Jon Hopkins has a new album, Music For Psychedelic Therapy, inspired by a visit to an ancient cave network in Ecuador, making field recordings while there, and then recording while microdosing with the intention of making an album for people to accompany supervised therapeutic journeys in altered states for people suffering from PTSD and depression. You could easily make a mess of that entire situation. But Jon Hopkins is very skilled and this fifteen minute ambient odyssey, a section called Love Flows Over Us In Prismatic Waves/ Deep In The Glowing Heart- drones, melodies, widescreen psychedelic ambient deep listening- is a genuinely transporting and hypnotising quarter of an hour.
Sunday 28 November 2021
Isaac tested positive for Covid on Wednesday, the day after his birthday, which is obviously a massive concern. He's been pretty unwell since then- temperature, cough, lack of appetite, lethargy- and was very out of sorts yesterday. We put him on a course of emergency antibiotics which were prescribed to us months ago in case this happened and now just have to watch and wait. If he goes downhill, we'll have to take him to hospital. We've have both been testing since Wednesday. I've done four lateral flow tests since Wednesday, all negative, and went for a PCR yesterday. The chances of us not catching Covid while living with Isaac would seem pretty slim. He requires constant care and isn't very careful with his coughing. It leaves us feeling very anxious about things. Fingers crossed and all that.
I had this song lined up for today before writing this post and it isn't really at all relevant to the above but I'll go ahead with it anyway- it's a laid back, sunset groove remix of Tempelhof and Gigi Masin by Coyote, Nottingham remixing Italy back in 2016, Balearic sounds for late November.
Saturday 27 November 2021
Bjorn Torske released a solo album in 2018, a Scandinavian space- disco epic called Byen. It opened with First Movement, eight minutes of seagulls and waves, keys and synths, a gently rolling bassline, percussion and hand drums. It's not aimless but very much a wandering and drifting piece of music. When the seagulls and waves appear again at the end it feels like you've been somewhere, slowly. Ideal for a Saturday morning in November if you've got nothing much to do.
Friday 26 November 2021
I took this picture in Manchester walking down Oldham Street back in August. A month from today it will be Boxing Day and the whole Christmas thing will be done and dusted bar the leftovers. The longest day will have passed and we'll be heading towards the new year.
As Tony Wilson/ Steve Coogan says in 24 Hour Party People, “It's my belief that history is a wheel. 'Inconstancy is my very essence,' says the wheel. Rise up on my spokes if you like but don't complain when you're cast back down into the depths. Good time pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it's also our hope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away.” (thanks to Guarin Tees for reminding me of this quote recently on social media). A lot of people are going through a lot at the moment and it's tough sometimes to keep going and remember that all this will pass. Which it will, sooner or later.
Today's music comes from Brian Eno, no stranger to literature and clever quotes himself. Here he was with long term collaborators his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois and the soundtrack to the 1989 documentary For All Mankind. It's as good a way to start Friday morning as any.
Thursday 25 November 2021
Two weeks ago Khayem posted Creation Myths, an hour and twenty minute long mix of songs released by Creation Records between 1989 and 1991. It is a wonderful time capsule, a spicy soup of electric and acoustic guitars, dance beats, distortion, noise and melodies. Tucked away inside were two songs by a band I haven't even thought about for years/ decades and certainly not listened to in as long- Swervedriver. Swervedriver were from oxford and were deeply inspired by American bands- most Creation bands who were influenced by US groups loved Love, Buffalo Springfield and The Velvet Underground. Swervedriver wanted to sound like Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and Husker Du and to be fair they did a good job of it. Huge crunchy guitar riffs, snarly FX pedals, wah wah and tremelo, thumping drums and multi- tracked, stoned vocals. Heavy, rocking shoegaze with dreadlocks. They sounded like what they sang about- the open road, hot sun beating down on tarmac, speeding cars and gas stations, all the cliches but done so well.
Never Lose That Feeling came out in May 1992 and was produced by Alan Moulder who made a lot of Creation groups sound big- it's woozy, stoned but speedy rock.
Rave Down was on Khayem's mix and is my favourite Swervedriver song (although I don't own a physical or digital copy). It came out in 1990 and then appeared on their debut album Raise a year later. It's a blast with a bulldozing, churning chord change and vocals to match.
Wednesday 24 November 2021
A 2014 Andrew Weatherall remix of Atari Teenage Riot, one of several from this point that shared a sound- a futuristic, slow mo chug, bassline to the fore, sci fi sounds bouncing around, lots of dubby space and then the arpeggiated synth part comes in. A long hypnotic groove. This was from around the time when Tim Fairplay was in the studio a lot with him, The Asphodells album came out the year before and the travelling A Love From Outer Space night with Sean Johnston was gathering pace- lots of cross pollination going on, sounds and styles being road tested and refined.
Other than this and an Atari Teenage Riot remix of a Primal Scream's Miss Lucifer I don't think I own anything else by Berlin's foremost exponents of digital hardcore.
Tuesday 23 November 2021
Twenty three years ago today Isaac was born, making his entrance at just after half past seven in the morning and whisked off immediately to an ICU unit. Although I don't think you can ever be ready for the impact that becoming a parent has on your life we certainly weren't expecting what we got- serious unknown genetic illness, frequent hospitalisation in his early years, deafness, serious learning difficulties, bone marrow transplants, operations and much more.
When pregnant people are asked 'what do you want?' and they reply 'I don't mind, as long as it's healthy', it's a comment that you can't possibly consider properly unless you're thrown into the thick of serious life and death illness. Isaac is twenty three today and there have been occasions when he wasn't expected to survive the night. In 2000 when he was undergoing a bone marrow transplant he contracted a serious Epstein Barr virus. In 2008 his undiagnosed missing immune system led to him getting pneumonia and then meningitis). Ass a result every year he adds, every birthday, feels like a stolen year, another year grappled back from what could have been. Sorry if that sounds melodramatic or maudlin- it's supposed to be celebratory. And he will be celebrating, he loves a birthday and loves a party. Happy birthday Isaac.
Back in 1997, the year before he was born, The Charlatans released this piece of Dylan inspired, Stonesy guitar slinging, a song with a loping beat, some northern swagger and an emotion laden set of lyrics from Tim Burgess. A friend bought it for Isaac on 7" not long after he was born. Isaac isn't fussed about music (ironically given how much I am) and doesn't know the song so it sits in with the rest of my 7" singles.
'Hey country boy/ What are you sad about/ Every day you make the sun come out/ Even in the pouring rain/ I'll come to see you/ And I'll save you, I'll save you'
Monday 22 November 2021
Definitely in a similar space sonically and tonally to yesterday's Circle Sky album is this latest remix by Hardway Bros. To add to a long list of artists Sean Johnston has rmeixed over the last few years we now have Shadowlark, a three-piece from Leeds making lush 80s influenced synth- pop. Sean's remix of Come Around Here is the kind of melancholic/ euphoric music you can dance to with tears in your eyes (to quote Ultravox). Buy it at Bandcamp.
Sunday 21 November 2021
Richard Norris and Martin Dubka's Circle Sky album has finally seen the light of day, three years on from the release of If I Let Go and Ghost In The Machine, a pair of singles that married their analogue synths with a weirdly almost human voice, some beautiful, light than air melodies and a sense of melancholy. The album, Dream Colour, has that feeling of a future that has been lost, the promise and hope of the 21st century as it looked a few decades ago that hasn't materialised- a future/ present weighed down by environmental collapse, terrorism, fractured societies, loneliness and isolation, plague and technology that presents as many problems as solutions. Somehow though, there's a sense that things might just be ok.
The title track has the bassline and bounce of 80s house with that female voice singing vague somethings. The voice isn't quite human and isn't quite robotic either- how they've created her/ it, they're not saying.
Saturday 20 November 2021
Here's a welcome surprise- William Orbit is back making music. The first fruit of a recent burst of creativity is Starbeam, six minutes of piano and wordless vocals, rising/ falling synth and keyboard parts. There's too much going on here in the foreground for it to be ambient and it doesn't have the minimalism of nu- classical. There's an album to follow which an interview in The Guardian promises will have 'symphonic trance crescendos, some chill out meanderings and a major ambient- rave tune'. Make of that what you will. He's definitely a maverick and one of the architects of the 90s.
Friday 19 November 2021
I've posted this song before, once in 2010 and once again in 2016, so I thought I might as well go for a five to six year cycle and repost it. The Pharcyde formed in South Central Los Angeles in 1989 and in 1992 released their first album. Passin' Me By was a single, built around samples from Jimi Hendrix (Are You Experienced?), Weather Report (125th Street Congress) and Quincy Jones (Summer In The City). In contrast to what some other rappers were rhyming about in the early 90s, the four MCs- Imani, Slimkid 3, Booty Borwn and Fatlip- poked fun at themselves, self deprecating lines about being in love with girls at school who are out of your league, the one who 'keeps on passin' me by'. The casual flow and laugh out loud humour, coupled with the laid back beats and samples and that pumping bass sample, are a total joy.
Thursday 18 November 2021
I've been a bit late on the uptake with this group and their name suggests we're running out of band names but there's no doubting what they do- Dry Cleaning formed after a karaoke party and six months later discovered a vocalist, Florence Shaw (who holds down day jobs as a visual artist, lecturer and picture researcher). Florence's vocals are spoken word, a bit indifferent to you and your life, eyebrows raised perhaps, casually narrating her subconscious ('love, anger, revenge, anxiety, the kitchen...'). Meanwhile the three musicians (Tom, Nick and Lewis) scratch, scape and bash away at guitar, bass and drums. Guitar riffs, post- punk basslines and dry drums, a bit of 80s jangle, some dubby sounds. It sounds like the music's come from jam sessions (in a good way) and they've honed in on the good points while Florence sits with sheets of paper waiting for her cue- 'a woman in aviators firing a bazooka' as she says in Scratchcard Lanyard. They're on 4AD who let's face it, usually know what they're doing.
Strong Feelings rides on a rumbling bass and hissing hi- hat and then a shaker. The guitar comes in, single notes, as Florence says 'I just want to tell you I have scabs on my head'. The Joy Division guitar riff builds up. Later on, after lines about Dutch landscape, an emo dead stuff collector and the repeated 'It's Europe', she drops in 'It seems like a lot of garlic/ Lonely beyond lovely/ You just want to be liked/ I like you/ Stay'. I'm not sure what it's all about but I really enjoy listening to it.
Bug Eggs was recorded in summer 2020 and released summer 2021 after being available only as a bonus track. 'I was a toasted teenage peanut' Florence says and I think we all know how she feels.
Wednesday 17 November 2021
Y.W. Eleven is the last Andrew Weatherall release that was in place before his passing in February 2020, a two sided 12" single on DisDat. It was up for pre- order way back in the spring of this year and copies finally began to surface a few weeks ago. Y.W. Eleven is seven minutes thirty three of your typically, understated Weatherall brilliance- that stop- start, push- pull dynamic (a rhythm and sound he was all over on his 2017 Qualia album), propulsive mechanical drums, distorted fuzzy synth sounds and echo. There have been some complaints online out the quality of the pressing with some copies reported as being almost unplayable, loads of surface noise and sound dropping out. Weirdly this upload on Youtube seems to be ripped from one of those. The unspoiled version sounds infinitely better- you'll have to take my word for it.
There have been a couple of previously unavailable mixes from Mr Weatherall which have surfaced recently, made their way to The Flightpath Estate and are now on the internet for your listening pleasure. The first is a thirty- seven minute mix from 2010 when he played records at the Cosey Club supporting Factory Floor. Opening with Chris and Cosey then Fad Gadget's apocalyptic synth classic Back To Nature, Weatherall sticks to the industrial/ experimental end of acid house- regular and longstanding Weatherall favourites Fini Tribe, Killing Joke and Les Liaisons Dangereuses all appear. Very, very good if a tad short. It's at Mixcloud here.
This mix from 2001 is more unusual. Titled The Chairman's Choice it was a mix done for the legendary Jeff Barrett to celebrate the opening of The Islington Social and sees Andrew venture down a funk and soul route taking in The Memphis Horns, Benny Gordon, Stainless Soul, Assagai, Bobby Rush, Black Heat (among others) before finishing with Johnny Jenkins rocking cover of I Walk On Gilded Splinters. Quite the excursion. It's at Mixcloud here.
Tuesday 16 November 2021
Sons Of Slough (Ian Weatherall and Duncan Gray) first made music back in the 1990s and most of their recordings date back to the early 21st century. Now reunited they have put out a new album called Bring Me Sunshine, a six track dub techno/ electro/ acid house punch (plus three remixes). This one, Sonblind, is a low slung pleasure with piano melody lines and huge bass, the sort of thing that hits all the right spots if you ever spent part of your youth in dark, sweaty clubs with strobe lights going off around you and music frying your synapses.
There's loads more like it on Bring me Sunshine and it's perfect music for travelling to as well, the kick drums ticking off the miles and the synths swallowing up road or rail. Much More Spark is chugging dub techno, Basic Channel via Berkshire.
As well as a very tasty Rude Audio remix of the above there's a Sons Of Slough remix of I Slip Away by Rich Thair. Rich is the drummer in Red Snapper, a group who have explored jazz, techno, and all points in between since the mid 90s. Their latest single The Warp And The Weft is a slowed right down head nodder, led by some really nice double bass, keys, trombone and a rap from Natty Wylah.
Monday 15 November 2021
In 1986 Spacemen 3 released their first album, The Sound Of Confusion. It's very much the sound of a group not quite there yet, the main duo of Pete Kember and Jason Pierce feeling their way towards the sound that they'd perfect over subsequent records. Money had been spent on new guitars and amplifiers and at Pat Fish's insistence they went into a studio in Birmingham to record a bunch of songs that were from the older, heavier end of their repertoire. Pat Fish wasn't able to produce in the end and both Pete and Jason were unhappy with Bob Lamb's production. It's a low key, Stooges influenced album, seven songs (four of them covers) with the emphasis on repetition. They'd go on to make much better albums, honing their stoned psyche sound on The Perfect Prescription and the blissed out revolutionary texts of Playing With Fire. That's not to say that the Sound Of Confusion isn't good, it just doesn't sound confident or finished.
On this song, album closer OD Catastrophe, the four members of Spacemen 3 find inspiration in TV Eye (a Stooges Funhouse classic) and having found a two note riff they like, that's fun to play and to listen to, they lock in and bludgeon it. For nearly nine minutes.
Sunday 14 November 2021
For sheer joy and exuberance in the pleasure of making uptempo music with new technology that allows non- musicians to experience the same creativity as musicians Bassheads 1991 single Is There Anybody Out There? is hard to beat. Built around a bunch of samples , the song started life with Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, The Osmonds and Afrika Bambaataa at its centre- not surprisingly some of these had to be interpolated or replayed following legal shenanigans before it was officially released on Deconstruction.
The rap is a particular joy-
'What's this for a ceremony, hanging around?
We got to get down, rock it off on this shaky ground
Come on and spit it out your hearty-party moon everywhere
Let's see you people laugh at people punching out in the air
Get down to the hiphop be-bop-a-lula
You get a sound that is all coming to ya
I wanna get ya, I wanna teach ya
I'm gonna get this beat to hit ya!'
Is There Anybody Out There? (Extended)
In November 1991 the duo, brothers Nick and Desa Murphy from Neston on the Wirral, rounded up some mates and performed the song on Top Of The Pops when it went top ten- in another edition of Top Of The Pops that was rave heaven Bassheads appeared alongside Bizarre Inc. and Love Decade (and the previous week the video was played on an episode with Rozalla and the mighty Altern- 8.
Saturday 13 November 2021
Notts duo Coyote have been all over 2021 round here, from the release of their album Buzzard Country in April to the five song EP a month a later that finished with Cafe Con Leche, song that put a vocal sample at the centre of it looped over an acoustic guitar, some echo and percussion, a female voice saying 'when all this over, I plan to head north'. It's difficult not to hear that as a response to the last couple of years isn't it? The song has been around me ever since it came out, walking the streets with headphones in, on CDs I've burned for the car, on the playlist I made for our holiday in the summer and on the sporadic mixes I've posted here.
Their second album of this year came out at the end of October, nine songs that make up The Mystery Light. The closing track is the magical The Outsider, posted twice here this year already. The eight songs that wend their way towards The Outsider are a broad sweep of sunshine facing, laconic, open minded Balearica. Gently bouncing basslines, widescreen 80s production, twinkling melodies and cleverly deployed vocal samples. This one, Cami' De Sa Veleta is as good an example as any.
The chronology of releases got a bit mixed up with delays at pressing plants but just as The Mystery Light appeared so did a two track 12" single that unashamedly flipped the slightly desolate female voice in Cafe Con Leche into something more positive and a world slowly returning to something more normal. Will We Ever Dance Again is six and a half minutes of uptempo Balearic piano house, with ascending synth lines, a thumping four four kick drum, laser intense squiggles and piano breakdown at three minutes thirty that will have you grinning/ gurning like a loon (well, it did me anyway). The flipside is just as dancefloor facing, a smiley faced mid tempo groove, more of those pianos and some lovely synth strings.
Friday 12 November 2021
A new EP from Woodleigh Research Facility fell into the internet last Friday., the latest missive from Nina Walsh following her move from South London out west to Dorset. A studio fire at the new Facility 5 temporarily derailed things but all is not lost. Aptly, All Is Not Lost is the name of the EP and that spirit of optimism is found within the grooves and bytes of the music. Opening track Too Many Good Things is the kind of thundering electronic groove that she used to conjure up with Andrew Weatherall back when the WRF was a duo and not just Nina but Andrew's spirit and vibes are clearly shining down on this one, his music and presence being channeled into Facility 5. Driving bassline. Handclaps. Sirens. FX.
The other two tracks are more songs than tracks- on the first the old WRF drum machine is present and the dubby basslines pump away but Nina sings on top. Alchemy is a dark delight led by a dirty after hours groove with some post punk guitar lines, strings bending and wailing, while Nina channels her inner Siouxsie. Rounding the EP off is All Is Not Lost, a ghostly, swirling, lullabye- no drums, no pounding rhythms, just a harmonium, some effects and Nina singing, reflections on time passing, mortality, life...
A year ago Nina released this, Woodleigh Lament, a gorgeous, melodic, lilting tribute to Mr Weatherall and his absence. The sound of All Is Not Lost suggests the will to go on, the spirit of keeping going, are very much alive in Nina. WRF forever.
Thursday 11 November 2021
When you get drawn in by all the nonsense surrounding poppies every year: the faux outrage about celebrities not wearing them and 'how dare they disrespect the fallen!'; the sequined/ diamond encrusted ones or the giant plastic poppies tied to lampposts and car bonnets; the racist inflammatory social media posts that claim Muslims want to ban poppies; the public 'art' that turns the First World War into a meaningless, 'Lest We Forget', sentimentalised, poppy theme park. When all that 21st century bullshit swoops by every November it's worth reading Siegfried Sassoon's poem Suicide In The Trenches. Written by a man who knew what he was writing about. 'The smug- faced crowds... who cheer when soldier lads march by/ Sneak home and pray you'll never know/ The hell where youth and laughter go'.
Earlier this year Cheval Sombre, the musical vehicle for New York poet/ songwriter Chris Porpora, released two albums- Time Waits For No One and Days Go By. Both are beautiful records, slightly frazzled, folky/ acoustic guitar songs with Sonic Boom at the controls adding a swirly, quietly psychedelic backdrop. Dean and Britta added backing vocals and guitar. Both are really good, a self- contained world in themselves and also, especially Time Waits For No One, quite bleak. Had Enough Blues, a desperate plea to shut the outside world off is punctuated by samples of terrorist attacks and atrocities from news channels.
The pair of albums were released a couple of months apart and they're not an easy, everyday listen but well worth the investment and the time spent with them if you fancy some catharsis. Cheval Sombre's voice is recorded really close to the mic, like he's singing in the room next to you. Days Go By is more up, the promise of spring after the dark of winter It's difficult not to draw parallels with the recording of them during 2020 and everything the pandemic threw at us. Even so, Days Go By isn't exactly a happy- go- lucky song and dance album, more a sense of relief that we made it through the night and the dawn has actually appeared.
To bookend the year there's now a three song EP (out of 10" vinyl if that's your bag). The lead song is an eight minute cover version of Althea, a song originally by The Grateful Dead (and that's the first time they've been mentioned here I think).
Wednesday 10 November 2021
This year's album (De Pelicula) from The Liminanas and Laurent Garnier is one of 2021's highlights, a sleek and urgent collaboration with The Liminanas beatnik rock 'n' roll/ modern yé-yé streamlined by Laurent Garnier's dance music production/ DJ background. It pulses and throbs, the guitars all fuzzed and spitting with wheezy Farfisa organ and driving basslines. Meanwhile, the vocals (all in French) tell the story of Juliet and Saul and their antics, a film noir, A Bout de Soufle style trip. Que Calor! with French actor Edi Pistolas on vocals, came out in a remix package, three different versions of the song, the pick of which is this one.
Nova Materia are a French group whose back catalogue is here. More thumping French psychedelia for you. The original version of Que Calor! came out with a suitably seedy, trippy video. The drums, 60s organ and Edi's vocals are a blast of 1969 in 2021 energy.
Tuesday 9 November 2021
Sad news came out from 808 State's social media sites at the weekend with the announcement of the death of Andy Barker. 808 State were a key group in the late 80s/ early 90s for lots of people including those who were coming at dance music from the indie/ guitar direction. They were a way in to a purer, 'proper' form of dance music. Their single Pacific opened doors and minds. Their 1989 album 90 and the follow up Ex: El were both essential records, proof that dance music could work at album length. Their Spinmasters radio show was an on- air riot. At Factory Records mini- festival/ memorial to Martin Hannett at Heaton Park in summer 1991 they were third on the bill, appearing as the afternoon turned into evening and lit the place up and filling the park with ecstatic noise. In 2019 they showed they were still cutting it three decades on with their Transmission Suite album.
Pacific appeared in multiple versions ('about 42' according to Graham Massey) and pre- dated Andy's arrival in the group. Co- written by Massey, Martin Price (owner of Eastern Bloc records) and Gerald Simpson and not released after Gerald left 808 State- subsequently the cause of some rancour and dispute- Pacific has as much claim to be the sound of Manchester as anything by any of the guitar bands, the floaty intro complete with bird song, crunchy techno drums, Detroit synths, wobbly bassline and that sax, was everywhere in '89/ 90- clubs, bedrooms, car stereos- and tribe uniting record. Interesting fact I learnt from Twitter; Hawaii's dialing code is 808. Hawaii is 'the Pacific State'.
RIP Andy Barker
Monday 8 November 2021
Richard Fearless's new album, an ambient/ industrial tour de force called Future Rave Memory, came out on Friday. It's a largely drumless re- imagining of his 2019 Deep Rave Memory which was itself an intense and detailed techno journey into the city at night. If anything Future Rave Memory is even more so- hard edged, single minded, white light and dark drones with long building passages where time seems to disappear. It's both heavy and weightless and the perfect soundtrack for a world where our leaders are corrupt and have abandoned any pretence of acting in our best interests. Tamas is the opener to the album, thirteen minutes long, slow motion drones and dissonance, a sort of metallic fog.
Sunday 7 November 2021
Jennylee from Warpaint's latest single Newtopia is a catchy, jingle- jangle, folk- pop record, a bit of a departure from her usual post- punk, Cure influenced music. The usual half- drawled, heavy lidded vocals are there but the harmonies and upbeat strumming make this an uptempo, autumnal treat.
Saturday 6 November 2021
The summer compilation from Brighton's Higher Love Recordings, the musical outlet for the Balearic Ultras, a twelve track sampler called Higher Love Vol.1 continues to reveal magic and treasures well into the autumn. This week's drive to work has been enriched by Higher Love Vol 1 and the standout (other than Jesse Fahnestock's 10:40 end of night tearjerker Kissed Again) has been this slice of euphoric, dubby acid house called Dexter In Dub by Perry Granville (a pseudonym for Brighton resident Dave Sibley). Dexter rides in on an undulating synthline and some whooshes. Rimshots rattle around and a distant voice whispers about dreams, just within earshot. Melodies that echo The Grid or Love Corporation in the early 90s are beamed in and an organ takes up reins. Six minutes of bliss.
Friday 5 November 2021
As a counterpoint to my post on Wednesday about the imperilled Hotspur Press building here's a shot of ultra- modern Manchester taken on Wednesday night as I got off the tram at Deansgate. At the southern edge of the city centre four enormous skyscrapers have been built, completely dominating and changing the city's skyline and entrance to the city from the south. Apartments and lots of them. For wealthy people mainly. During the day they look like absurdly big, out of proportion towers. At night they have some kind of beauty. Maybe. Impact if not beauty. As a friend on my Facebook post said, 'Coronation Street meets Blade Runner.
I was on my way out to meet the legendary Vinyl Villain, Mr James Clark, and his friend Aldo, our first meet since 2017 when we drank in half of city centre Manchester's pubs. This was a quieter affair, sitting outside in the cold for a couple of hours- and very good it was too. The venue we were drinking in, Hatch, is a load of shipping containers clustered under the Mancunian Way with bars, food outlets and a couple of second hand clothing shops. In the central area there's a stage and as we left a DJ and a rapper, no more than twenty years old, were playing to an equally young crowd (it goes without saying we were the oldest people there by some distance). It warmed my heart on a cold night to see a small crowd bobbing up and down to a couple of unknowns, all youthful enthusiasm and the knowledge that at that moment they were the centre of that world.
Tonight I should have been going to see A Certain Ratio at Gorilla and I'm not (Covid) but I'm sure they'll be superb. I've seen ACR several times in recent years and Gorilla is the perfect venue for them. Their 2020- 21 renaissance is about to follow an album (Loco) and three EPs with a remix album (out today). As well as remixes from a cast including Lonelady, Number, Maps and The Orielles there is this one of Bouncy Bouncy by Mr Dan- uptempo, supercharged electro- funk with the sadly passed and much missed Denise Johnson in fine form on vocals.
Back in 1979 ACR crept out of the suburbs (Urmston, Wythenshawe) into the harsh light of late 70s Manchester and the embrace of Factory Records. Their first release was this, All Night Party, a 7" single with Martin Hannett at the controls that stands alongside anything else Factory released that year. Early scratchy, skeletal punk- funk noir.
Thursday 4 November 2021
Coyote have released one of the best albums of the autumn, the long awaited The Mystery Light. I've posted the final track from the album previously, the beautiful and moving The Outsider (dedicated to Andrew Weatherall) with the sampled voice of Alan Watts musing about sane societies and outsiders, 'people who can deviate, who don't have to join in, don't have to play the game... it's the sign of an insane society that says everyone must join, everybody must work, everybody must belong... you don't have to join in, you don't have to play the game'
Meanwhile, as they waited for it to reach the front of the queue at the vinyl pressing plant, they've been busy on remix duties. This one came out in October, a remix of California's Projections and their debut release Original Cell. The remix is a sumptuous, bassline led groover, with vocal oohs and ahhs drifting in and out and a piano line carrying the melody. The strings come in, upping the ante. Warm dub/ disco/ Balearica, with a bit of drama and a more than a touch of euphoria.
Wednesday 3 November 2021
This building- The Hotspur Press- sits by the River Medlock, off Whitworth Street, just south of Manchester city centre. It's a local landmark in a lot of ways but has become derelict in recent years and is in danger of complete collapse. Originally part of the Medlock Mills complex it was a cotton mill through the 19th century and then at some point became a printing press (and was apparently still operating as a printing press well into the 1960s). In the 2000s it was artist's studios for a while and the scene of many after hours parties- the word acid is painted in large letters several times on the top floor. The land all around it has been massively redeveloped in recent years, all part of the Manchester property boom- student accommodation, flats, a new arts centre called Home in a new public square called Tony Wilson Place (I say public square, it's probably privately owned), numerous fast food and coffee outlets... the whole area has changed rapidly. The company who own The Hotspur Press tabled plans to save the building in 2017, to keep the facade with its famous letters and build 171 new apartments on the site. Or a hotel. There have been differences of opinion with the city council and the project has stalled. Covid probably hasn't helped. Looking at the building at the weekend it looks more and more like it'll just be allowed to fall down and save everyone the bother of deciding what to do with it.
At the turn of the 1980s an unknown experimental Mancunian electronic synth punk group called Gerry And The Holograms made some deeply uncommercial, idiosyncratic and plain odd songs. Gerry And The Holograms contained Salford legend CP Lee, a man stitched into the underground of the Manchester music scene. Increased Resistance was the B-side of their debut single, released in 1979, and it still sounds ahead of the curve. The first two minutes are percussive noise conjured up from a synth but eventually a guitar line comes in and a heavily treated vocal intoning 'they call us the foolish young ones', before seagull noises and more synth sounds see the final minute and a half out.
Tuesday 2 November 2021
Back in 1984 David Lynch attempted to film Frank Herbert's novel Dune, an epic science fiction story set on a distant planet which is entirely desert where the most valuable substance in the universe is a consciousness expanding spice. Among the cast were a young Kyle McLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Stewart and Max von Sydow. It was also one of Sting's big adventures in acting and if that weren't enough came with a soundtrack by Toto. It bombed, critically and commercially. One of the reviews said that 'several of the characters in Dune are psychic, which puts them in the unique position of being able to understand what goes on in the movie'. I haven't seen it for many years but I think it was a film which only really made any sense if you had read the novel and for those that hadn't it left them with a lot of work to do. It's been remade by Denis Villeneuve, is in cinemas now and has been much reviewed much more positively than the 1984 by both critics and fans. I haven't seen it yet but would like to.
The 1984 film's soundtrack was almost entirely by Toto except for one piece of music from Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. In some ways sci fi soundtracks are the perfect place for Eno's ambient synth music.
If you want more, there's a full length, twelve minute version of Prophecy Theme on Youtube. Amusingly, when you type Dune 1984 into Google below the first search returns in the People Also Ask box, the first suggestion is 'is Dune the worst movie ever?' Lynch was disappointed with the final cut, having been instructed to cut the three hour running time down to a more manageable two and a quarter hours. He ran out of money for the FX too and ended up with something he wasn't' happy with but which had his name on it and disowned it. Three different versions have been screened at different times or in different places. Eno's Prophecy Theme at least is something that survives whatever version or cut is being shown.
Monday 1 November 2021
Underworld released a new and free 2021 mix of their 1994 track Dark And Long. Ever since its first appearance back in 1994 Dark And Long has been mixed and remixed and played about with, a track that survives endless reinterpretation as long as that chugging techno rhythm keeps gliding forwards. They've reworked Dark Train (and Dark And Long) many, many times but still, it is what it is, ten minutes of transportation from Underworld for the first Monday in November.
Karl Hyde wrote the lyrics for the version that appeared on dubnobasswithmyheadman whilst travelling through the prairies of Minnesota with thunder clouds rolling in from miles away- 'thunder, thunder, lightning ahead/ Now I kiss you dark and long'. He was in the practice of noting down things he'd overheard on trains and on the streets which is where these lines must have come from- 'Me, I'm just a waitress she said/ I went 'and bought a new head she said/ I look at you I believe in you she said' and 'What a laugh/ You was done up there mate'. They work perfectly against the drama of thunder and lightning. Stream of consciousness poetry with sleek dub techno. This was the future made real in 1994.