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Thursday 30 September 2021

Can I Get A Hit?

A Tribe Called Quest's second album, The Low End Theory, just celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its release. I don't know where the time goes etc. Back in 1989- 90 the new wave of hip hop groups and rappers that came through were a burst of fresh air and closely aligned to the times. The Jungle Brothers married hip hop and house (hip house), De La Soul's day- glo imagery, sense of humour and lightness of touch appealed across the tribes and A Tribe Called Quest's sampling of Lou Reed, laid back sound and mellow rapping saw them cross over to both indie kids and ravers. Long sleeved t- shirts, purple Wallabies, Reni hats, baggy jeans and love beads, house music, indie dance and socially conscious Native Tongues rap records were all part of the same thing. 

In 1991 for their second album A Tribe Called Quest pared things back, stripped their sound down and brought in a cellar full of jazz samples. The rappers, Q Tip and Phife Dawg kept their lyrical humour and interplay but the production and samples pushed the album on from the busier, unconventional, multi- layered debut People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm. The Low End Theory is denser and live sounding, samples chosen for the live bass or live drum sound, be- bop samples to link the music of the past with the music of the present. It's exciting and pioneering stuff and still sounds fresh today. 

Scenario, a single and featuring members of Leaders Of The New School including a then unknown Busta Rhymes with samples courtesy of Jimi Hendrix and Brother Jack McDuff is a blast, streets ahead and a defining song from the golden age of hip hop. Jazzy organ, looped bass and then, boom! all hands on deck as the rhyming gets dizzying- 'Can I get a hit? Hit! Boom bit with a brother named Tip and we're ready to flip/ East coast stompin'/ Rippin' and rompin'/ New York North Cakalacky and Compton/ The loops for the troops more bounce to the ounce/ And wow now now wow how now brown cow...'


Wednesday 29 September 2021

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Ten minutes of squally, distorted, languid electric guitar while Lana Del Rey drives down the freeway in September 2018, 'fresh out of fucks forever'. Another song for autumn, this one painting it oils- 'You're in the yard/ I light the fire/And as the summer fades away/ Nothing gold can stay'. A song that is woozy and fluid and exists solely for itself. 

Venice Bitch

Tuesday 28 September 2021

They've Been Trying To Tell You

Out of nowhere, after a run of albums which were always pretty good if a little tame, Saint Etienne have released what's sounding like one of the year's best lps- and listened to on vinyl it sounds like a proper lp, from the beautiful sleeve inwards to the eight songs that merge into each other, sequenced as a whole and difficult not to turn over when side one finishes. The three members- Bob, Pete and Sarah- recorded their parts separately, working individually at home, but it doesn't sound like a record made in isolation, it sounds coherent and organic and the result of people bouncing off each other. Many of the songs deal with memory, or more accurately maybe popular memories and false memories, nostalgia and the recent past. The samples contained within the grooves are all taken from the years 1997- 2001 (a Natalie Imbruglia vocal, some Samantha Mumba, a Lightning Seeds part) and the manipulation of them adds to the idea, that memory can be unreliable. That period, 1997- 2001, is sometimes painted as a golden few years, the gap between New Labour's election after a lengthy period of increasingly unpopular and out of touch Tory rule and the attacks on the Twin Towers. The optimism of the May '97 faded quickly for many and looked back at now the optimism about Blair looks really naive. What Bob and co seem to be saying, to these ears, is that any rose tinted look at those few years is an unreliable view of the past. It may have seemed like the sun was always shining but the state of the world in 2021 is partly the product of what happened then. The collapse of the Afghan government hadn't happened when the album was made but is very much a consequence of decisions made in 2001. The recent past for millennials is the same as the 60s was for us- a romanticised place that looks good in pictures but for people living through it had the same problems, worries and horrors as any other time. Not that you need any of this conceptual stuff to enjoy the album, which stands on its own two feet easily, but it adds layers to it which make it a deeper listen.

Penlop is astonishingly good- a wash of sound effects, a bass pulse and then drum sample before those chords hit you in the tear ducts. When Sarah starts singing its almost too much. A slow burning, dreamlike state/song that builds and swells, that sticks with me long after it's ended. The video, by Alasdair McLellan, is a stunner too. 

I've Been Trying To Tell You is very much an album of atmospherics, a hugely affecting, melancholic, semi- ambient haze. It's very much an autumnal record to me, the end of summer and the turning of the days into nights (in contrast to their early albums which always sounded like spring to me). Some people and reviewers have been less complimentary, less blown away by it, but it's hitting me very hard at the moment and I can't see me getting bored with it any time soon. It's also nice to be surprised and to have your expectations changed- I really wouldn't have expected such a record from Saint Etienne at this stage in proceedings and full marks to them for reaching deep into themselves to create it. 

Monday 27 September 2021

Monday's Long Song

Back in 1985 Big Audio Dynamite released The Bottom Line, maybe their best song. Built around a stuttering bassline, a couple of vocal samples ('the horses are on the track'), some wonderful clanging chord changes from Mick, chorus and delay pedals used to the full, and a naggingly catchy lyric and vocal. Mick never sounded like he was having so much fun, celebrating the new found freedom BAD have given him- 'There's a new dance that's going around/ When the hits start flying you gotta get down... a dance to the tune of economic decline/ when you do the bottom line/ Nagging questions always remain/ Why did it happen and who was to blame... Even the Soviets are swinging away'

The Bottom Line (UK 12" Mix)

On the 12" the song extends for eight minutes forty five seconds and never feels too long. Mick and band break into the second half, the change pointed out by Mick when he sings 'We're gonna take you to/ We're gonna take you to/ We're gonna take you to... part two!' and then brings in a whole new section of verses and chants about Romeo and dancing in the face of nuclear annihilation-'We're not talking 'bout a third world war/ And who's not being fair/ were just saying they can drop the bomb and we don't even care...' 

Sunday 26 September 2021

More Holmes

More from David Holmes, this time a two hour mix played at sunset in Ibiza from July last year. All the Balearic soundtrack descriptions apply- dreamy, languorous, meditative, ambient- but they don't fully do it justice. This is a tour de force and a trip. Click play and let it wash over you. Here

Saturday 25 September 2021

And It Wasn't A Dream

If you're in the north west and haven't been already there's still time to go to Manchester's Central Reference Library to see an exhibition charting the history of hip hop culture in the city. Using donated artefacts- clothing, tapes, empty paint cans, turntables, record sleeves, trainers, flyers- the Manchester Hip Hop Archive have told the story from the ground up, starting in the early 80s when against a backdrop of Thatcher and post-industrial decline breakdancing, graffiti and rap began to seep from the streets of New York to the pedestrianised precincts of Manchester through to the late 80s and 90s when homegrown talent began to breakthrough on microphone and twin decks and via pirate radio and into the 21st century. The influence of those early records is made clear (pictured above- the Electro series, Kraftwerk, Buffalo Girls), the soundtrack to breakdance crews like Broken Glass and Street Machine spinning on their backs outside the Arndale. The clothing too- Adidas and Nike trainers and tracksuits, goose down jackets, then in the 90s and 2000s Stussy and army trousers, caps and glasses. It also pays tribute to local radio and the importance of Piccadilly 261 and Stu Allen's legendary rap show. This is a lesser known musical history of Manchester than the usual one involving Factory, the Hacienda or The Smiths. It's on until the 28th so there's a few days left, free entry. My brother Zach is one of the key players in the Manchester Hip Hop Archive, the group that have put the whole thing together, and full nod of the baseball cap to him and them for pulling it off so well.  

Hip hip and rap were always a part of clubbing and music in the city in the late 80s and 90s. Dave Haslam will tell you that rap records were as much a part of his Thursday night residency at the Hacienda and Yellow at the Boardwalk as the indie and dance stuff. Young MC's singles were as well received as anything made by homegrown guitar bands. MC Buzz B, Kiss AMC, 808 State and MC Tunes were woven into the city with The Roses and the Mondays. Ruthless Rap Assassins were formed in Hulme and almost broke through in 1990/ 1991. Rapper Kermit would go on to partner Shaun Ryder in Black Grape. This song is a beauty, the story of their parents arrival in the the UK as immigrants hoping to realise their dream of life in the mother country...

Friday 24 September 2021

Hope Is The Last Thing To Die

Just when you needed something to pick you up, dust you down and send you into the weekend with a smile on your face and a bit of zest along comes David Holmes and a new song (out digitally on Heavenly and hopefully with physical to follow). Hope Is The Last Thing To Die, optimistic from its title inwards, arrives with a burst of noise, distorted bass and rattling percussion and drums. The 60s girl group/ Ye Ye vocals of singer Raven Violet ride on top and the sounds/ bass/  synths collide, tumbling over each other, building and then breaking down. There's a pause for breath with an interlude in French and then it all comes piling back in, Raven singing 'We are what we pretend to be' and 'Let's make some changes tonight' as the snare and organ break through. There are echoes of Unloved in the atmospherics and vox and a nod to his I Heard Wonders single from 2008, the events of May '68 and sharply cut fringes, Levis, desert boots and cobble stones. It's a four minutes forty- eight second long blast of energy and excitement, chaos and melody. 

If you want more Holmes was back at NTS four days ago with the latest episode of his God's Waiting Room show, the spiritual successor to Andrew Weatherall's Music's Not For Everyone. Taking in everything from Sun Ra to Ten Fe, from Daniel Avery to King Tubby, Kevin Ayres and Lee 'Scratch' Perry and with a new remix of The Vendetta Suite by David himself, it's two hours of satisfaction guaranteed. Listen at Mixcloud. Tracklist at NTS

Thursday 23 September 2021

Richard H. Kirk

Just under a year ago I wrote a post about the then new Cabaret Voltaire album Shadow Of One and only last week I found my burned CD of it in the car and put it on a pile of albums to revisit. Shadow Of One saw Cabaret Voltaire reduced to the core of founder Richard H. Kirk, Stephen Mallinder having departed sometime before. Sadly news started to come out of Sheffield the day before yesterday that Richard had died aged 65.

 Cabaret Voltaire's influence and presence in the shadows and half light since the mid- 70s (pre- punk) as electronic/ sampling/ sound mangling/ industrial pioneers is immense. Kirk once said that electronic music was a great way to make music 'if you weren't the world's greatest musician' and that's where their importance lies- they had ideas, ambitions and creativity and via tape machines, DIY synths and electronics and video they paved a way for non- musicians to make great music. By the time they signed to Virgin and then EMI in the 80s they were surfing the wave of what would become dance music/ acid house. 

I've posted the 12" single they released on Factory in 1982 previously on three or four occasions. Yashar (plus the John Robie remix on the B-side) is one of the crucial early Factory releases. I can't imagine my record collection without it. 

Sensoria from 1984 is industrial dance music, crunching drum machines and a full sound, melodic synth lines, ascending chords, a guitar part, vocals laid on top, brief snatches of backing vox and a sampled voice- all the sort of thing that would be commonplace by 1990. 

Sensoria (12" Mix)

As well as the Cabs Richard made music under a bewildering number of aliases- some sublime dub techno as Sandoz not to mention Al Jabr, King Of Kings, The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus, Wicky Wacky, Future Cop Movies and numerous others. In 1989 Richard was ahead of the game again, fired up by house and the new sounds of the underground, he formed Sweet Exorcist with Richard Barrett and put out Testone on Warp. Minimal, tough bleep techno from the steel city. Futuristic music with few obvious forebears- it still sounds like the future. 


Richard H. Kirk R.I.P. 

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Stinky Sounds

Over on the other side of the world from here, operating out of Auckland New Zealand, is Stinky Jim. He got in touch a few years ago saying nice words about this blog and we've communicated via the internet on and off ever since. Stinky Jim is a reggae enthusiast, a member of Unitone HiFi who have been making electronic dub in Auckland since the early 90s. Jim broadcasts his Stinky Grooves radio on the internet and via Mixcloud- you can find the extensive back catalogue of radio programmes here including his recent tribute to the departed Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Hours and hours of sounds to inspire and delight you. Jim was instrumental in bringing a host of leftfield artists to New Zealand, Adrian Sherwood and Andrew Weatherall, Money Mark and Roots Manuva. He's a one man, Antipodean pioneer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of roots, dub, post- punk and electronica. 

Stinky Jim has recently released his own album, a bewitching and enticing ten track album called It's Not What it Sounds Like. There's loads of dub business in the grooves, rhythms and echo and some lovely meandering melody lines, some sounding like they've wandered in from 1980s/ 90s computer games. Frying Symbols rides in on an outtasight rhythm, vintage organ and is doused in reverb- not unlike the more dubbed out Sabres Of Paradise tunes. Stunted Orbis is flighty melodic bleeps and snare drum and a really cool synth line. Album opener Flingers & Flayers is straight ahead dub reggae, a snatch of vocal floating in and out. Personal Space is five and a half minutes of space and echo, sounds and FX bouncing round the speakers. It's a thing of joy and well worth investigating. You can buy it at Bandcamp

Back in 1996 Unitone HiFi released an album called Boomshot, wall to wall 90s dub sounds recorded in New York and Auckland and a long way from where the youthful Jim Pinckney started out, Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. 

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Amber Amplifier

Something odd from Belgium for Tuesday, a modular soundscape from two Reinhards,Vanbergen and Roelands. Vanbergen has been here before on his own and as the multi- instrumentalist in Rheinzand. Roelandt hasn't. Amber Amplifier is just under three minutes, a drifting lilting piece of music with synths, ukulele and pedal steel guitar all playing off with and against each other, sounding like the soundtrack to some late night TV weirdness or the otherworldly music playing in a bar you stopped in once and could never find again. Buy it here. I hope there's an album to follow.

Monday 20 September 2021

Monday's Long Song

In 2014 Swiss dub merchants Dub Spencer and Trance Hill put out an album of recordings with the ghostly voice of William Burroughs laid on top.  The original Burroughs recordings come from 1975, an album of spoken word poetry and prose with that instantly recognisable voice drawling away, the back streets and canyons of NYC captured on tape. On the Dub Spencer and Trance Hill take on 103rd Street Boys the dub squelches away for seven minutes as Burroughs gets chopped up and bounced around. 

103rd Street Boys

Sunday 19 September 2021

The Crescents

Andrew Weatherall loved to give the Japanese market a few extras. His solo album A Pox On The Pioneers contained two extra tracks not available on the standard release as did the only album by his duo with Timothy J. Fairplay The Asphodells. He also has some real obscurities and rarely heard releases hidden away in his back catalogue, none more obscure than a promo CD called Still My World, a ten track album produced solely for Japan and tied in to promote Zegna, an Italian clothing line. Still My World came out in 2003 and was credited to Andrew Weatherall and Keith Tenniswood (presumably to avoid any contractual issues with the name Two Lone Swordsmen which was how Andrew and Keith were recording at the time). Two of the tracks were otherwise released as one of the 7" singles in the Hidden Library series- I say series, it ran to two releases, Hidden Library 002 and Hidden Library 003, the second of which was Jnr. Poon's buzzing, fizzing electro cover of Robert Calvert's Lord Of The Hornets (posted previously on these pages). The other eight tracks seem to be studio offcuts, tracks that didn't for whatever reason fit on other TLS releases and experiments that were forgotten about and then retrieved from the vaults. Arguably the pick of them is The Crescents

Three and a half minutes of languid, gently stoned echo-laden guitar, some FX and tons of atmosphere, it's a genuine lost gem in the Weatherall back pages. The Crescents is one of those instrumentals which nails those slightly lost, melancholic moments, a couple of swigs of your drink still in the bottom of your glass and a little past the time when you should have gone to bed. 

The Cresecents could be named after the notorious Hulme housing estate, concrete section built flats that by the mid- 80s were the home to an alternative, rent free culture just outside Manchester city centre which Andrew says he visited during one of his trips to the Hacienda. Three of the flats were knocked together to form an after hours, unlicensed nightclub called The Kitchen. Who knows. 

Still My World is rare AF. Discogs has the basic info here along with the detail that a copy has never been sold through that site. 

Saturday 18 September 2021

Watch Her Spiral Away

Today we take our daughter Eliza to university in Liverpool, the same university I went to in 1988 and we're taking her to the halls of residence on the same site as the ones I stayed in for my first year. There are lots of emotions going on obviously. Leaving home is such a massive rite of passage and as a parent it's one of those cycle of life moments, something that you want it so much when you're eighteen- I could not wait to leave home- which suddenly feels very different when you're the adult and it's your child leaving. I remember sitting in a pub the night before I went to Liverpool and a woman at the bar, probably in her 30s looked at me and said I looked far too young to be going to live in Liverpool. So off we go, taking her to live in another city and although she'll be back and we're really proud of her, we're obviously going to miss her and her company as well. 

Back in 2014 she was 11 and starting secondary school. I took her to the bus stop and this song played in my head when I walked back home as the us went off around the corner. Yo La Tengo in 1993 and some blistering indie rock...

Big Day Coming

Here are some L postcode local heroes, four moptop/ bequiffed boys from Liverpool in 1984, singing of crystal days, joy, pain and misfit ways.

Crystal Days

Finally, this one is by Andy Bell, the Ride/ Glok one not the Erasure one, and a song from his gorgeous 2020 album The View From Halfway Down. I read an interview with Andy earlier this year and he talked about how the song Skywalker was about his daughter as she reached eighteen and went off into the world and at the moment I read it I realised which lines were going to hit when this day came to pass...

'Let the girl go and watch her spiral away/ You're not the centre of her world now anyway/ There's nothing left to say/ Her future flows out from from today/ On the restless crest of a wave/ Just starting to be...'

No I'm not, I've just got something in my eye. 

Friday 17 September 2021


Gnod, a Salford based collective who channel guitars and FX pedals through fearsome amplification hit a political peak with their 2017 album Just Say No To The Psycho Right- Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine, an album where everything was into the red. Loud, confrontational, experimental and furious. Ten years ago their jams in a deserted mill in Salford saw them less political and more gnostic- repetition, drones, meditations and rituals and seemingly coming from some kind of urban occult direction. Elka, head music for the 2010s, is a trippy incantation, doused in reverb. Not exactly chilled or calming but its not caving your head in from the inside either. 


And if its viscous, sludgy, raw punk energy and battering ram drumming that you're craving you could always try their new five track release La Mort Du Sens, led by the hard and heavy Pink Champagne Blues. 

Thursday 16 September 2021

Future Rave Memory

Back in 2019 Richard Fearless put out an album called Deep Rave Memory, a purist's vision of ambient techno recorded inside an actual metal box overlooking the Thames. Sparse, austere, transcendent, hypnotic synth sounds, industrial textures and on some of the tracks with some truly pounding drums. It was/ is a perfect slice of modernist machine music- gnarly, physical and in places beautiful. A while ago I heard a rumour that there was going to be a companion version, an abstract, ambient version with drums and percussion removed so that what would remain would be the washes of dark synths, the melodies, an emotional bath for ambient, industrial fans. This new version,  called Future Rave Memory, is out in November with the vinyl to follow in December. This is Our Acid House, a fifteen minute trip through the murky psychogeography of London's docklands, all shadows, electricity, dark water and murk. 

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Kissed Again

A compilation on Brighton's Higher Love Recordings came out earlier this month, a late summer celebration from the Balearic Ultras stable featuring the likes of James Bright, Andres Y Xavi, Adam Warped, Go Satta and Perry Granville. The finale is a blissed out glide- by track from Jesse Fahnestock's 10:40 alias, an eight minute trip called Kissed Again, with gently rising and falling synths, bubbling sounds, rolling piano chords, some acid squiggles and a sense of reaching an ending that'll leave you either grinning or slightly dewy eyed. Maybe both. I can't recommend it enough. Higher Love Vol. 1 is here

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Night People

A Certain Ratio have released three new EPs this year. The first, ACR:EPA, came out back in May and featured Wonderland, the last vocal performance the band did with Denise Johnson. ACR:EPC followed in July, four more slices of new Ratio with the old and new mash up of ACR v The Emperor Machine, their tribute to Andrew Weatherall (The Guv'nor), a new version of Yoyogrip and the Chris Massey remix called Musik Kontrol. In August ACR:EPR came out and for me its the pick of the bunch, a deep dive into the rehearsal rooms and recording studio of a band revitalised in recent years and now bankrolled by Mute. The five tracks on EPR are reminiscent of the early ACR sound but filled out for 2021, the band playing with freedom and an anything goes spirit. The the murk and gloom of post- punk Manchester is in there, army jumpers, demob suits, short back and sides haircuts and Desert Rat shorts, loose drumming, lots of percussion, taut basslines and the discordant woodwind and brass that hark back to Sextet but also a confidence and surefootedness that comes with forty years playing together. Souls In The City Part 2 and Part 1 showcase the funky, dance oriented sound, a fast version and a slower one with squawky horn and squelchy bass. Big Boy Pants is a echo- laden instrumental written and recorded the night Biden defeated Trump, a swirling, noir with Spaghetti Western guitars. Downtown Vibes is spooky, weird jazz. Night People is my current favourite, dislocated, mutant funk pitching up somewhere between Iggy and Bowie in Berlin and TJ Davidson's rehearsal rooms in Little Peter Street at the early end of the 80s, the robotic backing vocal and Jez's slightly more human one playing off against each other while the clarinets and trumpets blow. Buy it here

Monday 13 September 2021

Monday's Long Song

I posted the Hardway Bros remix of Sparking Plugs by Deo'Jorge last week (the post is here) and at that point hadn't heard the Prins Thomas remix of the same track. Nine and a half minutes of dark, entrancing, sinuous, Scandi- disco is what I'm saying. 

Prins Thomas remixes, often titled Diskomiks, are a joy- wiggy, pulsing and inventive versions. His soaring Diskomiks of Kingdom Of Rust by Doves is always a pleasure to hear as is his spaced out bouncy remix of Seahawks with Tim Burgess on vocals, there's a stunning take oo Terr's Tale Of Devotion, a very long one of Kelly Lee Owens's Bird from last year and A Man Called Adam's Paul Valery At The Disco. This one of Alpine by The Orb is very good too, a track I thought was pretty recent but is already five years old.

Alpine (Prins Thomas Diskomiks)

Sunday 12 September 2021

Every Time I See You Falling I Get Down On My Knees And Pray

Heaton Park is all set up for Parklife, a two day festival across this weekend largely attended by people much younger than me. New Order took advantage of the set up and played a homecoming gig there on Friday night. Stepping outside Heaton Park's Metrolink station there's a long line of middle aged fans queueing to get to the gates where Covid passports are checked, bags are rummaged through by security, people are scanned with metal detectors and then finally QR code tickets on phones read by yet another line of security. JD Sports logos are all over the big screens either side of the stage. We arrived late, having missed both support acts (Working Men's Club and Hot Chip) but with enough time to join another long queue to get drinks. No draught beers, just bottles and cans with four cans of Carling coming in at an eye- watering £24. No wonder that so many people turned up having had their pre- gig drinks elsewhere. My unease with Covid and crowds meant we found a spot near the back- usually I'd want to be far further forward. The air is sweet with the smell of substances. The ground is not muddy despite some recent rain. A couple of men near us have a picnic blanket out. There's a chilled atmosphere but as DJ Tin Tin slips Voodoo Ray onto the sound system a palpable buzz starts to fizz through the crowd. Not long after, just as dusk hits, New Order appear. 

I wasn't expecting to be as blown away as I was. Bernard welcomes us all, saying how good it is to be playing live after a shit eighteen months and then adds, 'Fuck Covid', and then they're off into Regret and without much much of a pause Age Of Consent. This is a filled out, muscular New Order, the slightly shonky, thinner sounding, almost on the verge of it all falling apart, group of the 1980s beefed up, loud and powerful. Their romp through the set takes in most of what you'd want New Order to play, the songs that you've danced to at indie nights, clubs and house parties since the mid- 80s plus a handful of newer ones. Ultraviolence, resurrected from 1984's Power, Corruption And Lies, is an early highlight, the bassline bumping and the anxiousness of Bernard's original vocal replaced by something calmer and older (inevitably). They follow it with Ceremony which causes mild mayhem around us, the ringing guitar lines and Stephen's hi- hats cutting through the decades and the masses joining in, 'This is why events unnerve me/ They find it all the same old story'. Moments like this catch you off guard, emotions suddenly bubbling up, songs you've sung for over thirty years that have become part of a  shared history and people's lives. Early New Order songs feel achingly personal, the sound and the words, a response to the end of Joy Division and Ian's death, and when you hear them sung by thousands in celebration it's quite something. Your Silent Face, listed as KW1 on the band's setlist, the working title for the song back in 1983 (KW1 = The Kraftwerk One) is a joy, Bernard's melodica solo just as shaky as it ever was. A friend said elsewhere that half the attraction of New Order is when they 'nearly fall to pieces... they're never quite 100%' and I think that's exactly right. Their frailties and lack of polish still gives them an edge even if they're nowhere near as unprofessional as they used to be and have equipment that is one hundred times more reliable. 

The final eight songs are a blur, one high after another. A monumental Subculture (one of their greatest moments for me), that keyboard riff hammering out and the stuttering drums crashing around Prestwich. Funnily enough the group's old rehearsal rooms are just down the road, the songs that were written and worked out in a bunker in Cheetham Hill now filling the air a mile away. As Subculture ends there's less than a moment to draw breath before the bass intro of Bizarre Love Triangle slams though the PA and we're taken yet another notch higher and then as they segue into the majestic Vanishing Point, they lift us even further- the kick drum, sequencer and those delirious guitars and keys, 'My life ain't no holiday/ I've been to the point of no return...' 

Bizarre Love Triangle (12" Mix)

Vanishing Point

As if that wasn't enough they play The Perfect Kiss next. Plastic from their last album is dedicated to Denise Johnson and then we're into the home straight and True Faith, Blue Monday and Temptation. True Faith has been one of my favourite New Order songs since it came out back in August 1987, I never tire of it- the version they paly live is housed up with piano all over the chorus. Temptation is in a class of it's own- that acidic sequencer line bringing us up and Bernard's words the sound of a million kids now grown up and a thousand nights out, 'Heaven/ A gateway/ I hope... Tonight I think I'll walk alone/ And find my soul as I go home'. We all do the whoops and sing the basslines and join in with the chorus, 'Up, down, turn around/ Please don't let me hit the ground'. The tension and release that everyone knows is coming still hits hard, one of those heart in the mouth moments, 'Oh you've got green eyes/ Oh you've got blue eyes/ Oh you've got grey eyes/ And I've never seen anyone quite like you before'. 

If that was all we got I think we'd have been happy (apart from one of our party, Geoff, who shouts for Procession and in his own words 'always shouts for it but they never seem to hear'). Bernard, Gillian, Stephen, Phil and Tom re- appear for an encore and give us three Joy Division songs- a still fragile sounding Decades with Ian's face projected on the screens, a blistering Transmission and then finally Love Will Tear Us Apart- and that's it, we're done, spent, wrung out, happy. 

At this point my brother's wife's cousin decides to shin up the nearest flagpole and fair play to him, fired up by Mancunian dance rock, lager and natural excitement, he gets a good way up it. 

Saturday 11 September 2021

Pond House

The new Saint Etienne song Pond House (released at the end of July ahead of an album called I've Been Trying To Tell You, out yesterday) is a bit of a joy. It opens with sound effects and a lazy 90s drum beat and has a slightly woozy, end- of- the- day feel, gloriously melancholic with a dubby bassline and a Natalie Imbruglia vocal sample. Despite the melancholy and nostalgia trapped within it it manages to leave you feeling better than it found you and that's quite a trick to pull off. 

Friday 10 September 2021

The Lies We Told Of Youth

New Order are playing a big gig tonight at Heaton Park, North Manchester. I made a fairly late decision a week ago to take up the offer of a ticket from a friend. I was in two minds about going from the moment it was announced, firstly because I came to the conclusion a while ago that standing in a field is rarely the best way to see a band and secondly because I decided also some time ago that I'm not sure it's even New Order without Peter Hook on bass. I understand the argument and split means that he can't be in the band anymore but his playing, presence and sound are such an integral part of the New Order story, especially the glory years of 1981 through to 1990, that without him it sometimes seems more like the Bernard Sumner Experience or Bad Lieutenant plus Gillian Gilbert. But maybe that's just me. 

Why did I change my mind? Firstly because their songs from the 1980s are among the most cherished music I own. Secondly because we've all been starved of gigs and live music recently and we've had to take the decision to avoid indoor events- Isaac, our eldest, is extremely vulnerable and he's at as much risk from Covid now as he was in March 2020. 'Avoid indoor and unventilated spaces, avoid crowds' is the advice we've been given. While we've all been double vaccinated we could still transmit it back to him and being in pubs, restaurants and indoor gigs are about as good a breeding ground Covid as any space as I can think of (excepting schools maybe but I have far less choice about going to one of those every day). I missed Sonic Boom at Yes last week, Will Sergeant in conversation with Dave Haslam a few nights ago and will miss ALFOS at the Golden Lion in Todmorden tomorrow night (an event a small group of us, me included, have been offered an afternoon DJ slot. Gutted does not begin to cover it). So it dawned on me that going to see New Order at Heaton Park could well be the sum total of gigs I'm able to attend between now and next summer. Standing at the edge/ near the back, away from the massed throng, should be fairly safe. And also re: Hooky etc, I thought maybe I should just lighten up.

In April 1984 New Order released a perfect 12" single, the masterpiece that is Thieves Like Us, from the heyday of Factory Records and packaged in typically obtuse but beautiful Peter Saville sleeve. On the B-side is one of the true lost gems in their back catalogue- Lonesome Tonight. Hooky's bass intro snags you immediately, instantly recognisable as him. The guitars are bright and brittle, the drumming understated but spot on- listen to that snare drum snap- and the synths are majestic and soar. Bernard sings something that sounds like he really means it, single tracked and intimate. A happy/ sad mini- epic. The lengthy instrumental end section is where Joy Division were heading (possibly) and where New Order found a way out of the hole they found themselves in in May 1980- the lyrics suggest, a loss of youth, an end of innocence. It is one of the finest things they ever released. 

Lonesome Tonight

Thursday 9 September 2021

Tears And September

Two slices of late summer Balearica from the reliable hands of DJ/ producer/ musician/ journalist Chris Coco, perfect for this sweltering September heat wave. I sat in the garden last night, the sky an inky deep blue and the trees silhouetted in black against it. It was still 25 degrees centigrade, hotter than it was in August. There are some bats that flit over the garden- you catch them out of the corner of your eye as they zig zag left and right. They brighten my day up every time I half see them. 

Back to the Balearica. First is Chris Coco with George Solar and their Lagrimas De San Lorenzo, a blend of spaced out synths, warm summer sounds and some jazzy guitar. Proper back garden watching the bats against the night sky in the heat music.

The Coyote remix is even better. I can't find a Youtube clip for it so you'll have to go to Bandcamp to listen to it- you can do that here. Coyote, a Notts DJ/ producer duo, have been everywhere I turn this year and an album is due out shortly. The remix slows things down, stretches it out and finds a very cool groove. 

Chris and George released this recently too, a dub version of September On The Island, a tribute to Ibiza when the season has ended and the beaches are empty. Nice work if you can get it. Low slung Balearic dub with a lovely wandering trombone part. Buy it here

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Sparking Plugs And Suburbia

I don't know what Sean Johnston has been drinking recently but it's done wonders for his productivity and the sheer quantity of Hardway Bros remixes has been matched by the quality- every single one is a keeper. This one came out two days ago, a remix of Sparking Plugs by Deo'Jorge from an EP on Newcastle- upon- Tyne's Me Me Me label. The Hardway Bros Sueno Cosmico remix sounds like a party in a rainforest, a rave in an aviary (a raviary?). Nine minutes of tropical cosmic Balearic joy. Buy it here

Sean's remix of James Bright's Suburbia, the Hardway Bros 'ALFOS Has Risen' Remix is in part a celebration of the all night travelling roadshow he instigated with Andrew Weatherall eleven years ago, now revived single handed. The remix is a gloriously chilled dreamy dance track that teases us with hints of The Beloved's ambient house classic The Sun Rising. Buy it here

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Dutch Butterfly

Malcolm McLaren has been painted as the villain in the Sex Pistols story for many years, usually by John Lydon who commands more air time and print inches than the rest of the participants put together. Malcolm was instrumental in that band's story but his wider contribution to popular culture goes way beyond the filth and the fury and subsequent crash and burn. Following the demise of the Pistols he kept running, straight into Bow Wow Wow and then moved on again, faster and faster, intent on mashing together disparate elements to create something new. This led to at least two further moments of inspiration and musical alchemy. 

In 1983 Malcolm put out his debut album, Duck Rock. His debut single Buffalo Girls was a genuine piece of cross cultural game changing with scratching and sampling, the World Famous Supreme Team, Zulu backing singers, Trevor Horn at the production desk, a record that was key in early hip hop culture. He followed it with Double Dutch, equally brilliant and further blurring cultural boundaries- skipping chants, a zippy bassline, hi- life guitars and South African vocals. He was sued by The Boyoyo Boys for that but a Top Three hit in the UK chart must have softened that blow. 

Double Dutch

Two years later he went further and deeper releasing an album called Fans that spliced opera with modern R & B. Madame Butterfly, a version of Puccini's famous work, a genuinely jaw- dropping piece of music- Stephen Hague now at the controls, crunching 80s synth drums, flutes, McLaren's speaking voice and hugely affecting vocals from Debbie Cole and Betty Ann White. 

Madame Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo)

This version, a remix by Morales and Munzibai, stretches it out for ten minutes with a much toughened up rhythm-  industrial/ hip hop drums and foregrounded metallic, slap bass and whooshing noises. 

Madame Butterfly (On The Fly Mix)

Malcolm's death in 2010 brought some correction to his story and his role in punk but there's much more to Malcolm than just the Sex store, bondage trousers and Johnny Rotten, a tale we've all heard a thousand times anyway. Double Dutch and Madame Butterfly are both moments of madcap 80s brilliance made by someone who had a hundred ideas a day and the wherewithal to follow them through. 

Monday 6 September 2021

Monday's Long Song

Each of the the three tracks on the EP from the French/ Japanese psychedelic/ trance outfit Congas Atlas are long enough in their own right but sequenced together as one full on twenty minute experience with accompanying visuals makes them ideal for Monday morning and the long song slot. Make a cup of tea, sit back and delay Monday morning and all that it brings with it for twenty minutes while this sets you up for a new week.  

Buy the EP at Bandcamp on Youth's Liquid Sound Design label. The duo behind Congas Atlas are big fans of Martin Denny and 1950s exotica and have tried to marry that sound with techno's rhythms and psychedelic dance music, pretty successfully to these ears. 

Sunday 5 September 2021

Winter In The Woods

I got this picture of this sunset a couple of weeks ago in Nottinghamshire, a glorious pink and orange sky over the tree tops a few miles south of Nottingham. We stayed in a camping pod on a vineyard for a couple of nights. It already felt like the end of summer, that melancholy you get when you notice suddenly that its dark much earlier.

This song, Winter In The Woods, is from a duo known as Leaving Laurel (Pierce and Gordon- both made dance music separately before sharing some demos with each other in Laurel Canyon one day and then working on it together). Winter In The Woods is seven minutes of melancholy, starting ghostly and fragile, fading in with some static and then a gorgeous, introspective piano. Eventually a beat picks up and pushes it forward but there's no mistaking the bittersweet nature of it. The topline melody pulls at the heartstrings. The synth strings add some weight but it all feels pretty sad- dancing with tears in my eyes as Ultravox had it back in 1984. 

Daniel Avery- him again- has remixed it and we're straight into classic Avery mode, drums that sound like they were recorded inside a giant metal box (and as his studio is a shipping container they probably were), the synth strings slightly in the distance and that cavernous reverb surrounding everything. This fits right in with the music he's been making recently- Lone Swordsman, Love + Light, Together In Static. Beautiful, moving, instrumental music. 

Tragically, underlining all the melancholy present in the original and the remix, Pierce passed away in April this year after a terrible struggle with his mental health- Winter In The Woods, the remix and the forthcoming album are a tribute to Pierce and is dedicated to his memory and comes with the reminder that it's ok to not be ok and that you're not alone and that we all should 'slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast- you also miss the sense of where you are going and why' (Pierce Fulton). 


Saturday 4 September 2021

Lured By Beauty Destroyed By Sex

I spotted this graffiti on a piece of street furniture in Liverpool last month, the artist starting to sketch a naked woman, legs and torso with  'Oooh la la!' as a title and then stopping, for whatever reason, to write a note of explanation- 'I was drunk when I drew this soz x'. Which is lovely isn't it?

The Cramps came up last week, a clip of them I watched somewhere drew me back into Lux and Ivy's cartoon world of utterly serious rock 'n' roll business. I love The Cramps of the early 80s, garage punk with a genuinely delinquent edge, recording amped up rockabilly/ country punk, covers and originals. On 1981's Psychedelic Jungle they had Kid Congo Powers on guitar, had settled on Nick KNox on drums after a run of short term skin bashers and had moved from New York to Los Angeles where they recorded this deranged cover version of Goo Goo Muck, a 1965 garage rock 7" by Ronnie Cook And The Gaylads. A ton of echo, twangy guitar, cymbals, schlocky horror. 

'When the sun goes down and the moon comes up/ I turn into a teenage goo goo muck/ I cruise through the city and I roam the street/ Looking for something nice to eat...'

Goo Goo Muck

By the mid 80s they'd gained a settled line up with Nick Knox still on drums and Candy Del Mar on bass. 1986's A Date With Elvis and their 1990 album Stay Sick are both blasts of rock solid songwriting, superb, honed performances and a bigger sound with slightly higher production values. Stay Sick! especially is wall- to- wall killers, one great song after another. This one, Mama Oo Pow Pow, is Lux's libido crammed into two and a half minutes with a blistering guitar/ bass/ drums attack that fades in quickly and ends the same way.

'Mama oo pow pow, who's gonna twist and shout/ Mama oo pow pow, who shot that la la out/ Your gamagoochi's got the gagas and your hoochie coochie's hangin' out/ Girl, you could use a good spankin, and baby, so could I/ I love to hear the scream of the butterfly/ Now I don't wanna be your dear sweet friend/I just wanna beat your little pink rear end'

Mama Oo Pow Pow

Friday 3 September 2021


Tullio De Piscopo is an Italian drummer/ singer/ top session percussionist whose 1983 single Stop Bajon went worldwide, slowly and gently, from Italian danceterias out to the rest of the world, to the early Chicago house scene to the Balearics, across Europe from Munich to Glasgow. It was a minor hit in the UK, one of those records bought by people when they returned from their fortnight in the sun. 

Stop Bajon

Over at Paisley Dark's Bandcamp page you can find a lovely slice of late summer re- edit action courtesy of Jezebell. Slinky and slightly darker than the original, nicely insistent. Should work a treat- free to download too. And if you want more, here's Tullio on Italian TV playing the song live in glorious VHS upload low fi. 

Thursday 2 September 2021

Here We Go

Another Andrew Weatherall sample spotting post, my continuing attempts to try to identify and pull together the sounds that made the remixes. Today, the monumental, ground breaking, juddering dance/ rock remix of My Bloody Valentine's Soon. The long gestation period that led to the release of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless album has been well documented and is the stuff of indie legend- the record that broke Creation, the album that illustrates the manic attention to detail and difficulties of working with Kevin Shields and his single minded drive and obsession with the process and art of recording guitars, the failings of various London recording studios, the hand to mouth cash existence of Creation Records, the poor health of various participants (tinnitus not surprisingly given the volume the group played at) and so on. David Cavanagh's My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize book describes the myths and the reality in detail. 

Soon first saw the public light of day as the lead song on 1990's Glider EP (along with Glider, Don't Ask Why and Off Your Face. David Cavanagh speculates in his book that the song titles from MBV's releases at this point can be seen as ripostes to Alan McGee and his frequent requests to give him some music to release). Soon is arguably the pinnacle of Shields' famous 'glide guitar' sound and technique- playing the strings and bending them using the tremolo bar. That underestimates Soon somewhat- Soon swirls and shimmers, disorientation and delight in equal measures, a riot of melodies and feedback, ghosts of guitars and washes of vocal. It rattles in with some percussion and then a storm of guitar chords, the queasy topline melodies (one that sounds very like a flute and may well be), echoing feedback and Belinda Butcher's barely there vocals. Soon is vaguely danceable and the guitar sounds, the vertigo inducing tremolo chord changes, give it a swirling, slightly out of control feel- you've had one too many, the edges of your vison and hearing are fuzzy, you're spinning and not in control. The video version here is under four minutes but the version on Glider and different mix that made it onto Loveless are seven minutes long, an ecstatic headrush of sound. 

When it came to remixing it Andrew Weatherall entered the studio armed with the records he wanted to sample and MBV's master tapes. It seems that the band were a little reluctant to hand over control to a DJ/ producer/ remixer (this was before Screamadelica had been released so Andrew's reputation in the studio wasn't established). The resulting remix, released in 1990, turned the highwater mark of shoegaze into a stomping, shuddering leftfield dance record, one that as much as any is where his reputation as a remixer rests. MBV accompanied him in the studio, either to keep an eye on him or to see how the process of remixing worked (or both). Indie- dance would quickly become tainted as a label, used more in derision than admiration- people use the term to describe Weatherall's remix of Soon, but there's a lot more going on in it than just sticking the Funky Drummer underneath the guitars and adding some cowbell. There would be plenty of guitar bands queuing up to have their feedback and four square rock refashioned but no other remix of a guitar band from this period comes close to Soon in its execution or the effect it can have on a dancefloor. 

Soon (Andy Weatherall Remix)

The Geiger counter intro, impossibly loud in the mix, is followed by a very un- MBV voice declaring, 'Here we go'. Then one of those guitars, stripped from the original song, appears high and centre. A thumping bassline and percussion hit in. The flute/ guitar part is punched in, on its own. 'Here we go' again. More layered guitars. The drums thunder away, the guitars are looped round and round. The 'aaah aaaahhhh' vocal sample is dropped along with a guitar part that sounds like wire being wound very tight and hit. It sounds like Soon but moreso, the drift and ghostliness of the original snapped into focus, equally narcotic but a different drug. The ending is dramatic too- the elements being stripped out one by one, faders, pulled down until there's just a voice, 'aaahhh aaahhhhhhhh/ aaahhhhh aaahhhhhhhhhh'. 

West Bam's Alarm Clock, a manic 1990 breakbeat/ house 12",  provides some of the feel of the remix and the clattering rhythm that Andrew uses to underpin Shields' wall of noise.  

Alarm Clock

West Bam had already borrowed guitars from this, Gang Of Four's What We All Want, from their 1981 Solid Gold album. Stentorian, Marxist funk rock which Andrew would surely have recognised instantly when he first heard West Bam. 

What We All Want

Some of the vocals are taken from this song- Tides- by Claire Hamill, released in 1986, an entirely acapella album, Hamill's voice overdubbed to produce all the sounds. Go to 44 seconds in and you'll find the vocal part Weatherall dropped in- it repeats throughout the song. 

Hugo Nicolson, Andrew's assistant, engineer and studio whizz, tells us that some of the voices were sampled from a Volvic advert (I can't find any trance of the advert on the internet). If you go to 3 minutes 15 seconds in this 1975 song, Funky Music Is The Thing by Dynamic Corvettes, you'll find a rhythm break that appears in the remix too- or one that sounds very like it. 

The website Who Sampled Who says that Weatherall's remix takes elements, the bassline probably, from this- The Rhythm, The Feeling by Rich Nice, a 1990 hip- house single. 

If anyone knows where the 'here we go' sample comes from, write in to the usual address and I'll add it to this post. 

The remix came out first as a white label 12" and was labelled the Andy Weatherall Remix. Later versions would by credited to his full name. It also appeared on Creation's superb 1991 compilation Keeping The Faith (and if you're after a vinyl copy now you'd be better off finding a copy of the compilation- cheaper and containing a slew of other era defining tracks to boot). Soon in Andy/ Andrew's hands is a record and remix in a class of its own. It still sounds like Soon but it's a Soon that My Bloody Valentine hadn't imagined and one that blurs all the lines and boundaries that existed at the time- not rock, not dance, not indie dance, not shoegaze but something new built from all of these but something else as well. 'Here we go'. 

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Gravity Pull

Dragged up from somewhere a couple of days ago (scrolling through social media on my phone probably but then straight to my subconscious) this is Bandulu in 1993 with a track from their Guidance album that takes it all down a notch or two into ambient techno territory. Gravity Pull is a superb piece of music that pulls at the emotions while building up to a rhythmic thump too. Proof, if it were still needed, that you don't need guitars or a singer to make music that is capable of moving you. 

Gravity Pull

Tenuous link incoming... today's gravity pull for me is the force pulling me back to work after the summer holiday. I've been in several times over the last few weeks but this is the official start, back in with a bump. September is here too, a month that always brings unwanted change- the evenings are noticeably darker earlier, the summer is largely over, autumn beckons, that fucking wheel keeps turning.