whole song sounds overloaded, the needle in the red, parts muffled and jostling with each other but it sounds alive, the backing vocals like a heavenly choir, a mess of controlled noise and confusion. The harpsichord- nothing says 1967 like a harpsichord- surfaces again to kick into the second half of the song and inevitably there's a stinging, dirty guitar solo. Hendrix sounds like he's singing in a dream, examining his mind in the aftermath of a messy trip, the band pounding away behind him. Noisy, psychedelic, melancholia. 

Hendrix wrote the lyrics on a flight between New York and Los Angeles in 1967. This was after a recording session in London that hadn't delivered the goods for the song (although the trio had laid down Axis: Bold As Love so it wasn't a total write off). They set off on a European tour, then to the States and then when back in New York at Mayfair Studio they nailed it, with the Sweet Inspirations coming in the next day to do the backing vocals (Whitney Houston's mum being one of the three Sweet Inspirations). In the UK it was a single, released in August '67 at the height of the summer of love, with The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice on the B-side. A year later in the USA it was the B-side to his cover of All Along The Watchtower and then as part of that year's Electric Ladyland album. Two years later he was gone. 

Burning Of The Midnight Lamp

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Late Eighties

James Holden released an album in 2013 called The Inheritors, fifteen tracks that demolished and (deep breath) deconstructed electronic music. On Delabole he took the entire idea of the song structure to pieces, a track that seems chaotic but eventually finds a kind of groove and re- adjusts itself, making sense of noise. 

Delabole

Towards the end of the album he produced his best piece of work (with the exception of his remix of Nathan Fake's The Sky Was Pink), an eight minute journey with rippling melodies and waves of sound, a blissed out flipside to Delabole. I visited Blackpool a few times in the late eighties and I have to say it didn't feel like this sounds but maybe James went on a day the sun was shining. Regardless, Holden made this superb piece of emotive, melancholic techno and found a previously unknown link between the Fylde Coast and West German electronic music of the 1970s.

Blackpool Late Eighties

Monday, 14 December 2020

Monday's Long Songs

In 1985 Brian Eno recorded what could be his purest expression of ambient music, the sixty one minutes of Thursday Afternoon, a drifting, reflective piano piece, endless and unchanging. It seems to be as long as one of those Thursday afternoons we all experience as children where the rain keeps us indoors and there is nothing to do or the listlessness we feel as teenagers. An hour listening to this is time well spent- I suppose that's a lesson we learn as kids and in our teens, that doing nothing requires a certain kind of resilience. Eno captures the essence of doing nothing, something we've returned to at points this year. 


Eno's 1973 album with Robert Fripp (No Pussyfooting) was an experiment in tape delays and Fripp's guitar playing, parts of which were then turned into loops, creating this dense, layered piece of work. Side two of the album was taken up with a track called Swastika Girls (named after a picture from a porn magazine) and is a far less tranquil and reflective affair, an eighteen minutoe long experiment in disconnected bursts of Fripp's guitar and tape delay noises. Bowie and Iggy loved it apparently. 

Swastika Girls


Sunday, 13 December 2020

Ring Ring Seven A.M.

Sandinista! was released forty years ago yesterday. This video of The Magnificent 7 appeared online, previously unseen footage of  Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper in New York in 1980, the fans and police in the streets around Bonds Casino, the band playing on US television and at a press conference all smoking like it's going out of fashion, some brilliant fan level scenes from the floor of the venue, security man Ray Jordan in among the crowd, and superb footage of the stage invasion at the end, Mick's hand and guitar disappearing into the throng- all put together by Don Letts. The video is here in case you're reading this on a phone and the embedded video isn't working. 

Sandinista! is a an album that grows and grows as the years go by. On it's release in 1980 it mystified fans and press alike, thirty six songs over six sides of vinyl. Only three years on from their debut, recorded in the white heat of 1977, Sandinista! is the band's sprawling soup of influences and experimental spirit writ large, from the pioneering rap/ funk rock of The Magnificent 7 to the dub soundscapes that make up side six. In between they play rockabilly, blues, a waltz, reggae, fiddle led- folk, plenty of dub, gospel, Mickey Gallagher's kids singing Guns Of Brixton, majestic late 70s rock (Somebody Got Murdered, Up In Heaven and Police On My Back), a backwards track, a Motown song celebrating the UK independent scene, one of the hidden gems of their career in the shape of the calypso- rock- reggae groove of The Street Parade, a disco tribute to Studio 54 and the Cold War sung by the drummer and two songs that are so far from White Riot that they could be the work of a different group- Broadway and Something About England. Sandinista! is the mixtape, the playlist, the shuffle function, the rarities/ outtakes box set, decades before these things happened. Sandinista! is a work of madness and a work of genius, a beautiful mess, an album that still has the capacity to surprise, songs that suddenly reveal themselves in a new way. It demonstrates the breadth of their vision and ambition, a Clash radio station playing song after song after song. One song sounds especially relevant to life in the UK at the fag end of 2020, more and more prescient as this country has lurched from 1980 to 2020 in the blink of an eye...

The rise of the far right in the 1970s is well documented, marches by the NF in areas of London largely inhabited by immigrant communities, as much a reason for the formation of Rock Against Racism as Eric Clapton's racist claptrap on stage where he celebrated the words of Enoch Powell. Since the Brexit vote in 2016 English exceptionalism has taken centre stage, the idea that there is something that sets England apart from every other country is the driving force behind the current bunch of chancers and idiots in the cabinet and seem to be Johnson's main negotiating tactic in the last minute Brexit trade deal talks taking place right now. They genuinely believe that once England is free from Europe and has 'freedom' and 'sovereignty' the nation will rise unshackled, back to the glory years of Churchill, the war and Spitfires flying over the white cliffs of Dover. The Brexit vote was partly fuelled by anti- immigrant rhetoric, the same feelings that fired up the far right in the 1970s. The factors involved- EU freedom of movement, Tory austerity policies after the banking crash of 2008, the view that immigrants from Eastern Europe have stolen jobs from British workers, Gordon Brown and his encounter with 'that bigoted woman' in Rochdale in 2010- aren't very far away from National Front campaign leaflets in the 70s. 

Something About England nails all this in its title and then depicts this racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric and English 20th century history in a three minute forty- four seconds long song. As the music hall brass band parps into earshot, Mick opens the song with these lines-

'They say immigrants steal the hubcaps
Of the respected gentlemen
They say it would be wine and roses
If England were for Englishmen again'

The song then lurches into a different area, an out of tune guitar chord and some crashing rimshots and Mick continues with his tale...

'Well I saw a dirty overcoat
At the foot of the pillar of the road
Propped inside was an old man
Whom time would not erode'

Mick carries on describing the homeless man, blue lights and sirens going off as it's kicking out time at the dancehall, and he hopes the old man will be able to 'explain the gloom'. At one minute Joe interjects, the voice of the old man. It goes back to Mick for a line and then at one minute fourteen there's a crashing run down the piano keyboard and Joe takes over, singing verses that describe the old man's life in the first half of the 20th century- 'the fourteen- eighteen war... the sorrow afterward', the poverty in northern England (as described by George Orwell, an author Joe must surely have read), the Jarrow hunger marchers, the rich with their garden parties and mouths full of cake, the Second World War (portrayed here not as the great patriotic pinnacle of English exceptionalism but as 'five long years of bullets and shells/ we left ten million dead'). The survivors return not to cheering crowds and flags or the sunlit uplands of post- war Britain but instead...

'The few returned to old Piccadilly
We limped around Leicester Square
The world was busy rebuilding itself
The architects could not care'

The music is vaudeville music, a sort of punk/ Edwardian music hall hybrid and a choir of ghostly backing voices make an appearance, the dead of the wars and those dispossessed by government social policies as Mick plays a vicious guitar line. Joe's last verse dissects the English class system, something never far away for a man who hated boarding school with a passion and what it did/ does to generations of British youth.

'There was masters and servants and servants and dogs
They taught you how to touch your cap
But through strikes and famine and war and peace
England never closed this gap'

All that strife, war, death, destruction and unrest and the English class system remained cast in stone. The forelock tugging, cap doffing deference Joe describes is as true now as it was in 1980, the generations of English voters who go to the polling station and place their X next to the name of anyone with a posh accent and Eton education, saddling us with Johnson and his ilk. Joe's role as the old man, spitting his lines out at Mick in the song and the listener through the speakers, comes to a conclusion as the music stutters to a halt, the old man worn out by his memories- 

'So leave me now the moon is up
But remember all the tales I tell
The memories that you have dredged up
Are on letters forwarded from hell'

The reprise sees the band come back in softer and more mournful, Mick's voice returning, the streets deserted and the lights going out, before the kiss off final line...

'Old England was alone'

And that's where we are right now, shunned by Europe and estranged from our neighbours, a country with little self- awareness that has become a laughing stock, looking at itself in a mirror and seeing what it wants to see, not what the reflection really shows us.

Something About England


Saturday, 12 December 2020

Judy In The Starry Sky


Lol Hammond is not a man to sit around twiddling his thumbs. He started out in Spiral Tribe and The Drum Club in 1991, formed Slab with Nina Walsh, recorded with Matt Rowlands and Mandy Wall as Girl Eats Boy, has made albums with Roger Eno, collaborated with Chris Coco on soundtrack inspired music, has been the music supervisor and soundtrack artist on a slew of British films and has recorded two albums with Duncan Forbes and now a new project as Are We Superheroes?

Girl Eats Boy released an album in 1997 called Thrilled By Velocity And Distortion, a record chock full of breakbeats and samples bursting with energy.  The song titles on the album were a joy- take your pick from Napalm In Bohemia, Kill Pussy Kill, Moist Babe Hates The Government, Surfing In Reykjavik- and this one, Chemical Phunk, which shows where their heads were at. Samples Sabres Of Paradise too unless I'm very much mistaken. 


As Slab Lol and Nina were immersed in electro and techno, making repetitive, minimal music for small clubs. Their 1995 track Atomsmasher was remixed by Andrew Weatherall (and engineered by David Harrow) with one version (Mix 3) on the 12" and another (Mix 1) on white label 10". As with most Weatherall remixes from the mid 90s this is a long, progressive techno track with weird noises as standard,  and plenty going on to keep you interested up to the tenth minute. 

Atomsmasher (Weatherall Mix 1)

More recently Lol has been active with Duncan Forbes (formerly of Manchester based DJ/ production duo Spooky , stalwarts of the live and club scene in the mid- 90s). Lol and Duncan released a lovely album earlier this year, Who Will Stop The Robots, ten tracks that skirt the edges of ambient, drones, dreampop and glistening psychedelia. I posted a song called Sorry Kids We Left You With A Black Sun previously. This one, Snow Ghosts, has a dark, slow motion beauty and the voice of Eve Abraham. 


If that isn't enough at the end of November Lol put out the first release by a new group he's formed with Karen Frost and Stefan Gordon, Are We Superheroes? Judy In The Starry Sky has a pleasingly skeletal drum machine banging away, Karen's vocals and a distorted guitar part that reminds me of lots of my favourite guitar bands. If you like the c86 bands or grew up with NME and Melody Maker, 4AD, Rough Trade and Creation you'll enjoy this a lot. Available at Bandcamp at the name your own price deal. 

Friday, 11 December 2020

Check The Cool Wax

There's nothing like a blast of the Beastie Boys to freshen your day and set your head in the right direction, pick almost anything from any of their albums from 1989's Paul's Boutique through to 1998's Hello Nasty. Like this one...

Johnny Ryall

Johnny Ryall was a homeless man that Mike D used to pass every day when he lived in New York in the mid- to- late 80s. Mike D would as the song states often give him 'fifty cents to buy some soup'. Johnny used to regale people with tales of being a rockabilly star in Memphis in the dim and distant past, with Boots on bass and Checkers on drums, and claimed that he wrote Blue Suede Shoes. Mike, Adam and Adam's wordplay, trading lines in their nasal NY voices is a joy, sounding easy but the writing and the timing must have taken hours of practice. Paul's Boutique is famously made up of hundreds of samples (before anyone really got to grips with sample law) but the lyrics are similarly stitched together from the panoply of Beastie Boys references- Johnny Ryall mentions mayor of New York Ed Koch, Gucci, the Bowery, Maggie's Farm, Puma trainers, Thunderbird (cheap, fortified wine), Louis Vuitton, Wonder Bread, Helter Skelter (the song by The Beatles), the various rockabilly and Elvis nods mentioned before and the currently about- to- depart President of the United Sates Of America. 

'Donald Trump and Donald Tramp living in the men's shelter
Wonder Bread bag shoes and singing "Helter Skelter"
He asks for a dollar you know what it's for
Man, bottle after bottle he'll always need more
He's no less important than you working class stiffs
He drinks a lot of liquor but he don't drink piss
He paid his dues playing the blues
He claims that he wrote the Blue Suede Shoes
Elvis shaved his head when he went into the army
That's right y'all his name is Johnny
Kick it
Johnny Ryall, Johnny Ryall'

The music is similarly dizzying in its samples and sources. Out in LA the Beastie trio hooked up with production duo The Dust Brothers who had constructed loads of instrumentals by sampling and plundering their record collections. They thought the tracks were too dense for anyone to add vocals too but MCA, AD- rock and Mike D found the space. The rhythm track is borrowed from Sharon, a 1972 song by David Bromberg, while Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Donny Hathaway, DJ Grand Wizard Theodore and insertion of the vocal line from Mr Big Stuff  by Jean Knight still raises a smile and a shake of the head thirty one years later. 

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Harold Budd

Harold Budd has died aged 84,  of complications arising from Covid. He was a master of ambient music, a composer, pianist and guitarist who played an enormous role in developing what ambient music sounded like in the 1970s and 80s, often with Brian Eno (their joint albums Ambient 2: The Plateaux Of Mirror and The Pearl are incredible works, Harold's soft, atmospheric piano playing at the centre of the sound. If ambient music has a centre). Eno, Budd and Daniel Lanois made The Pearl in 1984, a highlight in the back catalogue of all three men, an album reprising the piano textures and treated electronics of Plateaux along with nature recordings. He worked with Cocteau Twins and then later with Robin Guthrie-  their 2007 Before The Day Breaks album is a beautiful blend of treated guitars, FX and piano pieces. Ambient music, by definition, is supposed to be background music. Budd's works carry emotional weight that make it much more than wallpaper to chill out to. 

The Pearl



Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Basic Reshape

The flipside to sunshine drenched Italian Balearica is austere, minimal dub- techno from German duo Basic Channel. In 1995 Basic Channel (Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus) put out a CD called BCD which compiled the series of 12" singles they'd released during the two previous years, a series of pioneering deep cuts. On the album was this- a six minute glide- by of bass, FX, insistent rhythm and heavy sounds- titled Remake (Basic Reshape). 

Remake (Basic Reshape)

Remake (Basic Reshape) originally saw the light of dawn under the name e2e4 Basic Reshape, a remix of Throw by Paperclip People (Carl Craig's brilliant dub- techno guise). Basic Channel remade Craig's track, which sampled Manuel Gottsching's minimalistic, hour long E2- E4 (the basis of yesterday's post, 1989's Sueño Latino). In doing so they pushed pushing Gottsching's 1984 album into new directions. Remake is a heavy duty, slow motion, bass led groove, a long way from the original and the '89 hit that sampled it. The melody has been filtered out and replaced with utterly absorbing layers of sounds. Dance music (for want of a better term) had a real sense of forward trajectory between '89 and '95, a constantly forward thinking form, the music of the future in the here and now. This still sounds futuristic. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Sueño Latino

Following on in an almost straight line from yesterday's Richard Wanfried post, a very long Klaus Schulze instrumental featuring E2- E4 composer/ guitarist Manuel Göttsching, this is the 1989 ambient/ Italo - house classic Sueño Latino, ten minutes of summer to banish the mid- December blues, bringing some colour and some warmth to our current world of cold, semi- permanent darkness. Sueño Latino were four Italians-  Andrea Gemolotto, Claudio Collino, Davide Rizzatti and Riccardo Persi - who created this ten minute classic, built around Göttsching's E2- E4 and some birdsong, a hit around Europe and released in umpteen formats and countries. Discogs lists it as being released as a single in 1989, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2001 and on no less than 243 compilations. None of which takes anything away from it, a song with all the right elements in exactly the right places. 

Sueño Latino


Monday, 7 December 2020

Monday's Long Song

A long song from 1981, that came to my attention via Dr. Rob (Ibiza/ London veteran currently resident in Japan) and his tribute to Jose Padilla and the Balearic sets he played at the Café del Mar. Druck is eighteen minutes long, the work of Klaus Schulze, a pioneer of West German cosmische music and briefly a member of both Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel. Schulze took on the alias Richard Wahnfried and had the good fortune/ good judgement to get Manuel Göttsching in on guitar, the man who recorded the legendary E2- E4. 

Druck

Druck is led by Spanish guitar plucking and Schulze's spaced out synths and some gentle drumming, and then acres of rippling rhythms, blissed out sounds, an extensive guitar solo, more Spanish guitar, some echo- heavy percussion and a gathering intensity. All very organic sounding. Druck comes on a double sided record called Tonwelle, paired with the slightly longer Schwung. At some point after '81 a copy made it's way to Ibiza where Padilla wove it into the sets he played at sunset at the Café del Mar. 


Sunday, 6 December 2020

Into The Voice Of Stillness

I've spent much of 2020 bouncing between Daniel Avery and Richard Norris. Avery's album in the spring, a collaboration with Alessandro Cortini, coincided with the chaos of March and the start of Lockdown 1. His recent one, Love + Light, came out digitally in the summer (as lockdown became local restrictions) and the vinyl arrived a couple of weeks ago, landing as Lockdown 2 kicked in. I hope he's got something up his sleeve for early 2021's Lockdown 3. The albums are full of the drones of white noise, layers of ambient sounds, a real emotional heft in places (as seen in his Lone Swordsman single) and some full on techno, hammering kick drums and synths- ambient, industrial techno made for dancing to in dark basements. 

Phonica asked him to put together a mix and it is a superb hour of what Daniel calls 'the slow motion blur of 2020', some unheard recordings of his own, some demos, some released tracks, versions and studio experiments, put together in the metal shipping container he records in overlooking the river Thames. He explains it all in an interview here. A friend said he's found it perfect for listening to while driving to work in the wintery dark and for headphones in when out walking the dog. I don't have a dog but can endorse it's power as car music, the beats and melodies eating the miles up under the motorway lights and the physicality of it cutting through the ambient noise of traffic. It's here

Into The Voice Of Stillness came out recently as part of a single package to go with the release of Love + Light and lone Swordsman, a version of one of the tracks on that album, the more tranquil flipside to the Phonica 78 mixtape. 


Saturday, 5 December 2020

Red Circle Earth Red Ring Blue Circle...

I'm not completely sure what's going on here but I came across it on Thursday night and have found it to be highly addictive and a very effective way of switching off and letting your mind drift. It started streaming on Youtube at the end of October and has been streaming ever since. It's by Four Tet and the spinning, never-ending animation is by his friend Anna Liber Lewis (there was a  Four Tet 12" of three songs done for an exhibition with Anna last year). I've no idea how long the loop goes on before it repeats itself or if there's some randomising element to it so it never plays quite the same thing twice or if in fact it's just an extremely long recording but there are several recognisable Four Tet motifs on there- whirring sounds, musical boxes, laptop beats, a vocal sample that may be Ellie Goulding- and it circles round and round endlessly. The way the melodies dance about over the rhythms with such a lightness of touch is so entrancing and hypnotic that I find it difficult to switch it off. 

The only thing in the way of information apart from Four Tet and Anna Liber Lewis' names (and a link to Anna's online t-shirt shop) is this line of emojis. Make of that what you will. 

🔴🌏⭕🔵🌕📀🌍⚫💿🌎🐦🐧🐤🌎💿⚫🌍📀🌕🔵⭕🌏🔴