There's a sense that Sunday blogposts should be calming, come down songs, acoustic campfire tunes, downhome country and western or some chilled dub sounds. I thought some some early 90s techno might be in order today however. Slack were Justin Drake and Quinn Whalley. This pair of tunes came out in 1993 on Andrew Weatherall's Sabres Of Paradise label, two sides of a 12" single that you can pick up mystifyingly cheap second hand- long, intense and atmospheric trancey techno with thumping bass drums, wobbly synths sounds, hi- hats dancing away at the top and trippy blip noises. This is Saturday night music really, lost on the floor, everyone on one, arms in the air, chewing gum, the air filled with dry ice and cigarette smoke but it works on a Sunday morning too. Stick the kettle on and make breakfast with Painkiller throbbing away and you'll see the day afresh. Besides, at the moment every day's more or less the same as every other day.
Saturday, 30 January 2021
This is one of the highlights the last few years, a song by Meatraffle from summer 2019, a superb, off balance song called Meatraffle On The Moon. There's a dub bassline, a sci fi synth line, a padding drumbeat, a wandering ska trumpet line and over the top of this 21st century dub/ post- punk/ art rock hybrid the voice of Zsa Zsa Sapien (possibly not his real name), singing a tale of the exploitation of industrial workers on the moon by the capitalist bosses. The soaring chorus, Zsa Zsa joined by a female voice, never fails to raise my spirits- 'there's gonna be a meatraffle on the moon tonight'. This draw for uncooked sausages is the weekly highlight of the poor un- unionised astral wage slaves when they get to the lunar bar on a Saturday evening. 'They are so sick of this, they just want to be by the sea/ but they signed a new contract by the Sea of Tranquility' Zsa Zsa sings and it sounds like the most real and most keenly felt employment struggle you've ever heard, and it sums them up, political but with a surrealist sideways look.
There was also a lovely, loping Andrew Weatherall remix, one of his finest from the last decade, dub vibes to the fore and lots of percussion, stretched out into space.
More recently Meatraffle released a four track EP in May last year called Black Metal Music which included a very lockdown 1 take on things called Oh Corona. Next month they have a remix EP, Abstinence Blues, coming out.
Friday, 29 January 2021
Nina Walsh and Franck Alba's Fireflies have a new song out, a squally, banjo driven stomp riding on a huge bass part, and Nina in imperious voice. It sounds like something bad has gone down, a ritual gone wrong, a friend abandoned in the woods, 'that morning/ when skies were grey/ I left you lying and slipped away'. The video starts with a minute and a half of quiet sounds, whistles and a drone, the sound of the woods, leaves crunching and the stream bubbling and the ever present menace of the British countryside in the winter, before it all kicks off at one forty- one. Buy it at Bandcamp
Thursday, 28 January 2021
These are a pair of Mick Jones songs from 1993 that appeared on the soundtrack to a film called Amongst Friends. The CD opens with a B.A.D. II song (Innocent Child) and then veers wildly about early 90s alt- rock and rap with songs from The Lemonheads, The Pharcyde, Bettie Serveert, Tone Loc and MC Lyte while also finding time for Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes. I've never seen the film so don't know how much the songs play a part in how events unfold- the story is centred around three childhood friends now grown up and getting involved with local mobsters, filmed on location around The Five Towns (these are an informal grouping of towns on Long Island and not the five towns that make up Stoke- on- Trent in the Potteries). I'm assuming that at some point Mick Jones and director Rob Weiss were friendly because as well as Innocent Child and his own teenage favourites Mott The Hoople, Mick contributes three songs to the soundtrack. The two here, No Ennio and Long Island, are footnotes in Mick's long back catalogue but worth an airing periodically, Long Island especially.
No Ennio is an instrumental- twangy guitar and strings and a drum machine- and I suspect a tribute to Ennio Morricone, a huge Cash and B.A.D. influence (and this being a film soundtrack a Mick Jones joke in the title).
Long Island sounds like it was written for the film, the words and Mick's singing wistful and reflective, 'Life drags on, Long Island/Every dream could bring you to me/ As the evening winds, Long Island/ the days fall into the sea'. It plays over the credits apparently, Mick singing over a drum machine and some electronics, a bit of guitar and piano and after a breakdown in the middle everything coming back in with a solo. Nicely done and a long way from Sten Guns In Knightsbridge.
Wednesday, 27 January 2021
There's been a touch of c86 and mid 80s Scottish indie- pop in the breeze recently- two weeks ago Stevie at Charity Chic Music blogged about Edinburgh's The Motorcycle Boy and last week Brian at Linear Tracking Lives was writing about early Primal Scream (early Primal Scream, none of your Loaded Scream, not even your Ivy Ivy Ivy era Scream but All Fall Down Primal Scream). At the weekend Sky Arts showed Teenage Superstars, a documentary about 'the golden age of Scottish indie', The Pastels, The Vaselines, BMX Bandits, The Jesus And Mary Chain and all he rest of it.
As an archetype of this sound you can't go wrong with this 1986 single by The Shop Assistants. In fact, this song on 7" might be the best song of the entire scene.
Cavernous but lo fi drums, the low rumble of bassline, cheap buzzsaw guitars, handclaps, sing song female vocals, deliberately borrowing from the Reid Brothers in style and by pinching a 'trip me up' line and everything smothered in reverb, it is wilfully and brilliantly amateurish. Safety Net sounds like it exists solely to take up the two minutes twenty three seconds it takes to revolve around your stereo at 45rpm before you flip the needle back to the start and play it again.
Sadly, it slipped out last year that Alex Taylor, singer of both The Shop Assistants and later The Motorcycle Boy, had passed away back in 2005. RIP Alex.
Tuesday, 26 January 2021
That's my snow story.
This is a gorgeous, warm, eight minute remix of Underground System's 2015 song Bella Ciao, the sonic opposite of snow, ice and winter in the UK in 2021. The original is a Latin/ Afro update of a traditional Spanish song popular during the Spanish Civil War, a song celebrating freedom and resistance. On this remix Italian musician and producer Gigi Masin slows it all down, stretches it out into a ambient- Balearic crossover, finding all the time and space in the grooves and letting it gently flow by.
Edit: from Luca in Italy, 'I have to point out that 'Bella Ciao' is not Spanish, but "an Italian protest folk song that originated in the late 19th century, sung by the mondina workers in protest to the harsh working conditions in the paddy fields of North Italy"
Monday, 25 January 2021
This album, Erratics And Unconformities by Craven Faults, came out last year. I missed it but am making up for lost time- six tracks, analogue synths and drones from the 20th century, used to conjure up atmospheres and surroundings. The album is inspired by and built around walks through the post- industrial landscape in northern Britain where the ghosts of people's lives and their work echo round the decaying infrastructure, extinct textile mills and foundries, canal towpaths and derelict workshops. The opener, Vacca Wall, is eighteen minutes long (here) and quite upbeat, full of promise and melodies beamed in from the Federal Republic Of Germany, circa 1974.
The last track, Signal Post is the shortest at only eight and a half minutes (here) and is heavy, an ending, the sun going down on.
In between there are four others, the pick being Cupola Smelt Mill, the musical influence of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger being felt and heard long after they started out, the synths hypnotising as the rhythms unfold in their own time. Superb stuff. Buy it at Bandcamp.
Sunday, 24 January 2021
San Pedro Collective, a Manchester based group built around the mercurial talents of Rikki Turner, were exploring an acid house sound a year ago, the song Where Do I Begin? and before that a collaboration with Siddi Raval on The Things You See. The new song strikes out in a different direction on their new song, the honey- drenched vocals of Jasmine Needham, a clipped, funky guitar riff and loose limbed drumming of Si Wolstencroft (formerly in The Fall). Time is a summer sounding song, laid back, some 70s strings and bags of easy going charm. Video here.
Rikki, once upon a time, was the singer and front man in Paris Angels whose 1990 single All On You (Perfume) was one of that year's guitar/ dance music crossover highlights. Rikki sometimes, I think, feels that the song is a bit of a millstone for him but it's loved by many including Ride/ Glok man Andy Bell who recorded this sweet acoustic cover version last year for XS Manchester. Video here.
Saturday, 23 January 2021
More and more I think that the soundtrack to Blade Runner has been a formative influence on my listening. Which is weird because if someone asked me to list my favourite artists I'd never reply 'Vangelis'. Then film came out in 1982 and I saw it at the cinema (the Scala in Withington, a very run down flea pit with three screens, two small ones downstairs and a larger one upstairs with double seats on the back row. Entry was £1 and they weren't too fussy about age restrictions. It later became Cine City and then was demolished). The look of the film, the non stop rain and night, neon lights, 1940s/ 1980s fashions, Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Darryl Hannah and Sean Young all captured my attention- the famous roof top scene and Roy Batty's death (and Hauer's famous improvised lines) lingered long after the credits had rolled. Vangelis' instrumental score must have stuck with me too- the synths and keyboards, the rolling drums and pulsing synthesisers, the bleeps and sounds of the machinery worked into the music and the snippets of dialogue, the strange bursts of Japanese singing in Tales Of The Future, the ambient washes of sound and sudden rumbles of distant timpani... I hear these all over the place in things I listen to at the moment. Vangelis has a long shadow.
Strange to think that when Blade Runner came out the year it was set in, 2019, was nearly four decades away in the future and is now two years gone. These Polaroids were taken by Sean Young during filming are an incredible time capsule and snapshot of the past/ future.
Friday, 22 January 2021
Making it to the end of the week feels like some kind of small achievement- the darkest time of the year, the virus rampaging around us and a long way to go before we start to come out of this can make everything feel a bit hopeless at the moment. Take your victories where you can. It's Friday, another week chalked off. Dub always improves things, always lightens the load.
In 1980 The Scientist released his first album, The Best Dub Album In The World. Scientist, real name Hopeton Brown, grew up loving electronics and landed a job at King Tubby's Kingston studio (Tubby would have celebrated his 80th birthday next week had he lived). Scientist worked his way up through the ranks and in 1980 put out his modestly titled debut album, recorded with Sly and Robbie on the bass and the drums at Channel One and then mixed at Tubby's. The bass and drums are perfect throughout, the bubbling bass rhythms playing off against the splashy cymbals and rimshots. Organ comes and goes. Guitars are fed through FX units and sent spinning into space, all produced by a master of the art. Ten tracks, , nine of them under three minutes long but not feeling too short, and you can pick any one of them to demonstrate that the title of the record isn't far off. Try this one...
Thursday, 21 January 2021
In 2019 Jane Weaver reworked her Modern Kosmology album as Loops In The Secret Society. 2017's Modern Kosmology was brightly coloured, folky pop, full of slightly off kilter songs but undeniably perfectly constructed songs with choruses and hooks. In 2017 Jane and her band played the old Granada Studios building on Quay Street in Manchester (on Youtube here) a thirty- five minute set of songs from Modern Kosmology. If you've got half an hour to spare Jane's motorik, folk tinged psyche pop is as good a way to spend it as any and the performances here are stellar.
Loops In The Secret Society was a different kind of record, a more experimental album, the layers of instruments stripped away, dusk (or dawn possibly) settling over the daylight songs of the previous album. There were lovely short tracks of ambient and found sound, whirring and clicking rhythms, Radiophonic Orchestra sounds and repetitive, meditative, psychedelic songs and new versions of songs from Modern Kosmology.
The version of H>A>K on Loops In The Secret Society is a skeletal, murky reworking, deconstructed to a throbbing synth sound and Jane's voice, FX sending the vocal juddering into space, and then a very West German drumbeat pushing it on.
Found Birds is one of several shorter tracks, sketches and impressionistic pieces built from layers of sounds- hums, drones, static, synth ghosts...
Jane's new album, Flock, is out in March, ten songs long and promised to be 'day- glo pop... produced on a complicated diet of bygone Lebanese torch songs, 1980s Russian Aerobics records, and Australian Punk', which definitely sounds like something to look forward. A single came out last October called The Revolution Of Super Visions (video here). I skipped past it a bit at the time and that was my loss because is more excellence from Jane, with more than a dash of Prince- shaped funk added to the super- powered psyche pop. Now there's a second tune out ahead of the album, a song called Heartflow- dreamy, swirly, slightly esoteric folk- psyche with a beautiful video by Douglas Hart. You can order Flock from Bandcamp.
Wednesday, 20 January 2021
Monkey Mafia put this out in 1998, a 12" single in 1998, a downtempo, after hours reading of a 60s classic with squelchy bass, a slow, dusty beat with scratchy, smoky vibe and the voice of Shirzelle. I bought it at the time and find myself coming being drawn back to it now and then. Adrian Sherwood remixed it, bringing the dub influences to the fore and adding his own special brew. It's a gorgeous dub mix of an already lovely cover.
And then when I considered everything it seemed that this was also a perfect song for today, a song I'd like to offer to all my friends and the friends of this blog who live in the U.S.A. and to mark the end of what for a lot of them has been a four year waking nightmare, that to some extent is coming to an end today.
'Put a candle in the window/ 'Cause I feel I've got to move/ Though I'm going, going/ I'll be coming home soon/ Long as I can see the light'
Tuesday, 19 January 2021
A cosmic, psychedelic lullaby from Cheval Sombre- you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by this. A little bit of the 'it's 2am and you're still up thinking things through' feeling, fragile but out there too. The acoustic guitar motif circles round and round gently as Cheval sings softly. The video- two sunsets side by side- is quite something too. Produced by Sonic Boom and from an album out at the end of February called Time Waits For No One. It's Not Time is here and below.
Monday, 18 January 2021
I found this on Twitter at the weekend, a three track release by The Leaf Library (about whom I know nothing except they are from North London and make what they describe as 'looping drone pop and occasional space rock'). The opening track, Glass Factory, is made from a field recording in September 2020 of the Fornace Mian glass workshop in Venice by band member Stuart Fowkes. There is noise from the factory, glass being made and blown and whatever else they do in a glass workshop, the voices of the workers, a thumping rhythm which may be a machine from the workshop but sounds like a drum, some twinkling melodies and a lovely hazy drift, nine minutes of it. At points the voices sound like they could be singing or it could be sounds layered over the voices, all shaped into an ambient/ found sound blur. Get it at Bandcamp. The second track, Glass Version, is a little longer, more ambient and doesn't have the thump of the rhythm. The third, Factory Version, is the reverse- the thumping sound, the heartbeat of the glass factory, pumping on and some repetitive rhythmic noises, clattering machines, steam or gas being exhaled and in the background behind the rhythm the return of the melody. It's all very impressionistic but also weirdly specific.
Sunday, 17 January 2021
Mogwai's habit of having one sky- scraping, yearning, wall of guitars with a Hooky- esque bassline and singing per new album continues. Ritchie Sacramento is all of these things and more- just like Party In The Dark (from Every Country's Sun) and We're Not Done (off their soundtrack to Kin) were.
The new album, out in February and called As The Love Continues, also keeps up their strike rate of superb song titles- To The Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth is the standout but Fuck Off Money and It's What We Wanna Do, Mum run it close. They get better and better and there aren't many guitar bands who have been releasing records since 1997 you can say that about.
Saturday, 16 January 2021
David Holmes recently returned to NTS radio for a two hour show in his God's Waiting Room series and it proves to be just what the doctor ordered, a much needed tonic or dealing with lockdown in January- two hours of optimistic, drifting, reflective music. As well as the vague Balearic wooziness of Hyson Green, the spaced out cosmic boogie of Rose City Band and the dub splendour of Scientist and Jonah Dan there are two remixes of a forthcoming release from Ian Weatherall and Duncan Grey. Ian is the brother of Andrew. Ian and Duncan's cover of New Order's In A Lonely Place is set to come out on 17th February, the first anniversary of Andrew's death. There are two versions of it in God's Waiting Room, one remixed by Keith Tenniswood and one by Holmes himself- both are beautiful and the cover version also pays tribute to the importance of early Factory Records on a young Andrew and Ian- Factory's experiment at being a Marxist record company based in the north, their art over commerce attitude, uncommercial nature and ground-breaking design. There's a Holmes remix of French beatniks The Liminanas, some gorgeous pedal steel ambient psychedelia from Luke Schneider and at the end the most heartbreaking but uplifting, unreleased track from Woodleigh Research Facility, a celestial, violin led, electronic opus.
This is one of the two Luke Schneider tracks, Anteludium, from an album called Altar of Harmony.
Friday, 15 January 2021
Bicep's second album Isles is imminent and this new song just came out ahead of it, a simmering, slow burn piece of 21st century dance music. Sundial is built around a faulty Jupiter 6 arp and a vocal sample from a 1973 Bollywood film, sung by Asha Bhosle. For all the euphoria of Bicep's music, all the peaks and builds, there's also a sadness to it, the melancholic flipside of hedonism. They know nothing lasts forever and that the night always comes to an end. At the moment, given the state we're in, it's almost too much- there is no night out, no communal dancing, no shared moments- but they also manage to offer the promise of better days ahead.
Thursday, 14 January 2021
Three more mores. The High came out of Manchester in 1990, four men with their backgrounds in various previous groups (not least drummer Chris Goodwin who was in an early version of Inspiral Carpets and guitarist Andy Couzens who left The Stone Roses when manager Gareth Evans convinced Squire and Brown that the song writing should be credited to them alone). The High's debut album Somewhere Soon and the singles that surrounded it were all fine fare, Byrdsian guitars, swirling 1990 rhythms and the clear voice of singer John Matthews. A year later they released More..., the lead song from a four track EP that should have taken them to the next level, it's chiming guitars and sweet singing were ready made for the charts and some music press front covers in 1991 but it all fell apart.
From a decade earlier, The Clash and the unmistakeable voice and influence of Mikey Dread on Sandinista! One More Dub is the second half of the righteous rock- reggae song One More Time with the rhythm section of Simonon and Headon proving they've mastered the dub swing. One More Dub closed side two of the six sides of Sandinista!, a perfectly paced, pitched and sequenced side of vinyl- Rebel Waltz is one of the group's lesser known gems. Look Here is a bizarro world cover of Mose Allison' modern jazz. Then comes Paul Simonon's The Crooked Beat, his writing contribution to the album, a superb bassline and spoken/ sung vocals about South London blues parties. After that we're into the screeching tyres and sweeping, breathless, sleek rock of Somebody Got Murdered and then the One More Time/ One More Dub double bill.
On their 1994 single Sour Times, one of the stand outs from their debut album Dummy, Portishead presented three new versions of the song. Lot More opens with some scratching and a vocal sample, one phrase borrowed from a Black Sheep record, before the bassline from Lalo Schifrin's Danube Incident kicks in and Beth Gibbons pours her heart out. There was a point in 1994 when everyone was listening to Portishead.
Wednesday, 13 January 2021
Some more more today, following Pink Floyd's More yesterday. First dose of more is from Iggy Pop, and his song I Need More from his album Soldier.
Released in 1980 Soldier was Iggy's fourth solo album, an album that doesn't have a great reputation but this song is a highlight. A clipped guitar riff, driving drums, somewhat murky sound and Iggy riding on top in good voice. Ex- Stooge James Williamson was supposed to be on board for producing but walked out after disagreeing with Bowie (who was hanging around, helping Iggy out). Glen Matlock, at a loose end himself after the Pistols broke up and flitting between various bands and projects that didn't come to much, came in to co- write and play. He suggested that the final mix had a lot of the lead guitar removed by Bowie (following an argument between guitarist Steve New and the Thin White Duke over girlfriend Patti Palladin, that ended in New punching Bowie). The lack of squealing lead guitar doesn't do this song any harm in fact, keeps it grungy. Simple Minds turn up on Soldier as well, providing backing vocals on Play It Safe. They were recording at Rockfield at the same time. Iggy's 80s albums are patchy in quality but I Need More is good stuff. I Need More was also the title of Iggy's 1982 autobiography, out of print and currently very expensive second hand.
A few years earlier, 1976, Can released a single called I Want More, a song that gave them a hit and took them to Top Of The Pops. The B-side was an extension of the A- side, Jaki Liebezeit at the krautrock disco, the bass and sparse guitar licks dancing around the rhythm, the whole group breathily chanting the title. Superbly funky stuff.
Tuesday, 12 January 2021
I have a long standing dislike of Pink Floyd, dating back to the 1980s. At university between 1988 and 1991 a friend convinced me to give the Syd Barrett stuff a go and I conceded some ground, but on the whole I was firmly against everything else. I'm not entirely sure of the reasons- in the 80s they seemed too wrapped up in the whole compact disc, old guard, polished, tasteful coffee table, guitar solo world. I have never taken to Dave Gilmour's voice- it grates on me like fingernails down a blackboard. A pub we used to frequent in Liverpool while at university used to play Money every night at closing time- ponderous, over the top, post- hippy nonsense. What else irritated me about them? The album titles like A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. The Wall. The Dark Side Of The Moon (and everything about it's 'classic' status). Middle aged men in tour t- shirts and bad leather jackets proclaiming the Floyd as 'real' music unlike [insert band name here] which was 'made by machines' or 'played by people who can't play'. It all seemed ridiculous to me and the antithesis of what was good/ real about music. People would tell me to try Atom Heart Mother or A Saucerful Of Secrets or Meddle, tell me they'd be right up my street, they'd fit in with my love of The Orb and similar.
I still have these prejudices deep inside me. But here's a Pink Floyd song (from after Syd Barrett left the group too).
An instrumental, experimental piece, very splashy cymbals and some wheezy organ, slowly building and atmospheric and then some driving drums, the sounds panning from left to right, some drones and piano and a guitar picking it's way in. Lovely late 60s inner space travel vibes.
In 1969 Pink Floyd were asked to provide the soundtrack to a film called More. Set in Ibiza, the story of a hitchhiker, parties, drug use and abuse, director Barbet Schroeder wanted the music to be integral tot he scenes, not just the backing music. This was the group's first album since Syd left and they worked it out quickly, semi- improvising and recording live to a stopwatch to match the length of the film's scenes, no overdubs. I still struggle with Pink Floyd but this is one I'll happily listen to every night as the pub called last orders. If going to a pub ever happens again.
Monday, 11 January 2021
In 2013 James Murphy, the LCD Soundsystem man I posted about last week, got his hands on one of the songs from Bowie's comeback album The Next Day. He cut and looped some clapping from a Steve Reich track, sampled the synth from Ashes To Ashes and created a monumental remix, minimal, sleek and modern. Bowie sounds superb too, back in touch and vital, 'your country's new... but your fear is as old as the world'. The full ten minute version is the one you want obviously, a long remix that you don't really want to come to an end.
The Next Day was trailed by Where Are We Now?, Bowie's nostalgic tribute to the years he spent in Berlin in the mid 1970s. He recorded it (and the whole album) in secret in autumn 2011 and released the single onto the internet without fanfare on his 66th birthday. 'Had to get the train from Potsdamer Platz/ You never knew that I could do that', he croons, a man looking back at his youth, 'just walking the dead'. Time passes, everyone ages, nothing stays the same. The Berlin of 1975 and the Berlin of 2011 are as different as a city could be. David Bowie of 2011 was not the same man he was in 1975. And though he and we didn't know it then, he had just five years left, almost exactly to the day.
Sunday, 10 January 2021
Back in Lockdown Two I put together a second mix for Tak Tent Radio, an internet radio station based in Scotland who broadcast my first mix for them back in October (here). The second one, which I cleverly titled Tak Tent Two, went live yesterday. It is an hour of instrumental sounds, ambient, Balearic, minimal techno, shoegaze whatnot- which is pretty much where my musical head has been for the last year.
Tak Tent Two is here. Hopefully it might enhance your Sunday morning in Lockdown Three.
- Death Circuit: Strom Dub
- Jose Padilla: Agua
- Richard Norris: Cloud Surfing
- Richard Fearless: Driving With Rodelius
- Pye Corner Audio: Phase B
- Future Beat Alliance: Beginner’s Mind
- Joe Morris: Firefly Island (Gallo Isola Acida Mix)
- The Long Champs: Straight To Audio
- Apiento and Co: The Light Machine
- Andy Bell: Heat Haze On Weyland Road
Saturday, 9 January 2021
On New Year's Day Brother Joseph's Sonic Treasures radio show featured two special long form pieces from Nina Walsh's Facility 4 (the recording home of Woodleigh Research Facility, the musical vehicle of her and Andrew Weatherall in recent years). These two pieces were lined up to be played on Weatherall's Music's Not For Everyone but in February tragedy intervened, took Andrew away and the monthly radio with him. The first piece, C-Pij01 Facility 4 Day, is an hour of wonderful ambient wash, a combination of harmonium, synth, flute, cello, guitar, viola and trumpet and some voices (played by Nina, Franck Alba, Anita Hurst, Chris Cornetto and Marcos Alegria- this line up includes the players on Andrew Weatherall's Convenanza album as well as the W.R.F. records and I don't know for sure but I wouldn't be surprised if the Fort Beulah N.U. project is to be found within it's ranks too).
Day can be found at Soundcloud here.
The second part, Night, is two and a half hours long, introduced by Brother Joseph and then fading into distortion and noise, echoes and bangs before a song starts to take shape, guitar chords. Then back to ambient sound, FX and washes, drones and voices coming through the mist and the wandering trumpet floating on top. After an hour and ten minutes it dissolves, Brother Joseph returns and then the guitar/ bass/ drums kick back in, an 80s post- punk bassline with a lovely synth topline... and then there's more, twists and turns, musical sections mixed together, one segueing into another. Magical.
Night can be found at Soundcloud here.
Nina and Andrew's monthly Woddleigh Research Facility e.p. releases finished at the end of December. The final one was a single track, twenty three minutes long, called A Walk With Bill and Bob, Vol. 4. It's a trippy, experimental sound collage, almost a megamix- a drum machine intro with some bursts of static and a dippy synthline. A lovely Peter Hook- esque bassline. Some woodwind and dislocated voices. Various vaguely familiar sounding motifs surface- some of the elements from Andrew's Moton 5 e.p. appear and then disappear again. The drum machine keeps pushing onwards, 'in the here and now'.
Friday, 8 January 2021
When I posted Islands by The xx earlier this week I said how surprised I was that their debut album as now twelve years old. Music from the 2010s is now well over a decade old. LCD Soundsystem's Sound Of Silver came out in 2006, fifteen years ago. Eventually James Murphy's outfit seemed to be presented with so may layers of knowing irony and hip references that it became difficult to take them at face value. Even on Sound Of Silver, an album with some genuinely breath-taking moments, the Lou Reed pastiche of New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down was almost too much. This song though was a perfect piece of dancefloor punk- funk, a smart marriage of Talking Heads and The Fall for the 21st century.
Starting with what sounds like someone accidentally holding down several keys at the same time and a banging, jerky drumbeat Murphy goes onto satirise his country and European views of it. It explodes several times, Nancy Wang's backing vocals sound superb and after an intense few minutes comes to a very sudden stop.
Edit: I wrote this post, the two paragraphs above and the title, before the insurrection in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. Aspects of the post could take on a new meaning in light of what happened. As shocking as the TV coverage was, it also seemed grimly inevitable that Trump's rule would end like this: refusal to accept or acknowledge facts; violence from his supporters, whipped up by Trump and his family and by members of the Republican Party who have enabled him at every turn. Nothing shows tin pot dictators up quite like the manner of their departure. Mussolini ended up hanging from by his ankles. Saddam was hiding in a hole in the ground. Trump has appeared smaller and smaller in recent weeks as power has ebbed away from him. People have scoffed at use of the word fascist to describe him and his politics, as if it's an exaggeration or an over reaction. I don't think there can be any doubt now.
Thursday, 7 January 2021
While searching for Islands by The xx for yesterday's post I found Islands by Seahawks, two minutes of gorgeous, ambient balm. It was the last track on their 2014 Paradise Freaks album, and could easily be three or four times as long but it's a lovely to way for the album to drift out on.
Another island- in 1989 Joe Strummer, dismayed and adrift after the break up of The Clash, recorded an album in Los Angeles with a band that became known as Latino Rockabilly War. Earthquake Weather is a couple of songs too long, the production and the mix are a mess in places, some of the playing is unsympathetic (some of Zander Schloss's guitar playing grates on me), Joe's voice is low in the mix- a lack of confidence in the material maybe- but there are some good songs hidden inside the album's grooves. Island Hopping is one of them, proof that Joe hadn't entirely lost his talent or his inspiration. A laid back, tropical tune with catgut guitar strings and percussion and Joe singing about escaping to a simpler life.
Wednesday, 6 January 2021
It seems incredible that The xx's debut album is now twelve years old. It was one of those albums that grew in stature, slowly but steadily, and then in the 2010s everyone seemed to be trying to copy their sound. They definitely found a new angle on things, sleek indie songs with electronica's beats and space, nods to hip hop and the influence of some of the post- punk groups- Young Marble Giants and Cocteau Twins are both in there somewhere. Portishead too. The sparse, minimal arrangements, the sharp, clearly defined space that surrounds everything, Jamie Xx's laptop foundations and the foreground basslines with the spindly guitar lines that dance around plus Romy and Oliver's duetted vocals, all came together to make something that was fresh and new and for a sound that was so digital was very intimate and personal too. This song was a single and a perfect snapshot of what made them so good.
As a bonus, this is a Four Tet remix of another song from their debut album, VCR, a showcase for Kieran's skittery beats and topline melodies, a gorgeous eight minute re- working, that makes them sound like him and him like them.
Last year Romy put out a solo single, a throbbing, electric ode to 80s synthesisers and summer holiday Europop, a button pushing euphoric blast of future nostalgia. Stick this on and make that lockdown disappear for a few minutes.
Tuesday, 5 January 2021
Back in the lockdown again. Too late (again), blame the variant rather than accept you've made mistakes. More U- turns, schools closed to most children less than twenty four hours after the Prime Minister assuring us schools are safe. The price now has to be paid for all those Christmas shopping trips and parties. Grim. The whole thing is grim.
Fontaines D.C., a five piece post- punk sounding band of young men from Dublin with an undeniably poetic take on lyric writing have been hailed by some people as the saviours of rock 'n' roll. I'm not sure that's true- but then I'm not sure anyone is ever going to be 'the saviours of rock 'n' roll' again. That whole shebang seems so last century don't you think? I haven't heard all of their songs from either of their albums but I did hear this one last year and loved it.
You could be reductionist and say they've just slowed the riff to Last Nite by The Strokes down (which in turn was the riff to Tom Petty's American Girl) but that sort of thing doesn't really matter. The riff is done well, the drums thump, the production is grainy and close up and the vocals are attention grabbing and dramatic. I'm also a sucker for songs which aim to give advice. After telling us several times over that riff that 'life ain't always empty' Grian Chatten offers the following-
'Don't get stuck in the past
Say your favourite things at mass
Tell your mother that you love her
And go out of your way for others
Sit beneath a light that suits ya
And look forward to a brighter future
Sink as far down as you can be pulled up
Happiness really ain't all about luck
Let your demeanor be your deep down self
And don't sacrifice your life for your health
When you speak, speak sincere
And believe me friend, everyone will hear'
Nicely specific and homely wisdom for a man barely out of his teens. Chatten says they are 'a list of rules for the self'.
Completely different in tone and presentation but offering more advice for the listener is this from 1997, a song I wasn't much struck with at the time but which has grown on me over the years. Everyone's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann. In it's original form, an article by American columnist Mary Schmich, it acknowledges from the start that 'advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young' but goes on to offer it anyway.
Monday, 4 January 2021
In 1982 New Order were emerging into becoming a new band, something distinctly different from Joy Division. Stephen Morris writes about the period in the second volume of his autobiography and even at all this distance you can see it was a painful period for them. In the wake of Ian Curtis' death, unsure of what they should do and how to carry on, the only thing they really decided was that they should carry on. Stephen mentions how he became uncomfortable with some of the New Order's fan base, the ones who expected them to be a grieving version of Joy Division, and the initial stirrings of the Ian Curtis death cult. Stephen became immersed in new technology, Bernard was interested in electronics and began to receive disco and electro records in the post from Factory's man in Berlin mark Reeder and manager Rob Gretton suggested that Gillian should join the band. Bernard had 'won' the singing contest and was New Order's vocalist but was clearly not comfortable in the rile. They also decided to jettison Martin Hannett as producer. None of these were easy but they continued to feel their way through.
In 1982 they managed to sync up the new technology, marry it to a burst of song writing and cut thorough the gloom with Temptation- a record that sounds like a rebirth, a band who have thrown off the overcoats and embrace something sunnier. Temptation, especially in it's 12" form, is one of their finest moments- possibly their finest- a euphoric and massively affecting song, the four members riding on top of their new sound, released and set free. The B-side is less well known but cut from the same cloth and recorded at the same time. Originally titled Cramp, eventually christened Hurt, is it a superb eight minute song. It starts with a vocodered 'one- two- three- four', a nod to Kraftwerk perhaps, and then a hammering rhythm from the drum machine. Hooky's instantly recognisable lead bass takes up the melody line and some keyboards join in before the crunch at just after a minute and Bernard starts singing. The lyrics were a group effort, partly the result of a Burroughs/ Bowie cut up approach.. For the first time on this song and the A-side Bernard sounds like he is relatively content with being the voice, a little more confident, the whoops appearing alongside his melodica. The sequencer line at four minutes fifty is a joy, the disco elements pushing their way to the fore. Hurt is more rhythmic and heavier than Temptation, which shimmers, but is still imbued with feeling alive along with some of their typical surliness and defiance. Suddenly they sound less like they're touching from a distance, more in touch with themselves.
Sunday, 3 January 2021
This came out in 2019 and came my way a few months ago. Impermanence is the title track from a six song EP, three original songs and three remixes. I don't know much about Nhii- the Bandcamp page mentions Morocco and the record label Shango is based in Greece but says it has roots in Cairo, Bombay, Tangiers and Ghana and uses the phrase 'Electronic Afrotropicalismo' as it's header. Nhii may be from Egypt, the instruments and arrangements sound North African but are according to the Bandcamp bio 'an unheard world music psychedelic trip'. On Youtube Nhii is said to be 'a bottomless journey of musical growth with no boundaries in a universal context... borderless powerful yet emotional electronic world music'. Outward looking, crossing borders, tripped out, hypnotic and very good, just the ticket as this country closes the door. Buy the whole EP here.
Saturday, 2 January 2021
A year ago today Andrew Weatherall took over the controls at the NTS radio shack in Hackney for the first of his monthly shows of 2020, two hours to ease our way into the new year. We didn't know it at the time but it would turn out to be his penultimate show. There was little in the way of talk during the course of the show, just a perfectly stitched together two hours of instrumental, ambient, drone based music, music to 'dust the ornaments on the mantlepiece of your mind' as the man himself puts it. In fact, Andrew's introduction from the first thirty seconds of the programme is better than any other introduction...
'Welcome to the Temple of Gnostic Sonics... today's programme is a little bit different, it's a ritual designed to help you reflect and re- arm your psychic weaponry for the battles ahead... so if you'll don your ceremonial robes and headgear, we'll let the ritual commence...'
Music from Prana Crafter, Vito Ricci, G.S. Schray, Machete Savane, Anu Luz, Luke Sanger, Karen Gwyer, Neptune, Steven Legget, Ana Bogner, Constantine and Christos Sakellaridis, Felsmann and Tiley, Dream Diary, Terry Riley and Don Cherry, Ryan Teague, D.A.R.F.D.H.S., Luca Barchetti and Daryl Parsons (whose track titled Floating Landscape is a pretty good description of the sounds contained within too). The full tracklist is here.
Friday, 1 January 2021
This blog is eleven years old today. Somehow I had the presence of mind to start it on New Year's Day which makes remembering when it's birthday is easy even if some years I've been a tad fuzzy headed when waking up to it. Not so much of a problem today.
Back in November I posted 11 Years by The Wolfgang Press (a pair of Sabres Of Paradise remixes of their song) so there's not much point posting them again so soon. I've got this pair of elevens instead, the first from Pete Wylie in 1987, a soaring, anthemic love song with it's roots way back in the blues and the slums of New York in the late 19th century
This one is the so called Eleventh Untitled Song from R.E.M.'s major label debut Green back in 1989. The musicians swapped instruments for this, Pete Buck playing drums and drummer Bill Berry playing guitar. Stipe sings his heart out, a song about missing someone while being away. It's simple and direct and one of their most affecting songs.
Happy new year.