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Wednesday 31 March 2021

Strange World

It turns out that Ghent, Belgium is the actual centre of the dance/ Balearic/ electronic/ indie/ disco world, the place where all the lines converge. Rheinzand, a trio from that town, made one of last year's best albums, a cross pollinating, shiny, slinky record, vivid, alive and brightly coloured that pushed all the right buttons and sounds equally good played through headphones while walking, in the car while commuting or on your home stereo system at volume. Strange World is a builder, growly and insistent with some Spaghetti Western whistling and a red hot slow motion glow. 

Strange World

A four track remix EP came out recently with four different songs from the album tackled by four different, sympathetic remixes- Hardway Bros, Red Axes, In Flagranti and Richard Sen. Sen's version of Strange World is here at Bandcamp, a ten minute odyssey built around an acid house sequencer and drum machine, making the song more streamlined but just as out there. Bells ring, strings swoop, the bassline hypnotises, drums pad away.

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Do Yourself Some Good

On the whole I think James Lavelle's Unkle project has promised a lot and not always delivered- albums in the late 90s and 2000s often seemed weighed down by their multitude of guest stars and a bit overcooked. The latest version of Unkle have set this song loose and it's a groovy treat, with rolling drums and bass, cowbell, sirens and samples and a vocal that seems to have arrived via time travel from a 70s soul/ funk film soundtrack. A return to the sounds and styles Mo Wax was built around in the early- mid 90s. 

This Unkle remix of Folk Implosion's Natural One is a dusty 1996 throwback, pockmarked with some very 1990s scratching. Lou Barlow was kicked out of Dinosaur Jr, a toxic relationship with J Mascis being too much for all concerned. Lou formed Sebadoh and then Folk Implosion as a side project. The inclusion of Natural One on the soundtrack to the film Kids gave him a hit. 

Natural One (Unkle Remix)

Monday 29 March 2021

Monday's Long Song

I think it was The Swede who determined that for a song to be considered long it should be over six minutes in length. This new one from Herrmann Kristoferson is six minutes and seven seconds so sneaks in but regardless of length it is a moody and elegiac piece of music. Gone Gold is the title track from an album due out in April, beautifully put together, all subtle rhythms, pulsing synths and serene strings. It's very good indeed. 

Herrmann Kristoferson are an ambient techno duo from Germany and Denmark, Daniel Herrmann and Kristina Kristoferson. They made the album remotely during Covid restrictions, inspired by computer games of the past, Nintendo Gameboys and Multi User Dungeons. The limited edition cassette of the album has sold out (I 'm not sure music like this is best served by that format) but the digital release is at Bandcamp. Three minutes and thirty seconds longer than Gone Gold is a remix by GLOK (Andy Bell, a repeat postee here in recent times), yet another piece of evidence that Andy Bell is in a musical purple patch. Bass and hissing synths and more of those strings pulling at the heartstrings. The GLOK remix is only available on the digital version of the album. Find it here

Sunday 28 March 2021

Along The Rusty Ribbon

Sally Rodgers and Steve Jones of A Man Called Adam have put together a mix for Caught By The River, forty minutes of music and found sounds inspired by walking along the Teesside coastline, a place where land, beach, the North Sea and post- industrial Britain rub up against each other. Field recordings of the sea, ambient music, Nordic folk songs, some downtempo dance music and a bit of classic northern indie from New Order in 1983. Sally's words and mix are at Caught By The River and Along The Rusty Ribbon is at Mixcloud too, a really evocative and immersive way to spend three quarters of an hour. 

Saturday 27 March 2021

Well It's Hard

Cheval Sombre's album Time Waits For No One came out in February, a Sonic Boom produced collection of after hours psychedelic folk songs. There's a companion album coming out in May called Days Go By, again produced by Sonic Boom (who also contributes keyboards and processing) and this wasted, dreamy sparse folk song has just come out in advance of it. The strings that come in and take over for the last couple of minutes are especially sublime. 

Friday 26 March 2021

Sunny On The Inside

Friday has arrived, once again like it always does, but it feels like it's worth celebrating. I finish work for two weeks today, some much needed time away from it. There are so many things going on there at the moment that it's impossible to know where to begin. The shift from teaching online to teaching back in the classroom, with the mass testing of over a thousand teenagers and then re- integrating them back into classrooms and routines, plus all the ongoing discussions about how grades are going to be awarded, has been hard work. It's clear that for many of them extended periods in lockdown and time out of social situations has had a big impact. Some time away from everything is what everyone needs. 

I came off my bike last weekend. Cycling along a country lane near Tatton Park I hit a pothole and was on the tarmac before I had time to do anything about it. The right hand side of my body hit the ground, knee first, then hip, shoulder and ankle. Apologies if you're not good with blood but this is what my knee looked like when I got home. 

Luckily my bike was fine- I cunningly cushioned it with my body- so I was able to cycle home, blood dripping down my leg. When I cleaned it up it wouldn't stop bleeding so I went to A and E and was treated, grit washed out of the wound, X- rays done as a precaution and steri- strips applied to close the wound (the nurse said that she couldn't stitch it as the wound was too jagged and I'd left too much of the skin somewhere on the road in Cheshire). I have been hobbling round all week as a result. Several people have pointed out that they told me that exercise is dangerous and one family member asked me if I should be doing these things at my age. 

So that's the status updates from my life. The clocks go forward this weekend and there has been the occasional bit of blue sky. The sun came out once or twice. From Monday we're allowed to have people in our gardens. Maybe things are looking up (I'm aware that as I type these words the words 'third wave' are becoming a media currency). Ten years ago Glass Candy, an Oregon duo made up of Johnny Jewel and Ida No, released their Italo- disco single Warm In The Winer, a giddy, ecstatic, endorphin rush of a record. Over some euphoric, Moroder- esque arpeggiated synthlines singer Ida coos about 'love in the air' and being 'sunny on the inside/ Crazy like a monkey (ee ee ooh ooh!!)/ Happy like a new year'. A more uplifting and life affirming song you will not hear today. 

Warm In The Winter

Thursday 25 March 2021

All Of My Senses

More heartfelt music from the American leftfield today- the terms indie and alternative rock don't seem to underplay these artists and their songs but I guess that's roughly where R.E.M., Rose City Band and Grant Hart sit. In 1989 Grant Hart, drummer, singer and songwriter in Husker Du  was fresh from a band break up that involved among other factors drug abuse, the suicide of their manager David Savoy and a complete communication breakdown between Hart and Bob Mould. Grant was first to release a solo album, Intolerance, in 1989. The album is organic sounding, all instruments played by Grant- organs, handclaps, rolling drums, harmonica, splashy cymbals as well as guitars, a world away from the buzzsaw wall of noise and speed of Husker Du. Intolerance is personal and confessional, littered with references to addiction, broken relationships, regret and loss. Album opener All Of My Senses blasts off with distorted, howling voices before a 60s organ part and handclaps drone into earshot and Grant's wracked voice takes the lead. 

All Of My Senses  

She Can See The Angels Coming has droney church organ, cymbals and Grant singing a moving lament for a dying girl. 

She Can See The Angels Coming

Grant died of cancer in 2017 and would have turned sixty a few days ago (18th March) had he lived. His post- Husker Du work is far less well known and covered than Bob Mould and Grant often seemed to have been handed the shitty end of the stick after the split- but Intolerance and the rest of his solo work is well worth seeking out. 

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Lonely Places

My love of Ripley Johnson's excursions is well documented here with Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips making multiple appearances. Ripley's third ongoing musical outlet is Rose City Band, a chilled, choogly, cosmic country outfit. He's written and recorded a new album called Earth Trip, a response to lockdown and the changes Covid brought to all of us. Ripley rediscovered the joy of nature and of being outside, reconnecting with the simple pleasures- hiking, walking in the wide open spaces (wider and more open in the West Coast of the USA than here in North West England admittedly). Lonely Places is here

There are two previous Rose City Band albums, a self titled one from 2019 and Summerlong from 2020, both full of blissed out songs, 70s grooves, nimble guitar lines and a kind of melancholic euphoria, country & psychedelia. This one from the debut back is a very spaced out affair with a guitar part beamed in from a Crazy Horse record and a beatific, stoned haze. You get the feeling it could easily have gone on much, much longer. 

Fog Of Love

Tuesday 23 March 2021

A Must!

I got into R.E.M. in 1987 or '88 and then was able to swallow the IRS years whole and rapidly- the run of albums from Murmur to Life's Rich Pageant seemed cheap at the time so their back catalogue came at me in rush and I can't remember the exact order I bought them but I think it as something like this- Document first, then Reckoning before Murmur (which is the wrong way round obviously) and then Life's Rich Pageant, the B-sides compilation Dead Letter Office, a treasure trove of oddities and offcuts, followed by Fables Of The Reconstruction. Reckoning made a deep impression on me, the beautiful chiming guitar lines and riffing, Stipe's unintelligible, enigmatic and strange lyrics, Mike Mills' bass playing and the backing vocals from Mills and Billy Berry, all wrapped around some really strong songs, moving, melancholy odes to people and places in the USA in the mid 1980s, a world away from the USA we saw on the TV- Ronald Reagan, Miami Vice, Hollywood films about Vietnam, Moonlighting, shady government activities in Central America on the news. R.E.M.'s songs were about small towns called Rockville, how Stipe would rather be a camera and letters he never sent, central rain and second guessing. Poetic and full of yearning but countered by the powerful Byrdsy/ indie punch of the band. 

On  Dead Letter Office  you can find the song Voice Of Harold, the music from Reckoning's 7 Chinese Brothers but with a completely different vocal and lyrics. The story goes that producer Mitch Dixon was struggling to get a usable vocal recording from Stipe, who was burned out from the constant touring and a diffident and reclusive person in the studio. Dixon became increasingly frustrated about Stipe singing so quietly he couldn't be heard on the tape, climbed a ladder above the vocal booth and dropped an album in that happened to be in the studio- the album was a gospel record from the 1970s called The Joy Of Knowing Jesus by The Revelaires. Stipe began reciting and singing the liner notes and then warmed up and inspired he went on to record the vocal for 7 Chinese Brothers. 

Voice Of Harold is one of my favourite R.E.M. songs, there's so much mystery and plain oddness about the words and Stipe's phrasing of them. Back in 1987/ 88 they made as little sense as anything could and still sounded so full of importance. The liner notes of The Joy Of Knowing Jesus are a puffed up promo piece, extolling the virtues of the singers not least the 'pure tenor quality of the voice of Harold Montgomery', and 'the power of [the album] to mend a broken heart or straighten out your life through the sincere testimony in the songs of The Revelaires/ A must!' Stipe sings the words like his life depend on them, pouring his heart into them and as a result unlocking something he wasn't able to before. 

The granddaughter of Harold Montgomery is fairly active on various internet forums. It seems at first the family were unhappy with the release of Voice Of Harold but have come to terms with it over the years and now sell vinyl copies of the album for hundreds of dollars a copy. 

Voice Of Harold

After singing Voice Of Harold Stipe sang 7 Chinese Brothers, a song that made no more sense to me lyrically aged seventeen or eighteen than Harold did. I was always into the words/lyrics/ poems but with R.E.M. the meaning of individual lines or entire songs never seemed to matter that much, the stream of consciousness/ babble/ imagery could be taken at face value, a wash of words coming out of the speakers that went with the music. It sounded like Stipe meant whatever he was singing and that was enough. The opening line of 7 Chinese Brothers was arresting if ungrammatical (not that that mattered), 'the smell of sweet, short haired boy/ woman offers pull up a seat' but after that it was anyone's guess. No internet lyric sites to help out. Michael has since explained that the song is about a couple he broke up and then dated both halves of, the boy and the girl. The chorus, the seven Chinese brothers part, is based on a children's book about five Chinese brothers, based on a traditional Chinese story. Each brother has a different supernatural ability, one of them the power to swallow an ocean. This greed leads to his death- I guess Stipe finds a parallel between the greed of the brother and his own greed in wanting both of the couple he broke up. 

7 Chinese Brothers

Reckoning stills sounds really special to me, ten songs that whizz by in a blur, pulling at the heartstrings and reminding me of the teenager I was. I don't think it's my favourite R.E.M. album or their best- of the albums from their early IRS years  Murmur has an even deeper sense of mystery and is full of all the things that made them so special. Fables Of The Reconstruction has songs that I still find beguiling and I love it's murk and muddy edge. Life's Rich Pageant is rousing and less oblique, full of mini- anthems for outsiders. But it's got something that marks it out, an energy formed by being a good band constantly playing live coupled with confident songwriting and playing and a genuinely brilliant singer finding his voice. 

Monday 22 March 2021

Monday's Long Song

William Orbit's career took him from early 80s synth act Torch Song to a wonderful album in 1990 as Bass- O- Matic and a series of solo albums titled Strange Cargo (I, II and III). After that he moved into production and remixes for the big players- Madonna, Prince, Britney et al. Strange Cargo III in 1993 was a tour de force of Balearic and ambient dance- pop, layers of FX and chugging rhythms led by Water From A Vine Leaf (featuring the voice of Beth Orton), seven minutes of tropical rainforest/ electronic ambience. 

Water From A Vine Leaf

The Underworld remixes of Water From A Vine Leaf are superb but I've posted them before. This one is a throbbing, uptempo remix by Spooky, driving and bit trancey and none the worse for it.  

Water From A Vine Leaf (Xylem Flow Mix) 

Sunday 21 March 2021

The Rider On The Wheel

Nick Drake for Sunday morning, an ideal soundtrack for a slower start. Finger picked guitar, recorded close to the mic. The very English, resigned tone of his voice. The oblique lyrics- time passing, loss, dislocation, wheels, dogs, magic, meetings. This song, Rider On The Wheel, is my favourite of Nick's and seems to contain a recognition that his music hasn't found its audience in it's short running time, two minute and thirty seconds of English folk music in the mid 1970s. 

Rider On The Wheel first appeared on a 1987 compilation of lost songs, alternate versions and outtakes called Time Of No Reply, an album I bought on cassette unheard after reading a reading a review in Melody Maker. I've no idea why I bought it, it wasn't the sort of thing I was listening to at the time and I think it took some time for the songs to sink in and make sense to me. Rider On The Wheel is from the so- called 'final four' recordings, a quartet of songs recorded in February 1974 before his death from an anti- depressant overdose in November of that year. The 'doomed romanticism' of Nick Drake's short life, the songs (especially the folk songs), the failure of his albums to connect with the record buying public and depression can overshadow the songs and can make it difficult to hear his music on it's own terms. This one though, despite it's melancholy, I can listen to just as a song. 

Rider On The Wheel

Saturday 20 March 2021

Mystic Estelle

A Man Called Adam are releasing a second volume of oddities and rarities called Love Forgotten Part 2, an eighteen track digital compilation of remixes, dub versions, film commissions, a cover of Captain Beefheart, Andrew Weatherall's legendary Godiva remix of CPI and a collaboration with sadly missed South African singer Brenda Fassie. As a teaser they've put out an instrumental of the blissed out, Balearic beaut Estelle, a song that first saw the light of day in my household on the first volume of the Café del Mar compilation series back in 1995. The Mystic Beats instrumental foregrounds the children's voices, the jazzy brushed drumming and perfectly understated bass and piano, the sound of summer - or spring maybe- just around the corner. Buy Love Forgotten Oddities And Rarities Part 2 here

Friday 19 March 2021

It's Been So Long And We've Come So Far

This Friday last year was the day schools closed to all but a small number of children of key workers. I vividly remember taking our Year 11's final assembly and then sending them on their way, their last year cut short, no exams, no prom, no 'proper' leaving, the rites of passage truncated. Three days earlier our son Isaac had been told to begin shielding and that's where he's been ever since, cut off from the rest of the world. I remember feeling last March that we were in this for the long haul, that the school year was probably going to be seen out in lockdown (and biting my tongue when some of the kids suggested that they'd be back in a few weeks- some adults too seemed to think that three weeks lockdown would be enough to see Covid dealt with). But to be here a year later, still in lockdown, is still hard to fathom. A whole year. In this part of the country, apart from a brief spell last summer when the government paid people to go to restaurants and spread the virus, we've been living under some form of lockdown or tiering restrictions ever since. A year of living in lockdown has taken its toll on people in all sorts of ways but it also shows that people can adapt and get used to anything if we have to and that most people do see that in extreme times sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. 

I've kept up my habit of walking most evenings. Sometimes now there's still a bit of light in the sky, the dusk pushed back a little further every day. I noticed two nights ago while walking round in the dark that the blossom has suddenly appeared on the trees. I've started listening to music while walking. It's a good distraction- otherwise I just go over frustrations with work or whatever in my head and come back having had some exercise but not really feeling any mental benefit. Listening to music through headphones always adds a slightly cinematic feeling to walking, the music wrapped around your head like a personal soundtrack. This song by Ride came on in my headphones two nights ago and it floored me, the combination of guitars, waves of FX, the twin vocals and that drop out part, when everything falls away to just the grungy bassline. The lines, 'Always keep your eyes on the pulsar/ Guiding you home from wherever you are/ We're on our way home from another star/ It's been so long and we've come so far', were almost enough to move me to tears- the potency of pop music eh?


I can't think of any other bands who have reformed in middle age and who have done it as well as Ride. I wasn't too fussed about them first time around. I bought their debut EP and then a couple of others from the first shoegaze phase but lost interest after that. Their re- union hasn't been just for the payday, a jaunt around the heritage circuit playing the greatest hits. They've recorded two albums and several EPs/ singles that are better than the ones they made as young men- songs from Weather Dairies like Lannoy Point, All I Want and the superb lost summer shimmer of Cali, Pulsar and Cold Water People from Tomorrow's Shore and Future Love from This Is Not A Safe Place to list but a few. They've done it right- a sense of unfinished business, with age and experience and a determination not to get it wrong twice. 

Thursday 18 March 2021

The Route

A new release from a new pairing called ¡La Ruta! came out last month, a four track 12" single. ¡La Ruta! are Sean Johnston, (Hardway Bros and Andrew Weatherall's partner in the travelling cosmic disco A Love from Outer Space) and Martyn Walsh, former bass player in Inspiral Carpets. Back in the day Sean one of Sean's previous lives was a booking agent for the Oldham band and did their tour merchandising and t- shirts. A recent reconnection between Sean and Martyn led to ¡La Ruta!

Kibbo Kift is eight minutes of upbeat, science fiction chug, with a bouncing, driving bassline, named after a 1930s English woodcraft movement aimed at bringing about world peace through handiwork, hiking, camping and other character building activities for young people. The words Kibbo Kift come from an old dialect, apparently translating as 'proof of great strength'. It was against mass movements based on race or nationality hoping to bring about a better world via mental discipline.

EP closer, Those Who Know, Know, rides along on waves of synths, arpeggios and a choral section and again a standout bass part, a tune constantly looking upwards, feeling like it's striving for something better- and couldn't we all with a bit of that.

Wednesday 17 March 2021

I Want A Place To Stay

Back to 1989 and 1990 today and the sound of young Belgium. People get a bit sneery about the rave- pop/ dance pop singles that sold in enormous quantities from 1990 onwards but the truth is many of the same songs were club hits first, danced to through the night. In lots of ways these early 90s rave hits are the equivalent of the classic 60s pop singles and the 1970s- The Monkees say or T-Rex. Massive chart topping songs, cutting edge production coupled with song writing skills for that time and place, designed to hit you quickly, make you shimmy and then move on to the next one. 

Technotronic came from Belgium, the project of Jo Bagaert who had come up through the New Beat scene. Hooking up with rapper Ya Kid K they found a formula of stunningly effective, catchy, dance music that took on a much more visual element when they got Congolese model Felly Kilingi to front it. Pump Up The Jam, released in November 1989, was a massive single, selling in vast quantities in the UK and the USA, a club- radio crossover built on a thumping and Ya Kid K's rap. Crisp, to the point, in your face, confusing to middle aged people, ridiculously infectious. The video is a perfect slice of 1989 too, rave psychedelic graphics, cycling shorts, acid print, dayglo hooded tops and manic dance moves. 

Felly it later turned out was just miming. Did it matter? It did not. 

Pump Up The Jam (Edit)

Technotronic became a hit machine, single after single. In 1990 they released Rockin' Over The Beat, a song about dancing with a lovely piano riff that to me has the slightest tinge of melancholy in it, the comedown just evident in the grooves. The drums thump, the synths blare, Ya Kid K's rap is great (her delivery of the word 'mel-o-dee' is a joy). It was remixed by Bernard Sumner, New Order's frontman putting those hours spent in the Hacienda to good use. 

Rockin' Over The Beat (Rockin' Over Manchester Hacienda Mix)

Tuesday 16 March 2021

21st Century Pop

Back in 2018 Iggy Pop met Underworld in a hotel room. Rick Smith and Karl Hyde had got all their kit set up and some tracks worked up and ready to go and decided to see if Iggy fancied recording some vocals. The four track EP that followed, Teatime Dub Encounters, came out a bit like that sounds, fully realised backing tracks and Iggy improvising. On the lead song, Bells & Circles, Iggy went into a extended spoken word reverie about boarding a flight sometime in the 1970s, taking a gramme of coke, chatting up the stewardess but losing her number, being able to smoke on airplanes and the death of liberal democracy. A polished Underworld throbbed away behind him, Born Slippy reborn, Karl coming in on backing vocals. On Trapped Iggy has a pop at Johnny who has a mortgage. On I'll See Big he looks back at his inability to make friends, his falling into and out of bands, and making friends with other people who had few friends. The music on I'll See Big is low key and subtle. Iggy being reflective is a product of aging and surviving. 

I'll See Big

Two years earlier Iggy released what looked like his last testament, the Josh Homme produced Post- Pop Depression. Like all Iggy Pop albums since The Idiot and Lust For Life it's got at least one real stinker but it's also got several late period Iggy gems and that aging thing again, Iggy being reflective, looking back at a life lived and the seeing what's left. Gardenia is a genuine Iggy classic, Homme and the band finding a really good groove, none of the expected heavy rock but a really well crafted and sympathetically played song with Iggy recounting the days of his youth and an evening in a club with Allen Ginsberg. Equally good was Break Into Your Heart, an overloaded, smoky blues with Iggy examining his past tendency to woo women but then back out when he's asked for more. 

Break Into Your Heart

Monday 15 March 2021

Monday's Long Song

This was featured in the middle of David Holmes' recent show at NTS (posted yesterday) but I've been meaning to post it in its own right since I bought it, it's nine minutes long so fits in perfectly for this long running Monday series and is in aid of a very good cause. 

Bunny's Lullabye, nine minutes of beautiful guitar playing (courtesy of Chris Mackin and Kenji Suzuki) and some twinkling synths, is a gorgeous piece of music and send off, a cosmic lullaby. Buy it at Bandcamp. All profits from its release will be going to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.

Mat Ducasse is/ was Matty Skylab. Back in 1999 Skylab remixed Holmes' 69 Police, the lead song from Homer's Bow Down To The Exit Sign, an album of instrumentals, guest vocalists (Bobby Gillespie, Jon Spencer, Martina Topley- Bird) and street sounds. On this remix Matty loops the organ sounds and adds some squealing guitar or sax, maybe both, over a dusty chuggy rhythm. Music for a nightclub scene in a dystopian future film. 

Sunday 14 March 2021

In God's Waiting Room Again

This has come around quickly, David Holmes back in the NTS radio kiosk with two hours of music for March- the usual/ unusual spread of the cosmic, the cinematic, the psychedelic and the dubbed. This one includes several current Bagging Area favourites- Richard Norris, Jane Weaver, a superb new ten minute instrumental from Mat Ducasse I've been meaning to post- and Utuba, a beautiful Beaumont Hannant track from 1994.

Utuba (Reprised Version)

Listen to God's Waiting Room at Mixcloud. Full tracklist from NTS here

Saturday 13 March 2021


That wasn't the best week at work I've ever had. The weekend never really feels long enough to recharge- it's Saturday morning and then before you know it Sunday night has arrived and with it the Monday morning dread kicks in. But still, here it is, the weekend, in all it's lockdown glory. 

This weekend last year was the last time I went into a record shop or art gallery. Photographing pylons from beneath is the most excitement weekends offer now. 

Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85- 92 contains some of the most original, most startling music of the early 90s. SAW is a compilation of various tracks recorded by Richard D. James in the years in its title, homemade synths and drum machines, a keyboard and computer and recorded onto cassette. The music is ambient techno with beats to reduce it to basics but it is so much more than that- weird, lush melodies, oceanic waves of synth, echo- laden drums, basslines that arrive from somewhere else entirely, bubbles and bleeps and the occasional sampled voice, atmospheres and textures that the young RDJ summoned up in his Cornwall teens and committed to plastic. This one sticks in my mind at the moment but I could choose any of the thirteen tracks that make up Selected Ambient Works 85- 92. 


Friday 12 March 2021

Quarry Raving

Pye Corner Audio has been drip feeding releases into the ether over the recent months and in the not too distant future his remixes of all eight songs from Andy Bell's The View From Halfway Down will come out physically (PCA's remix of Cherry Cola back in November was a sublime reworking of the song). Andy's song Indica, a tribute to the backwards lyric writing process of The Stone Roses' Don't Stop, and named after an art gallery/ book shop in Swinging Sixties London and a strain of marijuana, has been remixed by Pye Corner Audio and then re- edited by GLOK (Andy Bell's other solo project), a majestic, slow building, euphoric hymn, synths burbling away.

Pye Corner Audio's own releases cast a similar spell, all constructed with drum machines, analogue synths and vintage sounding FX units, and have recently shifted away from the ghostly sci fi soundtracks scene and towards something earthier and based at an imaginary lockdown dancefloor. These two are at Bandcamp and are free downloads. Mono Three is a dark gritty monster, squelchy bass and bleeps, insistently building over six minutes. Quarry Rave- and I cannot resist a track called Quarry Rave- came out last week, setting sail on a modular synth pattern and a slightly lopsided rhythm before a lovely warm wobbly synth joins in. Add percussion, repeat, oscillate. 

Social Dissonance was recorded live in 2019, twenty one minutes of cosmic, radiophonic synth on Side A and more, the same length, on Side B. 

Thursday 11 March 2021


A new song from A Certain Ratio appeared on the streaming services last week. It seems the ten songs they recorded and released on Loco, last year's album, weren't the only ones and they have promised three EPs this year. The first fruits of this are Wonderland, a hypnotic, trippy tune with the sadly missed Denise Johnson's vocals out front. Wonderland is a less immediate song that many of the ones on Loco. The woodwind and jazz influences hark back to their work in the mid 80s, the era of Force, Bootsy and Mickey Way, and the funky breakdown and Denise's spoken section suggest some 70s funk and soul going on too but this is definitely new too, an extension of their signature sound. The version on Youtube is three minutes forty- four while the one at Bandcamp is over five minutes long, a device they employed on Loco too- the songs on the vinyl edition were shorter than the extended digital ones. It is, as they say, all good. 


Wednesday 10 March 2021

Keep Saying No To Her

On Sunday night Drew posted Wasn't Born To Follow by The Byrds on Twitter, a gorgeous piece of cosmic country from 1968 (and appearing on the Easy Rider soundtrack a year later). The Byrds and yesterday's postees The Charlatans are always connected for me, partly because of Tim Burgess pinching some of David Crosby's lyrics from Everybody's Been Burned for The Only One I Know and partly because they're linked in my past. I remember getting into The Byrds via a cheap compilation aged 18 or 19 and The Charlatans would come along not much later. I pulled out my vinyl copy of Younger Than Yesterday for a listen, an 80s re- issue of their 1967 album, folk rock songs tinged with acid guitars, psychedelia and jazz. The Byrds seem very time- locked to me rather than timeless- not that that's a bad thing- the harmonies, the 60s phrases in the lyrics, the Rickenbacker, the brisk drumming. On Younger Than Yesterday the road into country they took in '68 is signposted with a pair of Chris Hillman songs, Time Between and The Girl With No Name, two of the album's highlights. The album's closing song, Why, took me right back to being in my late teens and sitting in the sun in the summer.


Why is a David Crosby and Jim McGuinn co- write, led by Crosby's Ravi Shankar inspired raga guitar, and some lovely lead acid guitar lines ringing out courtesy of McGuinn with just enough distortion on the Rickenbacker, a Motown pace backbeat, and on top those distinctive harmonic vocals and very mid- 60s lyrics about an unnamed hippy girl, 'Keep saying no to her/ Since she was a baby/ Keep saying no to her/ Not even maybe/ why?'. The gently stoned finger pointing reaches its peak in the third verse, Crosby asking The Man, 'You say it's a dead old world/ Cold and unforgiving/ I don't know where you live/ But you're not living/ Why?'

Tuesday 9 March 2021

You Were Sometimes Hard To Find

This song floated back into my earshot recently, a piece of 1990 and a song that nails a feeling and a time in some ways. Then was the second single from The Charlatans debut album Some Friendly. Previous single The Only One I Know had gone top ten so the group had suddenly found themselves a fanbase, the early days of Indian Rope, small gigs and fanzines turned into something much bigger. Then doesn't scream single to me, and I'm not sure it did back then, but it is a perfectly put together song- Martin Blunt's Motown/ A Town Called Malice revival bassline, Rob Collins' swirling 60s garage band Hammond organ surfacing and diving in and out of the mix, some crunchy guitar chords from Jon Baker and that very 1990 drum pattern, a loose limbed indie- dance shuffle. On top of this indie- guitar, 60s psyche pop Tim Burgess sings softly but determinedly, a put down of an ex.  


It was a guaranteed floor filler at early 90s indie nights, long sleeved t- shirts pulled over fists, flares flapping and dragging, love beads and fringes shaking around, everyone footloose and in love with themselves and each other. Happy days. 

Then just missed out on the top ten, reaching number twelve but the band found themselves on Top Of The Pops doing their best not to be pop stars, looking like they just got out of bed and put on whatever they'd dropped on the bedroom floor the night before. Indie bands hitting the charts and Top Of The Pops felt like a big deal at the time, like suddenly the world was waking up to what had been going on in small clubs, the back rooms of pubs and the independent record shops. 

Monday 8 March 2021

Monday's Long Song

The Utopia Strong, an experimental ambient/ krautrock/ spacerock/ electronic trio have just released a two track album called Ninth Art, one song per side of the vinyl release (now sold out but still available digitally at Bandcamp). Side A has the nineteen minute ambient noise excursion The Keeper, a track which eventually surfaces into melodies and arpeggios and then into a phase of drift, chanting and then noise again. Side B, On Stygian Ferry, is slightly longer, lots more ambient noise and drones, a calmer and more tranquil ride. All in all an immersive experience. 

This one from 2019, Strange Altar, is a ten minute psychedelic journey, synths, guitar and woodwind. And yes, you're right, one of the members of The Utopia Strong is Steve Davis, former snooker player, the man who dominated world snooker in the 1980s. 

Sunday 7 March 2021

Early Morning

Sunday morning vibes to kick off your day, slowly at first and then building- first a collaboration between Dan Wainwright and Rude Audio with a swirling, slow motion, Sabres Of Paradise influenced song, a dubbed out blur with some very reverbed vocals, FX stretched sounds. Early Morning unwinds itself in no particular hurry and very nicely indeed.

Second a series of remixes of Double Sided Mirror by Cold Beat. The original, a year old, sounds like a long lost 80s synthpop classic, capable of making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. 

The remix package brings some heavyweights out to play including bass heavy, analogue hypnosis from ex- Cabaret Voltaire man Stephen Mallinder and some gorgeous motorik euphoria from Sean Johnston's Hardway Bros and Duncan Gray, billed together as Hardway Bros Meet Monkton Uptown. Sean's remix output over the last year has been immense and difficult to keep tabs on and the standard is incredibly high but this is right up there (and reminiscent of his A Mountain Of Rimowa track from 2019, the spellbinding groove A Motorik Oscillation Retread). The Cold Beat remixes are available at Bandcamp, a phrase I am type regularly at the moment.

Saturday 6 March 2021

Unreal City

In 2013 Andrew Weatherall and author Michael Smith collaborated on a project called Unreal City. Smith, a Hartlepudlian, arrived in London in the mid 90s and drifted round parts of East London that had yet to be re- generated. In The Giro Playboy, a book published in 2006, and again in Unreal City he laments the loss of pubs and homes and communities to the forces of gentrification. In Unreal City the narrator, a broken down middle aged man living in a beach hut in Kent returns to London, walking the Thames estuary back to his old stomping grounds and sees everyone gone, the artists and painters and sculptors who used to live cheaply in rundown parts of the city. Smith's narrator is a flaneur, a person who strolls about and wanders the streets observing people and life. In the novel Smith describes London as both an outsider, a Yorkshireman, and as someone who had lived there for years and his love of London, it's streets and people, is evident- the novel rambles a bit, there is mood and texture rather than action and plot. Eventually the narrator heads to Paris and then back to London. It reads like listening to a stranger in a pub mid- afternoon, mid- week. 

Michael Smith is a regular performer, doing readings of his work. At some point Andrew Weatherall and Smith met and a collaboration was hatched, Andrew and cohorts providing a musical backing for Smith reading parts of Unreal City in his distinctive, lugubrious, East Yorkshire tones. The music, written by Weatherall with Nina Walsh (with some accompaniment from Franck Alba on viola and E- Bow) is a series ambient pieces, drones and drawn out sounds, acoustic guitar parts appearing and then being swallowed up, ringing noises, drips and droplets of water and acres of echo and reverb, in places achingly beautiful, the perfect musical illustration of Smith's melancholy.

The paperback edition of Unreal City was published in 2013 and followed by a multi- media version- a loose leaf book with Andrew Weatherall's scribblings in the margins and some great pen and ink line drawings, a six track CD and a 10" single with a remix. It's a beautiful artefact, the sort of thing that shows love and care and attention to detail. Unfortunately if you don't own a copy, the ones at Discogs being offered for sale will set you back well over £100. The paperback can be found for under a fiver. 

I've put the seven tracks together as one continuous piece and uploaded at Mixcloud

  • Estuary Embers
  • The Bells Of Shoreditch
  • Water Music
  • The Deep Hum At The Heart Of It All
  • Lost
  • The Deep Hum At The Heart Of It All (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

Friday 5 March 2021

In The Dark

Another slice of modern techno today, a 2017 release from Curses, a one man Berlin based American in exile who makes electronic, disco/ post- punk flecked rock 'n' roll. This remix is by Russian DJ/ producer Inga Mauer, who makes it even darker than it started, a tension filled five minutes.

Together In The Dark (Inga Mauer Remix)

Then I remembered that Inga also remixed yesterday's techno whizzkid Daniel Avery, a similarly intense and moody trip, with rim shots ricocheting around, clattering techno drums and a distant, disconnected voice. Fever Dream was originally released as part of the Slow Fade EP, four tracks of blurry ambient techno. 

Fever Dream (Inga Mauer Remix) 

Thursday 4 March 2021

Love And Illusions

Daniel Avery has recently added some new tracks to his already extensive back catalogue. I'm a big fan. Walking round in the dark recently, getting my government endorsed exercise, with last year's Love + Light album in my headphones has given me a new appreciation of the album, it's sounds and textures and all that cavernous reverb. 

There's a Jas Shaw remix of Think About What You Love (from 2018's Song For Alpha album) available for free at Bandcamp. Jas was one half of Simian Mobile Disco. He worked on the track, left it unfinished and unlabelled on his computer and found it a couple of years later and used it as the starting point for a new drum sound. Strange, dusty, minimal techno, bent out of shape. 

To go alongside this Daniel's also made this available at Bandcamp, a Teodor Wolgers reworking of a song from his Illusion Of Time album from this time last year, an album he did with Alessandro Cortini, and which soundtracked the descent into the first lockdown for me. This remix is a beautiful, soothing blur of white noise and piano. 

Wednesday 3 March 2021


In the early 90s Underworld's remixes were as essential as their own material, the group producing a slew of long, tribal, dub techno remixes that were monumental trips in their own right. Between 1992 and 1995 their remixes of Bjork, William Orbit, The Drum Club, One Dove, Orbital, Saint Etienne, Leftfield, Front 242 and Shakespeare's Sister are all superb work and as was standard at the time, they often produced two or three mixes, making what amounted to mini- albums and great value for money on 12" or CD single. In 1993 they remixed Spooky, one of the era's omnipresent progressive house outfits (and still at it today), turning in a nine minute thumper with dancing topline piano melodies, a pair of disembodied voices (one a female 'ooh' and 'yeah' and the other sounding like a foreign radio station or platform announcement), bleeps, a huge bassline and a crashing rhythm- what more do you want? Or need? 

Schmoo (Underworld Mix) 

Tuesday 2 March 2021


Back in 2014 Underworld released a deluxe anniversary edition of 1994's dubnobasswithmyheadman album, a double CD, the original album coupled with a disc of extras. dubnobass... was one of the 1990s greatest albums, possibly its greatest- a visionary, triumphant, darkly euphoric ride, dance music's rhythms, space and production (and the DJ nous of recently arrived member Darren Emerson) hitched to what was left of Karl Hyde's guitar playing and Karl's cut up vocals. Melodic streamlined techno. The sleeve suggested what was within, words typed and repeated, overlaid, copied and pasted in layers of black and white, a computer having some kind of breakdown. 

The extras disc is a brilliant alternative eighty minutes to the album, a collection of earlier releases, standalone singles and off cuts from the album. It opens with the stellar Eclipse and includes Dirty (both from the Lemon Interrupt 12"), Rez, a standalone 12" and maybe their single greatest moment (without doubt one of the weirdest moments of the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony was when it suddenly became clear that the athletes of the world were parading round the Olympic stadium to Rez), Spikee (a 1993 12" single), the sinuous, epic Dark Train version of Dark And Long and three tracks that were recorded at the same time as dubnobass... but which didn't make the final cut. Of these three extras- Concord, Can You Feel Me? and Birdstar- Concord sounds like one which could easily have sneaked on if running time had allowed. It opens with a distorted voice, unclear and smothered in echo, before a familiar thumping, heartbeat rhythm glides in and Karl's spoken voice starts out with one of those stream of consciousness vocals, lines from notebooks and overheard conversations, 'I'm delighted/ I'm higher than Concord'. A moment later then he seems to be switching through the news channels, 'it's an honour for the home team... rebel forces massing in Georgia... huge fat prices... here comes  Moscow... Mother Theresa's ready... It's an all time low... higher than Concord...'. On and on it goes, the thump of the drums, the warm fat bass and Karl flicking through the news and reporting back, beautifully disorienting. 


Monday 1 March 2021

Monday's Long Song

 Last week Underworld released a new remix of Cowgirl, one of the brain melting standouts from their 1994 dubnobasswithmyheadman album, one of those albums I can play, know every single moment of and still find fresh. Cowgirl Remix id2 A1804 is/was available as a free download (for five days only), as a limited edition 12" single (sold out) and limited edition t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodie, tote bag and lithograph (all still available at the time of writing, here). The remix is seventeen minutes long, stretched out and wigged out building to buzzing climax around twelve minutes thirty before the squiggling acid part re- enters, and while it seems to be a fairly close relation of the Irish Pub In Kyoto Mix from 1994, it's pretty exciting to hear it rejigged again for 2021.  

The five day free download has expired it seems.